Day before yesterday, the boyfriend and I visited Gothenburg. Gothenburg is a very nice city on the West coast of Sweden, and we were there to see our friends, go to the dissertation defense party, and while we were there, we also took the time to visit the Gothenburg Botanical Garden. (Very, very recommended if you are interested in botany, conservation, or just like to walk around in a pretty park and look at flowers.)
Among other things, the garden is famous for its collections of orchids and carnivorous plants, and while it was the orchid collection which originally drew me there, it was the carnivores which made me think.
These cute, fluffy red-patterned pitchers eat animals. Specifically, they eat bugs – they lure them in, drown them, and digest them. They photosynthesize too, like most other plants, but for their nutrients, they depend largely (if not solely) on killing and eating what flies or creeps their way. They can, of course, survive without eating bugs – though not incredibly well – but they do far, far better if they can eat what is natural to them.
And, of course, I’ve never heard anyone say that it’s not ethical to feed them flies, or that it’s murder. It’s – well, it’s natural, and that’s the end of it.
In general, I don’t care what other people eat, so long as they don’t hurt themselves and I don’t consequently have to pay for their health care via my taxes, and so long as they don’t tell me what I should and should not eat.
The former is an ongoing social problem. People eat whatever the heck they feel like, and then think that others should pay for the problems they give themselves. Rant for another time. The latter is a problem with fewer people, but they are far more voiciferous. I am talking about all those who scream that eating animals is not ethical and that I am a bad person for wanting to, and doing so.
The question I would like to ask is, why? Why is it unethical and why is it bad, precisely?
A side note before I launch further into rant – I do my best to buy grass-fed meat, and free-range chickens (essentially more or less the only kind available in Sweden anyway), and I do not in any way condone bad conditions or treatment of livestock. In fact, it is people like myself who pay a premium price for good-quality meat from well-treated animals who contribute to well-being of livestock in good herds.
Furthermore, while there is an argument that humans are not obligate carnivores, but rather omnivores, the latter term should not be taken to mean that humans can therefore subsist on vegetable matter only, or not easily or well. In fact, omnivores cannot subsist by grazing at all – that would be the province of herbivores, which humans certainly are not (our digestive system is just not adapted to such diet). Meaning, I am not about to give up eating fruit, grains, legumes or vegetables and greens – that’d be mad (not to mention constipating!), but I also do not see any ethical reason for me to stop eating animal tissue – so long as no animals live in horrible conditions because of it. I mean, let’s face it – no sane carnivore would prefer a miserable and sick animal to eat to a fat and happily sleek one. I am not mad either. When I eat an animal, I want to know it was healthy and lived well – if nothing else, because it would taste better if so (nutrition aside).
As to nutrition – well yes, you can (with help of some intensive and environment-costly modern technology) survive on a purely vegetable and fungal diet. But mind you, I can’t imagine that any manner of eating which requires serious industrial processing of said plant matter, and industrial-level extraction/synthesis of vitamins and other nutrietns, and heavy supplementation with those can be called anything like healthy or natural. This is to say – ovo-lacto-vegetarians and pescetarians, for example, do just fine. It’s vegans who have a real serious industry dependency.
The question which made me wonder is – why is it that some people (no names or links here, I am being nice!) feel the need to try to load me with guilt for wanting to eat what is natural to me? (That, by the way, being, a nice selection of fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, eggs and yes, meat.) Is any of it more wrong for me to eat than for a carnivorous plant to get fed a few flies? Why? Because I am not red and fluffy and don’t live in a pot? And what about the plants themselves – why is it that some people consider it to be perfectly fine to eat a cucumber but not a cow? What makes plant life worse or less precious than animal life, precisely? After all, plants are the reason why we, animls, have oxygen to breathe and something, anything to eat – they are the only form of life on this planet which converts inorganic matter into organic matter which the rest of kingdoms of life can eat. I’d say that ought to make them more revered, not less!
So, here’s what I have to say – just like the adorable Sarracenia in the photo, and her many cohorts, I do not buy your “you shouldn’t eat animals because they are cute and have huge Disney-Bambi eyes“. Animals are a natural part of my diet, they have proteins and nutrients I need (and yumminess I love), and I will continue to eat them untill and unless you come up with a better reason why me and my Pitcher plant buddies here should consider them off-limits.
P.S. If you drive a car, then don’t even start on how it’s better for the environment – sell your car and take public transit or walk like I do, first.