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The Morality of Human Omnivorousness

by Wardolfski

...who wishes to be protected from the wrath of the
vegetarian community for reasons that will soon be apparent.


Copyright © 1998 by Ward Nicholson. All rights reserved.
Contact author for permission to republish.

Our semi-scriptural topic for the day
is the golden quotation:

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things
I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference."

Hi out there everyone! It's a great day for drinking carrot juice, isn't it? :-) You know, at first I was going to write a big, long, humdingin' philosophical treatise here, complete with some sobering riffs on the self-help saying for the day quoted above, the one the 12-Step programs use. Some academically impressive intellectual stuff about how rational it obviously is to eat meat when humans are born omnivores in the first place. And then I thought, golly gee, what's the use Aunt Gertrude? If a person doesn't get it, they just don't get it.

With all due apologies to the 12-Step folks--who have a philosophy of human helplessness I don't really agree with much in the first place--still, I am happy to concede the quotation cited above is one of the least illogical things about their rap. (Hey, you sure ain't gonna tell me I'm a failure and always will be, and the only way out is to remain tied to the umbilical cord of 12-Step philosophy for the rest of my life. Sheesh.)

In fact, I'd even go so far as to say the 12-Steppers' quote above is actually a darn pithy summation of what the spiritual life is really all about. All wrapped up in a nice little nutshell, too, that you won't forget if, say, you had way too much watermelon for breakfast, your stomach hurts, you have to pee real bad, and you're finding it hard to think straight from all that addictive blood sugar rushing to your head. I mean, talk about too much of a good thing. But then, finding a balance instead of going to extremes by having too much of any one thing (such as, fer instance, plants, plants, and even more plants) is not exactly something vegetarianism is really known for.

But back to that 12-Step saying. It's pretty simple: You accept what you are, you only worry about the things you can change, and you don't waste your time trying to change things that just are the way they are because... well, because they are that way because they're that way naturally. Anyway, that's what the spiritual path is all about the way I see it.

Now of course, there are some people who continue to believe, in spite of the overwhelming prehistoric evidence to the contrary, that humans are really born vegetarians. (Actually, it's due to ignorance about it, I'd have to say, in all rancor. :-) ) Or that all of us should go stark raving veggie anyway, even if it ain't natural, just because our poor little ol' "inner child" can't stand it that some other critter should have to die so we can live. Like happens in many other places in the animal kingdom among critters we don't bother to take the time to condemn for just being themselves.

Well, bury your head in the sand if you want to. Or better yet, chuck it down a termite hole and let a chimpanzee fish it back out along with the tasty bugs he's tryin' to extract for his lunch. Either way, you're only fooling yourself. The human evolutionary past and resulting genetic programming that makes us natural omnivores adapted to eating a certain amount of meat (as well as murderin' innocent veggies for our dining pleasure too, while we're at it) continues to live with us.

And don't forget that omnivorism is a pretty democratic way to eat too, being the unbiased, equal-opportunity selection of that which we shall employ for our gustatory management objectives, whether that happens to be animals OR plants. That's how I heard Hulk Hogan put it once, anyway. :-) (And I gotta ask, what IS it that vegetarians have against plants, for that matter? They can be so MEAN to them sometimes with their juicers and Vita-Mixers and such. :-( )

So I say, go ahead and be a vegetarian if you want to. It's a free country, it's your choice, and it doesn't bother me. But don't get all hot 'n bothered if the rest of us would rather accept our true natures. (The appropriate Zen koan for you to ponder being: "What is the sound of one bone crunching?") The rest of us just wanna get on with living and trying to figure out how to make the world work better by accepting who we are in the first place instead of denying it, or trying to transcend it, when that may not be such a good idea--for our physical health, anyway. At least not my health, 'cause I've tried it both ways before, folks. (Can anybody say LOSS OF L-I-B-I-D-O? :-) )

Now don't jump to conclusions on me, y'all vegetarians out there. I'm not saying it's wrong to be a vegetablearian, just like I don't think it's wrong to be a meatatarian either. And actually, ya wanna know the real truth? I just really don't think it's that much of a big moral deal in the first place. Kinda like standing there at the gas pump trying to decide whether to put regular or premium in your tank, and what the cost is gonna be today vs. last week or last month, and if it's worth it or not.

And by way of analogy, sure, when you're weighing the ecological costs, maybe the way things are getting to be these days, a vegetarian diet would use the planet's resources more efficiently. So much more efficiently, in fact, that we might possibly be able to cram 10-plus billion people onto the planet instead of just 5 or 6 billion. I mean, let's go for a new all-time record everybody, and crowd even more animal species off the planet than have already been bumped off by our modern "green revolution" that plows over half the planet's arable land, all the while destroying other animals' habitats while supplying us with plant crops. Crops that have always enabled humans to overpopulate and infest the planet like the rabbits that chew on my lawn greenery, and later get splatted flat in the middle of the road in front of my house by blunt rolling metallic projectiles.

