For the past billion years or so, every animal on Planet Earth has been in danger of being eaten by some other animal at one time or another.
Humans aren’t immune from the risk, of course; just because we’re at the top of the food chain doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be a tasty treat to something else. A hiker was eaten by a bear in Yellowstone park just last week, and a few times a year we hear about sharks that feed on an unlucky swimmer.
So I get a little perturbed by folks who tell me I shouldn’t eat meat because it’s unethical, or because we’re “exploiting” animals for our personal gain. Frankly, if every animal on the planet stopped eating other animals, all species would die out. The “Circle of Life” would come to a complete halt.
Someone asked me if I’m a vegetarian and I said, “No, but I mostly eat vegetarian animals!”
Granted, in our modern society, homo sapiens (especially the ones living on the North American continent) should cut back on meat consumption. But from a health standpoint, completely eliminating meat from our diet is going too far in the other direction. We are omnivores and always have been, and we require a balanced diet. Unfortunately, some people balance their diet about as well as they balance their checkbooks and they end up overweight AND broke!
Even though I’m certainly not a vegetarian, I do have many issues with our “factory farmed” meat production. Not just because it might be considered “cruel” to animals, but because we are getting increasingly isolated from our food supply. In the past 100 years, we’ve become the very first humans in history where the majority of the population doesn’t know where our food comes from, or how it’s grown and processed. As long as the grocery store is fully stocked and the local restaurant can serve a hot dinner plate in a timely fashion, we’re happy. We don’t want to think about where it comes from – and if we watch a video of a butcher at work, it’s considered “gross” for some reason. Why is that? For thousands of years, everyone had to catch and kill their own meat, and it was the most natural thing in the world.
There’s an old saying:
“Vegetarian” is the Native American word for “unsuccessful hunter”.
I don’t have a problem with anyone eating beef or pork – cows and pigs are not endangered species – but I am outraged by the practice of shark finning in Asia and the over-fishing of cod in the North Atlantic. Its unconscionable.
Here’s another thought ... if you’re a vegetarian because you are so concerned about “animal rights”, then what about the global impact of growing crops? Farmland displaces millions of native animals. Pesticides and fertilizer allow us to grow more crops on less land, but the runoff is making our waterways and oceans uninhabitable. Even if humans were strictly vegetarian, the over-population of our species would still have a detrimental impact on other life.
To me, that is the key issue: over population of the human species. It’s not just our food production that worries me. We are using up the Earth’s resources, strip mining coal for energy, cutting down rainforests, polluting the air and our land and seas – and we are threatening the balance of life on Planet Earth.
Over population does not ensure the survival of our species – in fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s like thinking you will live longer if you’re overweight. If we are to survive long term, humanity needs to go on a diet. Are you concerned about poverty? Healthcare? Clean water? The economy? The ecology? Most of these issues would be much easier to solve if we could substantially reduce our population.
As new species evolve, old ones go extinct – this has been the pattern for eons. Catastrophic events (volcanoes, meteoroids, etc.) will occasionally cause mass extinctions in a very short period of time. But in the last two hundred years – which is a very short period of time in the grand scheme of things – more species have gone extinct than in any other two hundred year period of time since the age of the dinosaurs! And it’s all because of humans and our incessant desire for more. We want more land, bigger cars, bigger houses, more heating to keep us warm in winter and more air conditioning to keep us cool in the summer.
If you want to be friendly to animals, being a vegetarian isn’t the answer. You’d have a much more positive impact on the world by going around handing out condoms.
So I’ll leave you with a cartoon I ran across the other day – this is exactly how I’ve felt for the past thirty years: