Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Fishy Practice

In this blog we have had some interesting debates about whether it is necessary to go completely vegan if one is really concerned about issues of animal cruelty. While acknowledging that veganism is the ideal diet for all those concerned about the welfare of animals, the well-being of the planet, and their own physical health, I argued that a vegan diet is far too difficult for most people to follow, and that a more viable option for most people would be to follow a low-fat vegetarian diet such as the one recommended by Dr. Dean Ornish that includes limited amounts of low- or non-fat dairy products (milk, egg whites, yogurt, and cheese), ideally from animals that have been raised humanely. I agree, however, that the goal of anyone even remotely concerned with issues of animal ethics would be to eat as much of their food as possible from plant-based sources and to dramatically reduce their consumption of all animals and animal products.

There are some confused individuals, however, who believe that they are following a vegetarian diet, even though they still eat fish regularly (they are technically referred to as pesco-vegetarians). It’s almost as though these people have convinced themselves that salmon, tuna, and Chilean sea bass are not really animals, and that the rules they follow with regard to the humane treatment of other species don’t really need to be applied to marine life. Let’s get this straight: (1) fish are sentient life-forms like all other animals and they feel as much pain as other animals when they are slaughtered, and, (2) if you are concerned about issues of animal cruelty, you will eat fish as regularly as you would a slab of cow flesh…which means not at all.

When one considers the health risks involved in eating fish loaded with mercury (e.g., tuna, swordfish, shark, etc) and other dangerous containments such as lead, industrial chemicals (e.g., PCBs) and pesticides, it becomes evident that—despite all of the propaganda issued by the USDA and their pimps in the corporate fish lobby—the risks involved in eating seafood very well may outweigh the benefits. And when one realizes that our current fishing practices are driving many of the world’s marine populations to extinction, there is even a greater moral argument for eliminating fish from one’s diet.

I would like to hear how our pesco-vegetarian friends justify the consumption of seafood while clearly having moral qualms about eating land-based animals. I may be a bit na├»ve, but I don’t really understand how it is any more ethical to chow-down on salmon steak than it would be to consume a hunk of cow, pig, or chicken. Could someone explain the logic of this to me?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Tough Luck, Suckers

When I came cack to the United States after several years of studying in Belgium in the early 1990s, I was amazed by the number of Americans who had suddenly taken to driving SUVs. After all, in Europe people were more than content to get around in their small, fuel-efficient cars or to use mass transportation if they had to travel longer distances.

Because of the unsustainably low price of gas, however, Americans wanted to drive huge, gas-guzzling monstrosities that would allow them to dominate other drivers on the road (In some cases, the choice of an excessively large SUV may have also been an attempt by some insecure men to make up for inadequacies in other areas...but we can leave that sort of speculation to mental health professionals). In buying these idiotic vehicles, no one ever bothered to think for one moment about the impact that driving an SUV would have on the planet. Nor did many Americans reflect upon the fact that gas prices would eventually have to rise due to diminishing oil reserves and increasing demand for oil from other parts of the world (i.e., China and India). As in the case of the housing crisis, the shortsighted dolts who needed the drive these planet-killing machines deluded themselves into thinking that they could have it all, and that there were no personal or social consequences to be paid for their sheer stupidity and greed.

But now the hens have come home to roost. With gas prices hovering around $4.00 a gallon, all of a sudden soccer moms and their macho suburban husbands have come to realize that their prize SUVs, which in the past had given them such tremendous feelings of power on the road, are actually financial liabilities, threatening to bankrupt their already financially overextended families. And, try as they might, they can't sell these behemoths, because their less shallow countrymen are looking to buy hybrids and other smaller fuel-efficient vehicles in an age where gas prices can only keep increasing.

The one consolation that SUV owners still have, however, is that they will still have the biggest and most powerful toys on the road. And spending $100 to fill up your tank is a small price to pay to help SUV owners overcome the feelings of inferiority that led them to buy these idiotic vehicles in the first place. Sometimes size does matter. But that will be a small consolation when it comes to choosing between filling up your SUV at the pump and paying your mortgage. Life really is unfair, isn't it!

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