Monday, April 12, 2010

Family Dynamics

To return to the topic of an earler post, the vegetarian vs. grass-fed meat debate is a pretty contentious issue amongst a particular cross-section of ethicureans (h/t to the outstanding sustainable food blog ethicurean. Vegetarianism has for a long time represented a sort of dietary alliance between groups of people with parallel, but not necessarily common, goals. Many vegetarians have been motivated by the monstrous environmental calamity that is industrial meat production, not to mention the overfishing of the world's oceans. Many, if not most, environmental vegetarians tend to be revolted by the lack of respect for life exemplified by factory farms. Other vegetarians come from the perspective of animal rights, and generally make the argument that since humans are able to meet their nutritional needs easily without eating meat, the taking of the life of a sentient being is cruel and unneccesary.

Personally, I have eaten a mostly-vegetarian diet for about a decade (the veg purists would also take strong exeption here- I've never been scrupulously observant, and have often exempted fish). My wife has been much more orthodox than I, although she occasionally eats fish as well, which makes her a pescatarian, really. Labels. Here is where the story gets interesting, however, and the eco-moral rift becomes manifest within our very own family.

I have hopped aboard the grass-fed wagon. Functioning agricultural ecosystems are the primary drivers of my dietary choices, and I have come to view eating grass-fed meat a superior means to achieving this end. I recognize that we don't need to eat meat to live, I've done it for years, but I also recognize that sustainable farms need animals to prosper. Like it or not, we are members of a food chain, and I believe that omnivorism is a reality for most of the human race. We may find that to be morally difficult, but the ecosphere may indeed consider it a moral necessity. And, I have to be honest- I have never been a vegetarian who finds meat gross. Except for nuggets and other highly processed cartilage products.

Emily feels differently. She believes that since meat eating is not necesarry for humans to thrive, that it is a moral vice. I beleive that is her essential argument, for which I agree that there is a very strong case. Here lies the source of a family rift.

In practice, it really isn't much of a rift. I eat a bit of meat for lunch, on occasion, and the rest of our meals are without meat. The truth is, I am deeply appreciative of my years of meatlessness, as I have come to enjoy preparing and eating a wide array of foods I may have never considered in my more carnivourous days. By and large, I am quite happy with our relatively meat free lifestyle, and don't plan on really rocking the boat by insisting on more meat. It really is an indulgence, from my point of view- and an unacceptable one if the meat isn't carefully sourced.

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