Thursday, February 26, 2009

to meat or not to meat...

I'm really digging Mark Oppenheimer's article for Slate, Daddy Eats Dead Cows, not just because the author encourages me and other readers to raise vegetarian children, but because he carefully explains and articulates the thoughts and intentions behind such a decision.

Since I'm not real fond of the article's title, I'm posting a bit more text from the article than usual. Check it out (Cyd is the author's wife):

...Keeping the girls from meat, and from ridicule, while they're young—that's turned out to be easy. But vegetarianism will prompt other parenting questions, and I haven't solved all of them yet. For example, what will we do when the girls have social events that don't include parents? Someday soon, they will be going out for pizza with their friends, and Cyd and I won't be there to order the veggie toppings. Will they be permitted to order meat? Obviously, they'll do what they want, but if what they want is to eat meat, will they have to hide it from us?

Cyd has a stock answer to this question: "When they're old enough," she says, "to explain that they know the animal has been murdered and that they want to eat the murdered animal anyway, then they'll be permitted to do so." She's kidding about the language (I think), but she's dead serious about the principle. Only when they're old enough to understand the ethical question will they be permitted to answer it for themselves.

Cyd's rule seems right to me. Eating meat isn't like cheating or stealing, which parents should always forbid. Nor is it like eating junk food or watching trashy TV, treats that children should learn to enjoy in moderation as the guilty pleasures they are. Rather, eating meat is a serious ethical choice but also a personal one. It can't be treated cavalierly (like junk food), but it can't be universalized (like the rule against cheating). Environmentally disastrous factory farming is, I think it's safe to say, always wrong, or at least always undesirable. But what about eating free-ranging, kindly treated, "happy" meat? What about eating meat that would otherwise be thrown away, as some "freegans" do? These questions admit enough ethical debate that a teenager, even a 'tween, may decide for herself...

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sadly I have to admit, I suspend the reality of where meat comes from....
L M

becky said...

No comment on the "Where meat comes from" part, but meats do serve an important nutritional purpose, and you hear far too many sad stories in the news of "extreme" type parents who ultimatly harm or starve there own children to death because of their beliefs. Everything in moderation, teach balanced diet...then when the kids are old enough they can decide their own beliefs.

Filatore said...

Here's what I found unusual--this is the second mention I've seen of "freegans" in less that 18 hours.

That's freegan' unbelievable...

Deborah said...

It's probably about freegan time I post about "freegans"

I agree that some folks can take this stuff to the extreme and deprive their children. To be completely honest, I had not thought about raising children vegetarian before reading this article and after reading it, don't intend to do so either. Like you said, Becky, it is about balance and moderation. We are omnivores by nature so I think that until a child can make a decision like that for themselves, I'd keep my beliefs mainly to myself.

So many aspects to this to consider... like in the article, peers and so forth. I want to encourage healthy choices that are also good for the environment but that's about as far as I think I'd go.

Deborah said...

Also, a friend of mine brought up another interesting point: Bonding over meals, specifically male bonding between father and son over the grill. It's an American (and surely elsewhere) tradition and children deserve tradition and bonding.