If You Live in New York, You Should Be a Vegetarian

lisa simpson vegetarianWithin our current food system, there’s no moral choice but vegetarianism: there’s absolutely no defense of eating meat that comes from the factory-farming system and winds up in supermarkets or restaurants, fast food and otherwise. But that’s not to say that eating meat is inherently immoral; participating in the food chain is natural, and if someone lives in nature—say, on a farm, where they raise animals well and kill them for food without getting sentimental about it—then fine: let them eat meat.

The thing is, most of us don’t live in nature: we live in cities and suburbs and have air conditioning and central-heating units and cars and get our food delivered to stores in packages; we trade legal-tender currency for our basic needs, money we make in offices doing weird unnatural things like typing on computers. I don’t consider such a disconnect from nature inherently bad: it’s a different way of living that has its benefits, among them that we live more or less in comfort and safety (which is why we form societies!). My only point is that if we don’t live naturally, why argue we have an obligation to eat that way?

Consider it a regional approach to food ethics. It’s so fucking easy to be a vegetarian in most parts of New York City: tofu and beans are cheap and easy to find in grocery stores; fruits and vegetables and whole grains are widely available; there are even entire restaurants that are vegetarian (you know, for special occasions), not to mention a plethora of vegetarian options at every other one. There are processed fake-meats to satisfy cravings. You have no reason to eat meat here, except because you like the way it tastes, which is a terrible way to determine your ethical choices.

Still, I recognize that meat has been tied pretty tightly into our culture, and that it can be difficult just to give it up. This month is Vegetarian Awareness Month, and yesterday was World Vegetarian Day, and so I encourage you to try not to eat meat. If you fail, that’s ok; just try again. People who say, “I could never be vegetarian” are people making excuses for why they don’t even have to try. But if you assume responsibility for your actions, if you take your moral self seriously, you do have to try. Trying is easy. You don’t even have to do anything—all you have to do is not do something.

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