Scott Gold responds to “Meat me halfway:”

In response to your piece on "The Shameless Carnivore," in your zero issue, I felt a need to write and clarify a couple of matters. First, I have to say that it's a strange thing indeed to try and have an earnest, rational debate or discussion with a self-proclaimed hypocrite. Logic-wise, it's kind of like riding a bicycle designed by Dr. Seuss around a series of M.C. Escher staircases: weird and bumpy and frustrating, and you never seem to get anywhere. And when that hypocrite starts saying things like, "You can't have it both ways"... dios mio! It's like an overlapping Moebius strip of meta-hypocrisy. How does one respond rationally to that?

I gave it the old college try, though, for what it was worth. What really saddened me was that Chris failed to understand how being a meat-eater and believing in responsible, humane animal care are not mutually exclusive. As you well know, there's a rising movement by independent farmers, meat producers, consumers and activists who have taken the responsibility of being a conscientious, compassionate carnivore to heart, from the American Grass-fed Association to Certified Humane Raised and Handled, and countless small businesses and farms in-between. Yet, for Chris, it seemed as though he believed that if you're going to kill an animal, what does it matter how you treat it? The end result is the same, right? Or, as he put it, "Once you venture that animals should be “treated as humanely as possible” before eating them, seems to me the ethical slope gets extremely slippery." For me, and likely for anyone who has spent time on a farm and cares deeply about their animals and how they're treated, this statement is both ignorant and sad.

Most importantly, I want to clarify that I NEVER compared my meat-eating to assassinating Hitler, much less "favorably." I was shocked to read that, according to the article, I had, which is nonsense, and yet another illustration of how Chris and I weren't really understanding each other (especially me...his "I'm allowed to be self-righteous because I recognize my un-self-righteousness" position was both sophomoric and incomprehensible to me, not to mention totally illogical). I did happen to mention the old "kill Hitler" thought experiment in our discussion, but only as a way to illustrate the perils of moral absolutism as opposed to moral relativism, but again, there was NEVER any direct comparison between the two ideas. Chris's line was funny, but far from accurate. Ultimately, he is definitely right about one thing: these matters are best discussed over a burger.

And if you'd like to find out more about how I truly feel about the issue of meat-eating, ethics and spirituality, I cover the subject extensively in THE SHAMELESS CARNIVORE, including interviews with both a Western philosophy professor and a thought-provoking conversation with a revered Tibetan Buddhist master, Lama Norlha Rinpoche (whom, I should add, does in fact eat meat).

Scott Gold
April 9, 2008

Chris Colin responds:

"Riding a bicycle designed by Dr. Seuss around a series of M.C. Escher staircases" -- I find Gold's characterization of my logic to be spot-on. This is because I find the moral terrain of the animal-human relationship to be as bumpy and confounding as any I know. I love animals and eat them, too. I'm pretty sure that's hypocrisy. Complex stuff, I agree, but I don't see it exactly shutting down rational discourse.

As for the Hitler comment, I find invocations of the guy to be almost always unhelpful and also somewhat blinding -- so I defer to readers. In explaining his objection to "the idea that killing animals to nourish ourselves is wrong," Gold wrote:

"...What about killing one to save many? The old thought-experiment of assassinating Hitler to prevent the Holocaust comes to mind. Would that be wrong? In the case of meat, would slaughtering your last cow so that your family will have food throughout the winter be wrong?"

Sounds to me like a comparison, but if I'm in the minority, I'll happily apologize and withdraw the assertion.

(While we're reviewing the tapes, I never said "I'm allowed to be self-righteous because I recognize my un-self-righteousness." I was trying to point out the absurdity of my position, which is why I wrote "That moral high horse? I'm only pointing at it from underneath.")

Finally, the thing that "really saddened" Gold: my failure "to understand how being a meat-eater and believing in responsible, humane animal care are not mutually exclusive." Don't be sad, I do understand! I endorse this familiar concept every time I pay extra for cage-free eggs. But while it's a positive development in the animal kingdom, I still think it's built on a fundamental contradiction. If it's not, can I assume Gold wouldn't object to my buying him a lovely dinner, lavishing him with gifts and then cooking him up in a nice souffle?

Chris Colin
April 15, 2008