Why do some vegetarians claim moral superiority over meat eaters?

A while ago on Facebook, my online equivalent of the officewater cooler, someone asked this question (I've probably changed the wording):

"When meat eaters have dinner parties, they invariably include a vegetarian dish for vegetarian guests, so why, when meat eaters are invited to dinner parties in the homes of vegetarians, don't vegetarians prepare meat dishes for their meat eating guests?"

It sparked a small and, to me, amusing furore. The vegetarians with no sense of humour over their chosen diet were clearly unamused. Cooking meat, said one, makes your house stink. Clearly she'd never boiled cabbage.

Sermons were posted about the "suffering" caused to animals. Even people like me who try to grow their own meat, ensuring the animals lead a happy, warm, and comfortable life before their quick and humane demise, were not excused.

Eating animals, according to this school of environmentalism, is unsustainable.

Funny, I thought it was humans who are largely contributing to climate change. If it is the farming of animals, then perhaps dairying is the culprit, in which case, we are not eating the cows, but what they produce, and even the purist vegetarians will be consuming tiny fragments of their product in just about everything they purchase, despite their best attempts to go "dairy free". [See Claire Browning's argument from last year here].

(Yes, I know we eat the bobbies later, but let's not digress into an argument over what would happen to this country's economy if we dumped dairying overnight.)

So what about the suffering? The woman posing this argument went on to draw a parallel with animals in zoos "suffering every day". She'd just made a film around horses, so I was tempted to ask if they, too suffered from being trained and ridden every day. Where do we draw the line with animals? Dogs kill rabbits. Cats rape each other, and kill mice and birds. Animals eat animals.

I'm certainly not advocating, nor condoning cruelty to animals, and actually, I could easily turn vegetarian. I'm not that hooked on eating meat. A very good friend eats no meat or fish, hasn't done for decades, but says he'd never dream of being evangelical about his diet. It's his business alone.

He doesn't eat them because he loves them, and because he does a lot of diving, he sees fish as nice critters too. But when I go away he's happy to stay at my place, feed my pigs, chooks and livestock, knowing they're being fattened for slaughter.

So I can't help wondering, these vegos who claim it would make them sick to cook meat for others, as if they would be committing a mortal sin; who pontificate that none of us should eat meat if we wish to save Planet Earth, but back up none of these opinions with empirical evidence, aren't they just Holy Rollers in disguise?

Comments (9)

by william blake on July 06, 2010
william blake

Save us from meat eaters who prepare vegetarian dishes for the poor vegetarians, pasta? quiche? a salad? The equivalent in the wierd beard vegivor house would be the cooking up of corned silverside (with that yummy cabbage you mentioned), saveloy sausages or fried spam...


..and why is it that the carnivores look at newly discovered vegetarians like a leg of lamb?

by M Ducat on July 06, 2010
M Ducat

Here's some empirical data.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation released their report Livestock's Long Shadow in 2006. See the media release below.


It's a story of more global greenhouse gas emissions than transport, deforestation, and land and water degradation.

Industrial agriculture isn't sustainable. Business as usual is not sustainable.




by Phil Sage on July 07, 2010
Phil Sage

FYI - You will eat the dairy cows after their 5-7 year career is over, not just the bobby calves.  Perhaps as part of a McDonalds patty.

The question I ask vegetarians is whether they agree that domesticated animals would not exist if they were not tasty.  Is it better to live and die before natural term than never to live at all

by Claire Browning on July 07, 2010
Claire Browning

aren't they just Holy Rollers in disguise?

Yep. Check out the comments thread, here, for example. That's what really pisses me off, frankly: the evangelism, not the choice.

Although, coming from one (ie, me) who climbs up on her soap box on a weekly basis ...

M Ducat - agreed, business is usual is not sustainable. Leaping from that to vegetarianism is a fallacy, however.

by Lyndon on July 07, 2010

They have a moral position that's different to a lot of other people's baseline. They may perhaps tolerate others but won't actively support them, or they may argue about it vehemently. Such things are not that uncommon.

Phil: <i>Is it better to live and die before natural term than never to live at all</i>

If you think that idea through to the conclusion you end up with a moral obligation to breed every animal at the maximum possible rate. So no.

by M Ducat on July 07, 2010
M Ducat

Leaping from that to vegetarianism is a fallacy, however.

but maybe semi-veg, (as we used to say when looking for flatmates in the eighties).

by stuart munro on July 08, 2010
stuart munro

Who would have thought concientious vegetarianism would be problematic? It is hardly new. But there is an echo here: http://chronicle.com/article/Vegansthe-Quest-for/66090/

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
    "To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being."
        Mahatma Gandhi

I guess it comes down to who you consider a credible moral authority.

by Deborah Coddington on July 09, 2010
Deborah Coddington

Just because Mahatma Gandhi said it doesn't make it right. Animals don't possess the power of reason, that's why we don't prosecute them for rape or incest. If so, my bantam rooster would be up on sex charges all day for constantly trying to get into his daughters. I read those threads Claire referred to and they are, with respect, just nuts. Animals don't "genuinely love" their offspring. Through instinct, they raise them as best they can under circumstances. Some animals do a better job than others. But if you take some of these vegans' arguments to their logical conclusions (or illogical if you like) then animals should all be quietly aborted. It seems to be their death they object to, rather than their life. I mean, what do they want animals to be on earth for? Just to sit around? If we all turn vegan overnight will every pig, cow, steer, sheep, deer, etc just merrily graze away until dying peacefully in a meadow? Because contrary to their statements, not all animals we eat do suffer from a violent end. I did a story on Havoc farms for North & South magazine, for instance, and their pigs most definitely do not suffer a violent and cruel death. This is what really irritates me about these "religious" nutters, they refuse to examine the reality.

by Richard James McIntosh on July 19, 2010
Richard James McIntosh

A couple of weeks ago I thought it would be really good if Deborah Coddington wrote on Pundit. Wow, I'm really happy to read you here. (and Sue Bradford, too)!

I've enjoyed reading this site for more than a year now, keep it up, pundits!


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