There is an article in the Times about a new book promoting veganism
by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson called The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food.
I have a hard relationship with vegans and vegetarians. Partly because the idea of that diet repulses me, partly because I am pretty sure that I would need a disgusting amount of vegan food to get the number of calories I need on a daily basis (I'm not saying this is true, but I can't really get past this), and partly because I am just not sure I can trust a person who doesn't like a cheeseburger. A person who will no longer eat cheeseburgers, maybe, but if you're not going to admit it's delicious, I'm just not sure we can relate on a person-to-person level.But mostly it's because vegans seem to deny the entire course of human existence, as if generations of humans hadn't raised meat and then ate it and been both healthy and lived in a clean environment. Just because we're currently treating animals inhumanely and raising them in ways that our bad for the planet does not mean that the entire concept is flawed. The argument that some meatophiles make that cows exist for us to eat them is pretty reductive, but if we weren't here, cows would be getting eaten by other things. That is just how the food chain works. The size of the human population and our lack of predators may be screwing up the food chain, but we don't exist outside of it-we exist at the top of it. And if everyone started only eating vegetables, we would have environmental problems with irrigating giant lettuce fields, and so forth. The problem goes well beyond what we eat. It's really about how many of us there are and how much we eat.On the other hand, I am becoming more and more acutely aware that the meat I eat is bad for our planet and our society (our Transparency on water was just another step in that direction
), and so I am trying to eat less of it. So, while at first Masson comes off as just the kind of vegan booster that drive me crazy, by the end of the article, he's sort of inadvertently come to a rationale about veganism that could present a workable solution, which is that he is flexible, and not religious about it. If he has to eat something with butter, he will. And in specific circumstances-a bike trip in Italy he mentions at the end of the piece-he plans to scrap his diet entirely because it just won't work with the exercise and with the Italian food.People, especially vegans and vegetarian evangelists-if they really care about reducing the amount of meat we eat-should focus on encouraging meat eaters to eat less meat and to make more conscious food decisions, but should give up trying to guilt people into not eating any meat. That's just not very good strategy. We all need to be eating less meat, more vegetables, and less food in general. What doesn't help is to be so obnoxiously dogmatic about it. Image via.