I may have passionate feelings about vegetarianism, but I admit that I don’t expect that humans will ever stop eating meat altogether. Some say it’s part of our evolutionary history, that it’s part of what made us human—all that protein!—but honestly, I think it’s much simpler than that: meat is tasty. You can do things with it that you can’t do with plant-based foods, which means that meat is unique. So even though I advocate a vegetarian diet and follow one myself, I’m an environmentalist before I’m a vegetarian. The way in which meat is obtained is important—it’s the key to sustainability and health for animals, including humans, and the land that supports all of our lives.
I may not eat meat, but I support people and farms that are trying to change the way agriculture is practiced. Small numbers of animals, forage-based diets, well-managed animal waste protocols—Michael Pollan talks about all of these points in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I think should be required reading for everybody. And I’m happy to see restaurants trying to source their products from operations that prioritize sustainability. However, I take issue with this:
Oh, Chipotle. I know this is supposed to be a joke, sort of, but I just don’t find it funny. It’s gross. Pigs advocating for the pork industry? I don’t think so. Such a juxtaposition seems to ignore our responsibility, as eaters, to acknowledge that our appetites have a price. Our place in the food chain is not strictly determined by our animalistic desires any more, because we can choose to eat or not eat other sentient creatures. A tiger may have no choice about eating a zebra, as tigers are obligate carnivores. But humans? The beauty and challenge of being human is that we aren’t obligate anythings. Our dietary options are wonderfully diverse. Yes, if we want to eat pigs, we can, but let’s not kid ourselves about what it means to eat a pig. And pigs, if they could talk, would say something quite different from what Chipotle’s imaginary pig says on that brown paper bag. That’s what I believe.