Brandy Jensen, The Outline’s Power editor, has made a lot of mistakes in her life. Has she learned from them and become a wiser person as a result? Hahaha oh gosh no. But it does leave her uniquely qualified to tell you what not to do — because she’s probably done it.
I recently got really into watching YouTube videos about pet pigs. They seem great! They're really cute when they're little and endearing when they're big, they're really smart, and they make fantastic noises when rooting around in a kiddie pool full of rocks or whatever. While this is not a letter asking you to talk me out of getting a pet pig, watching these videos has made me feel weird about eating pigs, and ever since I started watching pig videos, I've decided to go cold turkey. The only problem is, now that I've sworn off pork, I've realized how much a role it played in my diet — specifically, in those snap-judgment moments where I'm ordering crappy food at a crappy place and just want to eat some crap. Bacon, sausage, pepperoni, ham, etc., it's all over the place, and I find myself still drawn to ordering it, almost instinctively so. How do I change my eating habits so that I not only avoid eating pork, but I'm more intentional about what I put in my body in general? Should I just become a vegan and be done with it, or what?
Hapless Appetite Man
A conscience is a real bitch of a thing to develop, sometimes, especially when it forces you to change behaviors you find pleasurable, or convenient, or even just routine. This is why many people, myself included, will spend just as much energy developing baroque justifications for maintaining a status quo than it would, in reality, take to change things.
This is also why, I think, we have lately taken to passing those justifications off as necessary or even politically good. The world is cold and uncaring, this story goes, and so we must meet it with warmth and generosity. This sounds correct! Because it sort of is, except that warmth and generosity should be directed outward, and not primarily toward ourselves. That flash of understanding you experienced that made you feel weird about eating a pig is a good example of the former, and I suspect the fact that you say nothing about other sorts of animals or how you feel about eating them is a function of the latter. It would be a far bigger imposition to become a vegetarian when you love eating crappy food after a crappy day and after all there are so many things that conspire to make our days crappy so can’t I just tell you how to remember to order a burger without bacon?
HAM, I’m afraid your current ethical position toward eating animals is pretty laughably indefensible, and that you probably should give it up entirely. I suppose you could live in constant fear of stumbling across a cute video of baby cows or little ducklings, but I think some semblance of consistency is the better option here.
Yes, this will require a certain amount of sacrifice from you, and it is easy to be suspicious of sacrifice as a concept when we are usually asked to do it in service to some bullshit like productivity, or when it is never asked of the people it should be. But it can feel very rewarding to decide for yourself what is right and hew to that in your actions. You can treat yourself to a little conviction.
Or, you can do what I do and just constantly feel like a weak-willed piece of shit who is extremely grateful for the recent ubiquity of the Impossible Burger.
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