I don’t know why some anti-vegans think that curbing one’s appetite for cruelty by eating vegan fare is akin to sexual abstinence. It’s rather odd, since the animals that humans eat rarely reproduce sexually. In fact, modern-day turkeys are bred to grow so grotesquely large very quickly that they are incapable of reproducing sexually. Most male hogs bred for bacon, ham, or pork are castrated. Dairy cattle are artificially inseminated.
The more apt analogy is the one that Jonathan Safran Foer has made that eating vegetarian food while craving meat is simply the responsible, ethical thing to do. It’s is more akin to abstaining from engaging in illegal or inappropriate sexual conduct than abstaining from all sex. Here’s part of an interview with JSF:
[Interviewer:] Bacon tastes good. Pork chops taste good.
[Interviewer:] And vegetarianism will take something good away that can’t be replaced.
[JSF:] It will take something away, but it’s something that can be replaced. And I appreciate when someone says that. They like meat. I liked meat too. It’s a good thing. But, I mean, there are a lot of other really nice foods. And there are a lot of things we like more than meat, and on top of that, there are plenty of things that we like but choose not to indulge in, thank God. Like I would bet you that there are very few people who like the taste of food as much as they like having sex, right?
[JSF:] The good news is, people don’t have sex every time they feel like it. The good news is, we’re not a culture of rapists and so on. And I’m not equating rape with meat here—I’m equating a way of thinking about craving. And I am perfectly willing to go with somebody who says ‘I’m really going to miss it.’ But I’m not willing to go much further than that. Yes, you’ll miss it, but it’ll be replaced with other things, and, you miss things all the time. Plus, people who eat less meat tend to take on a more diverse diet, and most people would think of a more diverse diet as more pleasurable.
The analogy is not new. Consider The Sexual Politics of Meat, which clearly illustrates how meat has been marketed as masculine and primal despite the realities. Meat has been normalized right along with sexism. The two forms of exploitation of sentient beings – sexism and speciesism – often go together. Jezebel writer Sadie explains:
“Meat has become a cultural touchstone, be it old-school masculinity, new masculinity (looking at you, Jonathan Safran-Foer), defiance (The Shameless Carnivore), ambivalence (The Compassionate Carnivore) locavore rock-stardom or self-exploration like Powell’s memoir or the recent Meat, A Love Story. And it’s rarely about the protein. It’s about masculinity, femininity, place in the world and planet. (Short-order short-hand, if you will.) It’s a disingenuous return to the primitive, but it’s suspiciously on-trend.”
I was interviewed about mock meats recently. I said that I thought faux meats were great because they are often marketed in the meat section of the grocery store and they remind meat-eaters that they have a choice that they don’t have to eat dead animals. They can choose foods that taste similar to meat without the cruelty of meat.
I also explained that because I grew up vegetarian, I like faux meats because to me they were simply new foods that tasted good… and I’m always supportive of new tasty foods, so long as they are actually food for humans and not tortured sentient beings.
But the Alternet article gets better. For example, it says:
“What of sex with live partners is absent when we have it with lifelike replicas? Let’s see: Emotions. Microbes. A response. What of eating animals is missing when we eat Tofu Pups? Gristle. Guilt over farms and slaughter. Fear of cancer, heart disease, global ruin. ”
“It is a testament to human genius and human chicanery that we make fakes to fool parts of ourselves. Some we adopt in secrecy and shame and desperation: sex dolls, say, or Rolex knockoffs. Others, such as fake meat, we embrace for reasons ethical, medical, psychological, political and philosophical.”
Larry King Live video that’s semi-relevant:
*Feature image is from the film “Lars And The Real Girl” wherein a man gets a Real Doll (“The World’s Finest Love Doll”). The scene shown here is Lars cutting up meat for his Real Doll.