Got a problem? Then let’s discuss simply eliminating whatever organization, institution or practice is associated with the issue — which makes as much sense as the typical veggie argument.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, most people partake in big holiday dinners that featured plenty of red and white meat as the centerpiece of the feast.
Which gives “committed” vegetarians — and we all know a few such folks — the forum to pass judgment on those who remain omnivores. The standard argument, once you get past the talking points about animal abuse, is that vegetarianism is the logical response to the current problems affecting food production, diet and health and environmental protection.
Yes, there are serious concerns with land use, resource conservation, energy production—a host of issues. But it’s a mistake to identify problems, then propose wholesale changes, or worse, the elimination of entire institutions because things aren’t perfect.
That argument really doesn’t make sense, but veggies seem to have no problem insisting that everyone ought to “just stop eating animals.”
Here’s how that argument would sound if applied to other situations.
› Public schools. It would be easier to harness some flying reindeer than it would be to find anyone who claims that all is well with our educational system. These days, there are more professional school reformers than people making $8,000 a month in the comfort of their homes with nothing more than a few hours a week and an Internet connection.
And we’ll get to the Internet in a moment.
Although many schools are underperforming, to say the least, and many districts are top-heavy with administrators, and security can be a serious issue and test scores are chronically lagging, along with many other reasons to give public education a failing grade, does it really make sense to insist that therefore, everyone should home school their children?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with home schooling, and it works for thousands of people. But as the blanket answer to the problems of public education, nobody’s crazy enough to demand that it’s either a suitable or viable option for everyone, or even a large percentage of people.
› Automotive transportation. Could we compose a laundry list of problems associated with driving cars? In less time than it takes to start the car and head out to work (or this week, for shopping), any of us could come up with a bunch of serious drawbacks to the near-universal use of automobiles. The only challenge would be where to start: Clogged freeways, smog, noise, accidents, injuries? The negative impact of cars is monumental.
So we should all just abandon our vehicles and start walking, cycling or maybe riding horses again, right? That’s ludicrous, and not just because we don’t want to abandon our ultra-convenient, drive-thru lifestyles. Without cars, many people would be isolated unable to work, travel or maintain their independence — or their employment.
In other words, the downside would be exponentially worse that the “solution.”
› Internet addiction. The best estimates are that somewhere around 6% of people worldwide suffer from an Internet addiction — what's characterized as an inability to stop using their computers. That’s more than 400 million people, according to a recent study appearing in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. The study, conducted by researchers at the Interactive Media Institute in San Diego and the Virtual Reality Medical Institute in Brussels, Belgium, concluded that Internet addicts may be jeopardizing their quality of life, health status and personal relationships.
“This study provides initial support for the inverse relationship between quality of life,” the authors stated in a news release.
Yes, one response to Internet addiction would be to urge that everyone just stop going online. Period. There is lots of inappropriate content and obviously, excessive usage can be addicting. So let’s just take down the Internet and move on, all right?
That would not only sound ridiculous, but such a draconian response would inflict seriously damaging effects on business, commerce and, of course, social networking. C’mon. How would people post endless photos of themselves, their friends and their daily “adventures” if there were no Facebook?
Shutting down the Internet might enforce some positive behavioral consequences, but it wouldn’t even scratch the surface of the problem of addiction.
In any of the situations above, it would make no sense whatsoever to propose a solution to the acknowledged problems associated with schools, cars or the Internet that involves total elimination, and no one who wished to be taken seriously would even broach that possibility.
So why do the activists who continually flog the notion that since animal agriculture isn’t perfect, the answer is to eliminate it completely? More to the point, why do otherwise sober, responsible media members and policymakers take such statements seriously?
Vegetarianism if a perfectly fine choice for those so inclined.
Just like getting rid of your car, homeschooling you kids and cutting off your access to the Internet.
But it’s not for everyone. □
Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator