Specialization and trade is a(the?) source of our wealth. By being able to outsource much of what we had been historically forced to do to just live to others, while focusing our highly adaptable monkey brains on fewer tasks, we’ve been able to attain a standard-of-living not imaginable to our ancestors. I do not have to sew my own clothing. I do not have to butcher my own meat. I do not have to brew my own beer. I do not have to bake my own bread.
There are plenty of DIY and back-to-the-earth-types who ascribe a certain moral goodness to doing these things by one’s own hands. I don’t cotton to that particular thinking, but there’s something there worth investigating. One doesn’t need to have a hand in every single thing they consume to live a moral life, but I do think one has to acknowledge that when you outsource XYZ, you do not have the full picture of your own consumption of XYZ.
I’ve had some friends and family who are vegetarian, and even one is a vegan(we’ve since stopped talking*), and one reason for them having turned away from delicious, healthy, and wonderful meat and meat-products was because of factory-farming. This, obviously, is a false dichotomy. One can certainly eat meat that isn’t factory-raised, but is there something to the notion that we should be closer to or, at least cognizant of, the process of our consumption?
I’ve an 80-some-year-old grandmother who lives on a farm by herself. She wakes up every morning at the crack of dawn to do farm things. If she wants to eat some chicken, she goes to the coop, picks one up, snaps its neck, scalds it, plucks it, and then cooks it. I’m not a stranger to that process. I’m no stranger to the process by which I’m able to eat whatever else I eat, either. I’m Texan. It’s really nothing new, special, or altogether interesting to me, but it would be to those who’d never participated in the process.
With this in mind, a friend and I decided to go hunting(he lives in NYC and is surrounded by sanctimonious, emaciated vegans.) with a redneck friend of ours(it’s okay, he styles himself a redneck, so this is not a slur) who happens to work on a hunting ranch. Long story short:
(I am not pictured)
Did my, now-killer, meat-eating friend need to shoot the wild hog through the lung? Probably not. Did he need to skin, gut, and drain the hog himself? Probably not. Did he need to help me butcher the hog on my garage floor? Probably not. Is there some benefit to a person fully understanding the implications of their consumption? I’d say yes. You no longer take for granted your acts(and advocacy).
You do not need to shoot and kill a 7-year old girl sleeping on her grandmother’s couch yourself to support the tough-on-crime approach. You do not need to kill an innocent Iraq War veteran yourself to support the War on Drugs. You do not need to extort sex yourself to support the continued criminalization of a consensual act. You do not need to torture innocent people and informants yourself to be for the use of torture.
You do need to(or, at least, should) recognize your public policy preferences will have unintended consequences. You do need to(or, at least, should) recognize that these unintended consequences will incur costs. You do need to(or, at least, should) recognize that most of these costs will not be borne by you. You do need to(or, at least, should) be made to understand, fully, these costs. To do otherwise is moral and intellectual cowardice.
You do not need to twist off the hog’s head yourself, but someone is going to do it for you.
*kidding, I would never be friends with a vegan to begin with.