Daily Archives: May 3, 2010

The Vegetarianism Conundrum

So what I am suggesting is that if you love children’s literature, you cannot kill animals just because they taste good on a bun. There’s more than a bit of hypocrisy involved in urging children to empathize with pandas and polar bears and bunnies and ducks in books and at a distance and then feeding them hamburgers and sliced deli meats.

Jennifer Armstrong’s “Eating Reading Animals” in the latest Horn Book will make many sit up and take notice.  She makes a good case for vegetarianism on moral and ethical grounds.  The same ones that make me an almost-vegetarian (in that I rarely eat meat of any kind).

But.

What about cultural differences?  While there are cultures where vegetarianism is and has long been a part of things, there are others where it is not.  And I guess I’m uncomfortable with those of us who always not only have enough to eat, but the luxury of choosing what we want to eat advocating a way of eating to those who do not.  Even as moral and ethical a one as this. One moral and ethical way against another one.

My discomfort comes back to my time in Sierra Leone where most people did not have enough to eat and any sort of meat was considered a great treat.  We Peace Corps were treated as honored guests often in small villages and served meat, we knew not of what animal, but we always politely did our best to eat it.  A few years ago I was at a very simple village home in Peru where guinea pig was served and I took the tiniest imaginable bit so as not to offend the gracious host.

Perhaps I will reach a point where I’m clear in my moral and ethical stance on the eating of animals. So that it will override this other way of being that I’ve been considering most of my adult life. Do we, should we, be telling those without our means, our food, our way of life how to be?  I suspect Jennifer, who is firm and forthright in her beliefs, would have no question. I, on the other hand, am still conflicted.  Both are moral ways of being for me and for now the one that tells me not to impose my way of being on those who have a different one takes precedent.

But I’m not happy with it and would love to know what others think and how indeed vegetarians do function in places like Sierra Leone.

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