Jad Fair). If you look closely, you'll see that the images are related to the topics of this blog. (I might try to photoshop the "pow" in the middle to the right or left--it suggests more pugnacity around here than there really is!)
Jonathan Safran Foer has an enjoyable essay in today's New York Times Magazine. Interestingly, he points out that "taste, the crudest of our senses, has been exempted from the ethical rules that govern our other senses." We think we're entitled to inflict every conceivable barbarity on animals because they taste good, but "why? Why doesn't a horny person have as strong a claim to raping an animal as a hungry one does to confining, killing and eating it?" Foer wisely explores the "meaning" of taste, a matter that ethicists tend to ignore or trivialize ("vegetarian food is just as good," they say, as if it were that simple). But even with the meaning duly appreciated, taste just can't be exempted from the ethical rules. There's a limit to what we can do to animals in the name of taste, and the modern food production system grossly exceeds it.
Foer says he and his wife were inconsistent vegetarians until their kids were born, and then they got serious about it. It's just much more important what you feed your kids, he writes, and so it became more important for the whole family to be vegetarian. "And then, one day, they will choose for themselves," he writes. Here's the thing. I think it may be better for that day to come sooner than later.
We have meat-free meals in our house, but we left it up to our children whether to eat meat at restaurants, school, and in their own sandwiches. I just did not want them guiltily coveting their neighbor's ham sandwich. A kid doesn't need guilt like that, I thought. We also didn't proselytize. We talked openly about why we were vegetarians, but told them it was up to them what to eat. There was nothing devious about this--there was no attempt to use "reverse psychology" (as they say) to convert them. The guilt issue really was preeminent.
And then (big surprise), my daughter at age 6 stopped wanting to eat meat. In fact, she talked the rest of us out of eating fish once a week, which we used to do. Despite my reassurance that little lapses were nothing to feel bad about, she rarely lapsed at the beginning and became very consistent about it. She viscerally finds it revolting to eat a (formerly) living creature.
Her twin brother was the house carnivore for many years, to everyone's amusement. And then he decided that on his 12th birthday he would stop eating meat. He did, and never looked back. No inconsistency, no guilty longings, no coveting anybody's ham sandwich.
It wasn't my intention, but I suspect (retrospectively) this is a pretty good way to make vegetarian kids. As they grow up, they're going to see this as a choice they made for their own reasons. I think they're going to be less likely to rebel as they get older. What's to rebel against? Just themselves! In any event, I think they're going to have a life-long respect for animals, because they came to it themselves. I'm pretty sure they're going to be better animal advocates for having made their own choices.