When I tell people I'm a vegetarian, I usually get the reaction of raised eyebrows and perhaps a joke about how I need to get some protein in me. Sometimes people try to convert me by waving pieces of dead animals in front of me and going "mmmm...see what you're missing out on?". Lovely. They assume that I am a tree-hugging nutter with no sense of reason who goes around spoiling everyone's fun by kicking up a fuss about animal rights. However, some people react with a mixture of sympathy and admiration and say something like: "Oh that must be really difficult. I could never do that, you must be very disciplined." Those make me laugh, as I am hardly a disciplined person. I just prefer not to eat meat, that's all. It's no big deal and I don't want a fuss. Just pass me a veggie burger and leave it at that, okay?
As part of my philosophy course I'm reading a book called Humans and Other Animals by Rosalind Hursthouse and I have an essay due this week entitled: "If animals have no rights, there is still a good case for vegetarianism. Discuss." I've been a vegetarian for about two years now, and my Mum and sister are also vegetarians. Doing the research for this has really made me thing about the reasons why I no longer eat meat. Please note although it would be nice if more people became vegetarians, I am not trying to actively convert anyone, just put forward my point of view.
Reasons I don't eat meat:
-I believe that most of the factory-farm conditions and slaughtering processes are cruel and inhumane. Buying free range eggs is a good option, but as far as meat is concerned, unless you have been to the farm personally you have no way of knowing if the animal was killed humanely or had adequate living conditions, so like Peter Singer says, it's better not to eat meat at all.
-I believe that the suffering felt by the animals involved outweighs the pleasure of the humans that eat them. This is a utilitarian argument.
-I believe that there are no good reasons to presume that humans should have dominian over the animals. As I am agonostic and don't take the Bible literally, I don't believe that animals were made to be mere resources for us and shouldn't be exloited for our own ends.
-I believe that the differences between humans and animals, such as the fact that animals can't talk or reason like we do, do not justify killing and eating them.
-However, having said all this, eating an animal may be acceptable in some extreme situations, for intance when one is starving to death and has nothing else to eat.
-Like Hume and Rawls, I don't believe that animals have rights, because they cannot understand the contractual nature of rights. However I do believe that we still have duties towards them because they are vulnerable and need our protection.
-There are plenty of tasty alternatives to meat without all the suffering such as Quorn or Tofu. Some Quorn products are excellent-they even do imitation cottage pies, pork pies, lasagne, chicken nuggets and steak and kidney puddings now. There's a lot more choice than there used to be.
-My Mum (also a vegetarian) said that what made her go veggie was something she read in a book that said "Don't eat anything that has a face." That creeped me out a lot!
-I have a lot of pets, including chickens, ducks and geese, and I cannot justify eating supermarket bought chicken but not eating my pet, because there is something hypocritical about that. If I wouldn't eat my dog, why should I eat a pig?
Anyway, that about sums up my views on vegetarianism. However, I would like to add that I am not a "Soap-box" vegetarian. When I see people eat meat I'm not offended and I wouldn't pull faces and make comments, because I accept that eating meat isn a natural thing for humans to do. I just choose not to do it myself, for the reasons above.