When you think about the current state of the world, sometimes you can only conclude that humans are particularly good at being particularly awful. One aspect of our society that leads to this way of thinking is our domestic livestock system and the animals that are forced to live and die within it for the purposes of human consumption.
Obviously, objecting to animals being eaten on moral and ethical grounds is not a new argument and critiques of the U.S. food system and its multiple injustices are becoming more and more mainstream with the increasing popularity of organic, local, cruelty-free or free-range food. Of course, this is Oberlin — I’ve never been in a place with such a high concentration of vegetarians, vegans and food-conscious co-ops. However, there’s another pretty simple reason why more people should be vegetarians: Humans have reached some really awful and unprecedented heights in the domestication and poor treatment of animals. Humans should feel some hardcore collective guilt about where our wants, tastebuds and comforts have led us. As a remedy to our selfishness and moral superiority, humans should not eat animals.
The high level of moral superiority that we humans are capable of justifies more people being vegetarians and vegans. The argument that this way of life is elite and inaccessible is completely legitimate — if you live in a food desert and are struggling to feed yourself without relying on the more processed foods that are actually affordable, restricting any potential nutrition source is unjustly burdensome and devastatingly detrimental. Many Native, immigrant and other communities of color have a very different cultural experience with meat and food than the experience that this industrialized, white-centric food industry creates. Therefore, my argument is directed at those who are privileged enough to be in a position where meat or any animal products are not absolutely necessary to their nutritional health, well-being and community resilience.
It’s no secret that the treatment of livestock in industrial agriculture is abusive and immoral; they are confined, drugged and cruelly dismembered for human benefit. The domestication and artificial selection process that has created the most “useful” forms of livestock constitutes a sick form of genetic modification that changes and limits species’ ability to survive without humans. The most common form of turkey, the broad-breasted white turkey, cannot reproduce on its own because humans have selectively bred it to create the largest-breasted variety possible. Without humans breeding the species through artificial insemination, these turkeys would go extinct within one generation. Our complete anthropogenic control over a species’ existence is unethical.
In the U.S., if you are buying and eating meat like the majority of people, you are participating in a system that has reduced animals’ worth to the amount of meat on their bones. One of the reasons I am a vegetarian is because I don’t want to feed my body by killing and consuming creatures that have eyes and minds so similar to my own.
The main ideological reason why I am a vegetarian is because of this human-animal dichotomy. It is repulsive that humans have fundamentally changed an entire species of animals because we believe in the idea of human exceptionalism. Human superiority is ludicrous considering that we are killing many of the creatures on this planet, destroying ecosystems and compromising every human’s ability to survive on Earth. Right now, the most exceptional thing about humanity is our ability to destroy things with systematic efficiency.
It’s sickening that killing, dismembering and processing living creatures is now a cheaper way to stay alive than relying on vegetables and plants that grow in the ground. Our industrialized agriculture system has made the literal fruits of the earth inaccessible and exclusive.
If we are able to, we should consume less animal meat and byproducts. We should use our economic and social privilege to engage in the political process and aim to eradicate this flawed agricultural system entirely.