If you’re going to draw a line, be careful where you put it…
Let’s have a look at sources of food.
Following the herd
You might be in the mainstream – and eat the culturally accepted foods of your region. Most likely this means that you eat both plant based and animal based food.
Some cultures include things that you or I might not care for, and it’s likely that if we grew up within those cultures it would seem quite natural to us.
For example – I can’t say that I’ve ever had any fondness for snails, but escargot is quite a reasonable dish in France. (And I do enjoy most shellfish – and that’s got to be the sea’s equivalent…)
It seems that if a potential food source is common in an area, it gets eaten. The thing you’ve never seen before (because it isn’t found nearby) is quite a concern.
Eating like the herd
With several varieties and distinguishing features, vegetarianism eats like the herd.
The reasons to follow such a diet vary – and often reflect in the diet itself.
If the primary motivation is for health, exceptions don’t present a moral issue.
Eating the herd
Yes, I know, it’s awkward to talk about, but that’s the way of it.
Eating meat is eating what was once a living creature.
It’s likely that the Inuit’s diet is one of the highest in meat content across the globe. (Well – at least it was until we started shipping in processed foods…)
The method and circumstances around eating meat are perhaps the biggest issues.
I passed a heron fishing in a local pond the other day. I’m sure it had success picking out some of the smaller pond dwellers.
I’m not sure I can say that the heron was morally wrong to feed itself.
The world would be in a hard place if carnivores and herbivores didn’t exist.
Reason and Cruelty
Animals (and plants) that have been deemed threatened and endangered ought not to be on the menu either. (Call this the practical exception – I don’t have any innate reason to not want to eat the Andean Catfish, but it’s a losing game. The last one eaten is well – the last one eaten.)
The dividing line
This is then perhaps the core of the issue.
If pressed to explain why it’s ok to eat cow, and not ok to eat dolphin, I might just have to ask on the other side why it’s ok to eat corn, and not ok to eat worms? Or speaking of worms – why it’s at all ok to use the product of their (and other decomposers) hard labor (compost / fertile soil)?
That’s silly talk
Sure – it’s easy enough to dismiss the decomposers – they work with dead things.
My fact-finding suggests to me that vermiculture (the process of using worms to create compost) is in fact not a vegan activity.
So let me extend the concept – honey is not an acceptable product (because it comes from the labors of some other creature), it doesn’t matter if the honey comes from a wild hive or commercial beekeeping. The product itself is forbidden. If the specific practice of using worms to create useful soil is not an accepted practice (because it uses the labors of some other creature), how can agricultural products be considered acceptable?
Are they not the result of some other creature’s labor?
(And yes, if you thought about the use of bees for pollination there’s another issue to settle – it’s ok if we don’t pay them to do the work, but wrong if we house them?-)
Then there’s fertilizer
Ok – if I’ve written this out properly you’re considering giving up organics because it places most of nature in a subservient role.
The remaining food left for you is grown material that starts in pure sand, water, and man-made fertilizer – no harnessing of any organism’s effort. (You’re going to artificially pollinate each flower)
It should be pointed out that ammonia, a key fertilizer, is primarily created from natural gas. (And if this is news to you consider how we cycle natural gas into fertilizer to grow corn that is then transformed into ethanol…)
So in looking to create the ultimate food source, you realize that you have to plunder the resources from ancient days to do so…
And don’t get me started on farming practices.
But wait – there’s more!
How is it that we can farm at all?
I mean, don’t the creatures of the field have any rights in all of this?
Me – It’s not that I don’t have a moral quandary on all this – I just haven’t forcefully set a hard rule. I’m looking at food more critically, but in the mean time I’m not swearing off fishing and eating my catch. I don’t see an issue with the eating of other living things – even plants.
But I will get back to – if you’re going to draw a definitive line where you won’t touch food that has been set on the table based on any other creature’s effort, you better come up with a way to survive on minerals.