Sometimes, after a stint spent sifting through the activist/vegetarian/meat hater websites, I have to laugh out loud.
That’s because virtually all of the content served up by people who wrap themselves in the mantle of holier-than-thou/animals-are-people-too reinforces an observation most people would agree with—if their brains hadn’t been softened by decades of veggie believers preaching about their self-proclaimed lock on ethics and morality.
It is this: Omnivores exhibit more tolerance, do more to lessen animal suffering and in general demonstrate greater empathy than their vegan counterparts—all values that abstaining from eating meat is supposed to promote.
Although there isn’t scientific data to support this contention, there is logic. Allow me to explain.
On the issue of tolerance, consider the basic premise: Tolerance refers to the capacity to accept something that’s different, even alien, to one’s one values, preferences of beliefs.
Now, virtually all “committed” veggies I’ve ever encountered are quite dogmatic: No animal foods, no exceptions. Many will refuse to even consume a vegetarian dish if the serving spoon previously touched an animal food. And they’re typically extremely intolerant of anyone who questions such behavior, or worse, who dismisses it as unnecessary.
A majority of omnivores, on the other hand, not only tolerate but accept and even embrace vegetarian foods. Many people who regularly consume animal foods are more than willing to concede that vegetarians should be accommodated, both philosophically and nutritionally. Try floating the idea that veggies and meat-eaters should all just peacefully co-exist, and you’ll find out in a hurry that veggies have precious little tolerance for someone who thinks and eats differently than they do.
As far as animal suffering is concerned, the domestication of animals has greatly reduced the degree of death and disability suffered by those animals’ wild relatives. Farm or food animals—as well as pets—get to live a pampered life, compared with similar species that must fend off predators, disease and starvation all on their own.
To make the point, ask a vegetarian making the argument about how animal agriculture causes “untold suffering” the following question: If being left alone, returned to nature, or whatever description you want to apply to the (allegedly) improved lifestyles wild animals have versus their domestic brethren, then why not release all pets back into the wild? According to the logic that domestication is the source of animal suffering, then Fluffy or Fido ought to be way better off running loose in a forest somewhere.
Or even on the streets.
It’s a ridiculous argument, but so is the notion that the life of a cow or pig would be way better if they were simply left on their own.
Finally, the issue of empathy. Again, I won’t pretend this observation qualifies as sound science, but after witnessing it dozens of times over the years, I consider my conclusion to be valid.
Here’s the scenario. You’re at a backyard barbecue or a potluck, where it’s assumed that pretty much everyone present will be happy to chow down on the burgers, dogs and ribs being grilled.
Suddenly, the host is informed that one of the guests is a strict vegetarian. What happens next? Almost without exception, the host apologizes and figures out either a substitute or at least a comparable plate of food, so that the person doesn’t feel excluded. Most of the time the apologies tend to be sincere, if on occasion triggered primarily by embarrassment.
Now, imagine the reverse situation, where a group of vegetarians are gathered for a backyard banquet. If someone were to request a serving of meat, perhaps because they’re allergic to soy, the response would be far different. If he or she was lucky, they’d get off with a stern lecture about—wait for it . . . tolerance and empathy.
Or as has happened more than once, they’d be asked to leave the premises, lest their willingness to support cruelty by dining on dead flesh corrupt the entire gathering.
To summarize: Omnivores are more tolerant, better at reducing animal suffering and more likely to express empathy for others.
Which makes the final score: Omnivores 3, veggies zero.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.