There are an endless number of posts on this site extolling the virtues of the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. All of us at Ecoblog are in agreement that it would be morally optimal if human beings could avoid eating animals entirely. The debates that we have been having amongst ourselves are simply matters of strategy about the best way to convince people to move in the direction of a plant-based diet.
The problem is that we Americans eat about one-half pound of meat daily and we really like our hotdogs, hamburgers, steaks, and fried chicken. Vegetarians, unfortunately, make up only 3% of the American population. Convincing the majority of Americans to forgo the pleasures of turkey on Thanksgiving (as Demo asked us to in an earlier post), or roasted leg of lamb on Easter, seems a tall order indeed. It’s for this reason that I proposed the idea of an 80% plant-based diet as a reasonable goal to which all of us could aspire.
My moral flexibility on this issue should not lead one to assume, however, that I think that it is ever morally justified to eat animals for food when there are viable alternatives available. And, for those who would like to do the morally optimal thing by refraining from consuming animals entirely, I’m happy to say that alternatives are available in abundance.
For about 10 years now, I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen with meat substitutes, made mostly from soy products. What I’ve discovered is that in many cases these items can fool most people into thinking that they are eating meat items. Now, I’m an Italian and a food lover. I’m as picky as they come about the quality and taste of the food that I eat. But I can honestly say that it took little or no effort at all to make the switch to healthier and more sustainable plant-based alternatives to animal products. And it’s easier than ever to find such items these days in most conventional supermarkets.
I should point out that serious vegetarians would tell you that meat substitutes are simply transitional food items, and once people get into the habit of eating whole foods, these “psuedo” products can be eliminated from their diet. But I’m not completely convinced that this is necessary. We human beings like our comfort and convenience foods, and if it helps people to live out a more sustainable lifestyle by eating food that reminds them of what mainstream eaters are consuming, I say go for it.
You’ll be healthier, animals will suffer less, and the plant will thank you for your efforts! What’s not to like?