Thompson’s solution is to treat vegetarianism the way religious traditions treat virtues. Christians strive to love their neighbors, but they don’t say that people who fail to reach Jesus-level self-sacrifice are immoral. Buddhists strive for detachment, but they don’t flagellate themselves when they fail to achieve it.
Thompson suggests that we should strive to do better by animals, but that doesn’t mean we should condemn ourselves for eating meat. There are lots of cases like this, he told me. “Some people are going to take these issues up in a way that other people would find really difficult,” Thompson said. “For instance, we all respect Mother Theresa for taking on amazing burdens, but we don’t say that you are evil for not doing it.”
Living in the Anthropocene, of course I downloaded the new book to my tablet and look forward to digesting it this weekend.
Thompson promises to offer a good critique of my own position (coming in the first half of next week) which focuses primarily upon animal welfare.
Right. It’s hard to limit the “a life worth living is better than no life at all” argument to farm animals. Using the same argument we might raise children for the purpose of producing organs: As long as they were well cared for, ignorant of their fate, and painlessly slaughtered, you could say they had a life worth living. The clone gets a (short) life, a dying girl get a new heart, everyone wins! It’s rationally consistent, but certainly doesn’t feel right to me.
The essay, it does give voice to the animal welfare camp, and its concerns. Temple Grandin does a such a good job discussing what animals want in housing and care that the essayist publish his entire interview with her. In addition to discussing how some things have improved in the last decade she offers a very practical questions which should give the most fundamentalist of vegans pause,
Q. Getting back to egg-layers — I look at this with my human values and say I’d like the hens to be exposed to sunlight, and grass …A. Well, then it’s much more expensive. And we’ve got 25 percent of people in this country working minimum wage jobs and they gotta buy the cheapest eggs they can lay their hands on. I think eggs are a necessity — beef you could say is a luxury, but not eggs.
That space where philosophy and pragmatics grind against one another. These are the good old days and I can't help but think that it is possible to live well, even in the technological wonderland of the Anthropocene.