Animal harm reduction

Andrew Sullivan publishes an e-mail from ex-vegan Rhys Southan. Among other things, Southan explains:

I certainly don’t think there’s anything objectionable about trying to cause less harm, and I try to cause less harm myself. I don’t advocate factory farming, I buy my meat from small farms, I don’t often eat chicken or pig, and I avoid eating muscle meat in favor of eating the less popular offal.

I wish I knew of better guides to less-harmful animal-product consumption. I suspect the things Southan does all help, but this stuff can be counter-intuitive. How many people would guess that there’s a harm reduction argument for eating beef over chicken? Actually, as I understand it there’s a harm reduction argument for eating beef over eggs, which is the reason I gave up being a vegetarian. So count me very sympathetic to Southan’s position, I just wish it were easier to get information on how to do it right.

  • Greg G

    I rationalize the problem away by considering what the animal would likely choose if it could give informed consent. Its choices would be a brief life in a small stall, protected from the daily threat of being torn apart by wolves with plenty of food and water with the caveat that it would be killed and eaten at some point. The death might be frightening and painful. The other option is non-existence. I expect the answer would be to go for existence. If wild creatures were to be asked for consent, they would make the same choice knowing life would be all too brief and they most likely would be torn apart by wolves or swallowed whole by a whale and digested to death.

    We are among the longest lived creatures yet life is all too short. We would all take our chances versus non-existence, knowing there will be days of agony. Kenny Rogers told us in song “the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”

    My wife makes some wonderful vegetarian dishes. If she would do that everyday, I’d gladly be a vegetarian.

    OTOH, we’re in Vietnam now. The other day we walked to a store quite a distance away from the hotel. There were two blocks of houses with about a dozen restaurants in them selling dog. I was disturbed by how good cay nuong smelled. I hope I can disassociate the smell the next time I get to have grilled steak.

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