Scott Gold responds
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).
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
"...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?
April 15, 2008