Bruce Friedrich serves on the advisory board of the Christian Vegetarian Association and is a founding member of the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians.
I often think that eating meat must be an addiction because defending it causes normally rational people to resort to questions that have nothing to do with the essential arguments, and pose them as though they justify continuing to eat meat. – Bruce Friedrich
I came across some of his material today and thought his philosophical reasoning was very sound. Wanting to know more, I happened upon a document titled Vegetarianism in a Nutshell, where he eloquently describes the importance of a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle.
Below is a snippet from the essay. Friedrich gives answers to commonly asked questions vegetarians receive.
Please examine what we do to animals on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, denying animals everything that is natural to them and then killing them in gruesome ways, and try to tell me that this is moral. Nature’s law is, without a doubt, Darwin’s “survival of the fittest.”
Some animals may procreate by rape; other animals may fight territorial battles to the death. But we hold ourselves to a higher standard in our interactions with one another. We even hold ourselves to a higher standard with regard to animals we often form special bonds with, such as dogs and cats – readily granting them some basic protections. What animal welfare advocates suggest is that we should also be compassionate toward all animals.
Didn’t God give us dominion over animals?
As a Roman Catholic, this is the one question that most unsettles me, because it is such an obscene rationalization. Dominion doesn’t mean domination and exploitation. All of the world’s prominent religions teach the importance of compassion, the importance of mercy. But the choice to eat meat, dairy products, or eggs is a violent one; it supports cruelty. Even if their religious beliefs allowed people to eat these products, they would certainly not be required to do so.
Leaving aside the environmental and human consequences, which should be anathema to any kind or ethical human being, God created animals with needs, wants, desires, and species-specific behaviors, and all of these things are denied the animals who are turned into food by the farmed-animal industries. God created animals with a well-developed capacity for pain. Chicken, pigs, cattle, fish and other farmed animals—they are individuals. If you get to know a chicken or another farmed animal you find that they have personalities, intelligence, and social structures. They love their families.
Are vegans protein deficient? Or lacking other nutrients?
The American Dietetic Association and the World Health Organization, among other groups, point out that vegan diets provide everything we need and that, in fact, they cut out a lot of the stuff that’s horrible for us, making vegans healthier. The diseases that are killing us are not deficiency diseases. We’re dying from heart disease, cancer, and stroke. We’re plagued with diabetes and obesity.
With so much human suffering, why don’t you focus on human issues?
The interesting thing to me about this one is that none of my friends who run shelters or soup kitchens or who work on famine relief ever asks it. Surely, all suffering should be addressed.
Princeton bioethicist Dr. Peter Singer said: “When nonvegetarians say that ‘human problems come first,’ I cannot help wondering what exactly it is that they are doing for human beings that compels them to continue to support the wasteful, ruthless exploitation of farmed animals.” One great thing about veganism is that it allows you to take a stand against suffering without doing anything that requires any real time or effort. You just stop supporting cruelty, environmental degradation, exploitation of human workers, and so on.
You choose to be a vegan. I choose to be a meat-eater. Live and let live.
The problem here is that meat and dairy consumers are supporting the gratuitous abuse of an animal who had no choice in the matter. They are not putting into practice a “live and let live” philosophy. Just as child abuse involves the child who has no choice, eating meat, dairy, or egg products involves an animal, or many animals, who have had no choice. And just as you can choose to beat your child, you can choose to eat meat. But if you do, you’re hurting someone who is powerless to stop you. This should not be your personal choice.
Don’t plants feel pain?
So far, as best we can determine biologically and physiologically, plants do not feel pain. They are alive and have some sort of response to light, water, etc., but they don’t feel pain. Pain requires a brain, a central nervous system, pain receptors, and so on. All mammals, birds, and fish have these things. No plants do. We all know this to be true: We all understand that there is a fundamental difference between cutting your lawn and lighting a cat’s tail on fire and between breaking up a head of lettuce and bashing a dog’s head in.
Does humane meat exist?
I suppose I’d give in on road kill—if you want to eat an animal who died naturally or got hit by a car, I suppose there’s not any strong moral objection.