It was suggested to me the completion of the New York Times' recent meat-eater's essay contest might make good blog fodder. With one notable exception, I disagree.
First, the percentage of people who actually think eating animals is wrong is very small and generally has little bearing on the meat industries. Most estimates say vegetarians make up less than 2.5% of the population and have been at that level for a many years. The sub-culture of vegans, who most commonly oppose the eating of any animal products or potentially even using animal products such as leather, is a little less than one-half of that, or about 1% of the population. Considering the nutritional issues which accompany vegetarianism I could argue it's a self-correcting problem...
So the idea the New York Times is pandering to 1% of the population by demanding 97.5% of the population explain why they eat meat is offensive, at best, and actually is quite backward.
Besides, its New York. Who really cares?
In general, outside of the deceptive marketing and radical actions of the Humane Society of the United States, I don't care whether vegetarians or vegans want to eat meat or wear shoes. I don't care if they never eat another bowl of jello, which of course contains gelatin from animal carcasses.
The thing I do care about is that they have no more right to tell you or me what to eat than we have the right to tell them what to eat. There they cross the line and I believe their radical agenda has spilled over to create this ridiculous essay contest sponsored by the NY Times.
So I'm asking: When will the NY Times hold a vegan's essay contest explaining why they have the right the kill and eat vegetables?
Now that's a contest I would follow.
I believe if vegans or vegetarians are concerned about the rights of animals they should be just as concerned about the rights of vegetables. Don't laugh. I'm serious. All are living beings. They have communities of sorts. They reproduce. They have miraculous life cycles. They respond to stimuli in ways we humans never imagined. What's the difference between a carrot and a calf? Fur? A wet nose? The appearance of "love" or lack of it?
But again, except for the meddling of these vegetarian fanatics, I don't care what the difference. Humans have been ominivores for as long as we have existed. Even chimpanzees -- our nearest relative from the standpoint of DNA -- are omnivorous. It is our natural design and can't simply be reversed because puppies and kitties and baby pigs and calves are cute.
Therein lies that notable exception I mentioned. The problem is these people think they are smarter and more correct than anyone else. They live in a world of delusion and they believe only their ideas could be right. That alone makes them wrong.
No human lives in a vacuum. Decisions made in ignorance often harm others, including one's own children. When these folks can talk reason instead of irrational feelings, we can have a real conversation.
In the meantime I generally prefer to ignore them and their counter-productive ways except for that huge personality disorder of theirs: they want to tell others how to live based on their narcissistic worldview. For that reason we must continue to argue them down.
But exactly how is the question.
I don't enjoy social media, although I use it. It is a force to be acknowledged. Jesse Bussard this week in her blog on BeefProducer.com says rightly that people in our industry must engage these folks on the internet and call them down, as well as having conversations with our customers.
All this leaves me asking where to enter the fray? We cannot change the minds of the radical people but we must fight for the hearts and heads of the 97.5% of Americans who eat meat. This is the war we are in. Those are the people we must reach.
Unfortunately, many of the normal people -- our consumers -- are also fickle and easily swayed. The pink slime debacle showed us that once again. Yet the BSE cow just a few days back seems to have been a minor blip. There is no sense to it.
Still, we must engage our customers. I'm not interested in the NY Times essay contest but if you are, I urge you to comment and share with friends via Facebook, Twitter and email.