I feel as though it has been forever since I last posted. Of course, I am supposed to be on hiatus, so that is how it should be. However, I feel a bit odd not posting for so long.
Things have been moving along as normal here at the house of the peas - except that we all came down with a yucky 'winters-on-its-way' head cold and had a couple of weeks of being snotty sad heads, which was not very fun.
I have also been trying desperately to get my PhD moving, but really not doing a very good job of this. I have just not been getting enough time and am finding this increasingly frustrating and discouraging. I would dearly love to just walk away from it and be free of the constant guilt that it seems to involve, but I know that I would always regret making that decision and wasting all of the time and all of the assistance that has been given to me by my supervisor and all of the people that helped me with my field work. And so I must somehow find a way to make it work.
On another subject entirely, I recently read this post by Pavlov's Cat (and the comments that it generated) and it made me stop and really think about the issue of the universal or absolute morality of eating meat. I really struggle with this issue - primarily, I think, because I feel deeply uncomfortable condemning the actions of people that I know and respect. However, when I am truly honest with myself I can't really say that I think that this is a subjective issue. I don't really think that eating meat is something that is perfectly OK and that it is simply up to the individual to decide whether or not they feel comfortable with doing it.
The truth is that I genuinely believe that animals are sentient beings who have the right to life and that killing them unnecessarily is, therefore, a breach of that fundamental right - in the same way that killing another human being is a breach of their right to life. I strongly reject a classification of the animal kingdom into some kind of hierarchy where human beings sit above all of the rest and have some kind of superior right to life and to consume all of the resources of this planet. (And this is before we even get to the issue of the incredibly cruel manner in which so many animals are treated while they are alive and the kind of impact that modern factory farming practices have on the environment).
However, the issue is also naturally far more complex that rejecting an anthropocentric view of the world. Some people around the world are in no position to live without killing and eating animals. People in many parts of Laos, for example, rely on the protein (and calories) provided by the lizards, rats, a other small mammals and reptiles in order to simply survive. Condemning their consumption of meat would be like condemning a lion for hunting. This being the case it is not possible to draw a clear line in the sand and to make an absolute statement against the consumption of animals.
Another issue that applies more to people in wealthier parts of the world is that all kinds of food production involve an environmental impact and the displacement and death of many animals anyway. This means that even a vegan diet does not escape the issue of causing death and destruction. Yet again this fact speaks against the idea that it is possible to argue that this as a truly black and white issue. So, perhaps, since the gray moral area of this issue is arguably fairly wide, people should have the right to navigate their own way through the inevitably moral compromises that must be made in making their own consumption choices.
So then, where does that leave me? Honestly it leaves me a little confused. However, I do think that it is reasonable to still believe that people should bring a mindful approach to their consumption choices. Also, there are clearly extreme ends of the spectrum that are objectively 'wrong'. Even with all the shades of gray in the middle, surely it is always wrong to lock up a pig in a tiny metal cage until she is fat enough to kill and eat? Surely it is always wrong to shove thousands of chickens into a filthy, dark and airless shed and to leave them to sicken and maim each other in their desperate attempts to stay alive?
As for the wrongs and rights of people's choices to eat locally raised, organic, free range meat: well personally I recoil from the idea. However, I feel less confident in my own right to condemn such a decision by imposing my ethical viewpoint on other people. And yet, I feel as though I am being deeply disrespectful to animals when I fail to do so...
Clearly I need to do a lot more thinking on this subject.