Kad Smith raises many valid points about our affinity for synthetic food, the logic of food labeling, and the evils of Monsanto. Though he asks the right question—“what does it mean to ‘nourish ourselves’?”—he fails to acknowledge the most obvious sustainable alternative to the cattle stem-cell burger: the no-cattle option.
If genetically modified burgers “disgust” the palate, what verb conveys the ethical response to raising fellow mammals in crates and pens, breeding and milking them until they reach their “expiration date,” taking their new-born offspring from them, and then slaughtering them so that we may enjoy the taste of their flesh?
There are many reasons to stop eating animals besides the fact that we are directly responsible for their suffering.
We claim to be superior to the animals whose lives we make a living hell; justifying our position by minimizing their intelligence and emotional development. Yet anyone who has loved a cat or dog knows that mammals’ intelligence exceeds ours in various areas, and that they experience emotions with which we are familiar—including love, fear, and grief. Perhaps we choose not to think about this when we eat our fast-food burger or our “humanely-raised” prime rib. Maybe we rationalize: Many animals eat other animals. We have canine teeth that are “meant” for gnawing flesh. Hierarchies are “natural.” Meat “tastes good.” Is the solution, as many have pointed out, raising animals “humanely”—that is, giving them a patch of green grass and having a “relationship” with them before surprising them with a bullet, making sure that we do not frighten them unnecessarily in the process? Is this really more palatable than a stem-cell burger?
There are many reasons to stop eating animals besides the fact that we are directly responsible for their suffering. Meat-eating doesn’t make us healthier. Cattle production is irresponsible and elitist, destroying our environment and reinforcing the disparity between the well-fed and the starving in our world. Although we cannot completely detach from our dependence on agribusiness, certainly we can demonstrate that we have some consciousness and responsibility— characteristics that supposedly differentiate us from the species we dominate.
“What does it mean to nourish ourselves?” Kad Smith asks. To me it means that as long as I have a choice—and it is a choice—I will not kill or eat another mammal. And I will continue, as I have done most of my life, to grow as much of my own food as possible without chemicals or genetically-modified seed. I will let my hens live out their lifespans in my backyard after they have stopped producing eggs—a decision based on ethics rather than economics. These are decisions that at the very least do not contribute to the destruction of the ecosystem or the unnecessary suffering of animals. These are decisions I can live with.
Ellen Thompson is a senior PASJ music major and a rhetoric instructor.