...whoops, I guess I got a little carried away with the carnage and killing there, folks. Ahem, sorry... :-) So anyway, I suppose you could get me to agree it might be a good idea for practical reasons for us to consume all sorts of vegetables and even some slimy algae or even plant a bunch of acres of that green-barley stuff (Hallelujah!) as a big part of what we eat. You know, do it all in the interest of going on a Diet For a Small Planet, and Lappe it up Moore to the best of our ability.

But THEN you're ALSO gonna try to tell me that something like that which we're doing just as an expedient because we were forced to, or even just because we wanted so that we could be do-gooders with visions of saving the planet--somehow it all of a sudden becomes an act that awakens my true human compassion, turning me into a morally Good Person, and that I was a morally Bad one before? And that those who won't give up meat are morally benighted for doing what they are biologically designed to do, quite possibly in the best interest of their own health? Sorry, I DON'T THINK SO, Bubba!

And I'll admit there are some other good questions vegetarians ask, too. Like, gee, why don't we stop making chickens sit or stand around in their own poop in cramped little cages plopping out eggs a mile a minute like gumball dispensers, only to have their heads chopped off before their time? And who really wants to see baby cows locked into tiny stalls they barely fit into (so they can't move forward or backward or lie down at all) and force-feed them milk until they're slaughtered for veal? It IS cruel, even to an unrepentant carnivore like myself. Do you really think an omnivorous malcontent like me wouldn't rather see those animals live out their natural lives first before they get to become my dinner? :-) Gimme a break, pal. I mean, hey, I have a certain amount of compassion too. But all the same, it's a man-eat-chicken world out there, so remember, I'll still be there after they bite the dust to salvage the carcass anyway.

And think about it: What's gonna happen if you just let the carcass of a dead animal sit there and rot anyway, huh? I mean, SOMEBUDDY'S gotta eat the thing, right? Why should we be so different than the other omnivorous animals who would step right in to eat it if we didn't? This vegetarian immorality and hubris of wanting to take it upon themselves to redesign the balance of nature knows no bounds. If vegetarians got to create creation in their own image and had their way, there'd probably be no carnivores or omnivores at all. Whenever an animal croaked, the carcass would just sit there rotting on its way to becoming fertilizer for plants, and stinking up the place.

No more lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). No sirree! Just a Wizard-of-Oz fairytale existence where everything is Emerald-City green, populated with plants and squeaky, smiley, feel-good munchkins stunted by generations of eating nothing but green, green, and even more green. And all you'd have to do is click your ruby-slippered heels three times, and you'd be transported to the fantasy world of your dreams where nothing in nature ever kills anything else at all.

But back to the real world. Doesn't it seem just a bit strange that where killing for food is concerned, few condemn the revered Native Americans and all their past buffalo hunting, who are held in such high esteem that movies like "Dances with Wolves" portraying them have won Academy Awards, with even the vegetarians crying crocodile tears while eating their popcorn in the front rows of theaters everywhere? Somehow I guess the fact the Indians killed the buffalo with some sense of compassion about the poignancy of its (and their own) place in the overall scheme of things is an example of conscientious human behavior that really isn't so hard to conceive of after all, huh?

And speaking of compassion, what about giving our very own domesticated urban animals a chance at more natural lives? What about compassion for our feline carnivore friends, for instance? Seriously, in addition to the good things vegetarians do, there are also some pretty stupid things ya gotta admit they try to do too. Like trying to force their cats to become vegetarians, and even believing they have succeeded when good ol' Tiger seems fat and happy at the very same time the house is completely mouse- and rat-free without any traps or D-Con poison having been set around the house for months on end. DING DONG! HELLOO-O! Is there anybody HOME upstairs when Tiger is downstairs in the basement having fun ripping them mieces to pieces?! I mean, let's get REEALL, sister!

But hey, folks, we live in a crazy world, and these are crazy times. That's what happens when the world gets overpopulated with humans (even vegetarian ones). And there ain't no easy way out of it until we start thinning the human herd. People forget none of this would have ever happened if we'd stuck with hunting and gathering instead of inventing agriculture and overproducing plants and people both.

So next time you feel the urge to tell someone else they should become a vegetarian like you, quit passing around the same old plate of tired ethical hors d'oeuvres. We've all had our fill of all that, and it ain't satisfyin'. What most people will always be hungry for and secretly crave is something more accepting of basic human nature--not trying to deny themselves by remaking a species of omnivores into herbivores. Try sinking your moral teeth into meatier issues like that one, and don't miss the main course.

Now may I please be excused from the table?

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