A line I’ve always wanted to use

It’s in the movie Murder by Death where David Niven’s character announces a bizarre, insanely elaborate explanation for the course of events and Peter Sellers (as a Charlie Chan parody) replies that “That would be brilliant except for one thing—it’s stupid! It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!”
Which brings me to this post by Jonah Goldberg of National Review in which he asks, apparently in perfect seriousness “So many dishes are attempts to simulate the experience of eating meat. That’s understandable except so many vegan types insist we’re not supposed to eat meat. If that’s the case why come out with fake beef stew?” … Isn’t it a bit disgusting or immoral to make products that look like the foods they consider most evil? … If meat is murder, why hawk products that look like the mutilated corpse?
(Hat tip to Alicublog for pointing me toward this).
This is the kind of criticism that’s so bizarre, it’s almost hard to answer. Like someone who says “Well, if you believe war is wrong, how come you play Risk?” or “If you think murder is wrong, why do you watch Friday the Thirteenth?”
Because they’re not real. And veggie meat, in its many and varied forms, is not real meat. No animals are killed to make it. So since the primary ethical issue for vegetarians is animal cruelty (vegetarians also give up meat for reasons of cost or health of course), why would we object to it? It’s not like we’re profaning a mass wafer or violating kosher.
As for why have them, they’re very good for quick, easy meals; for people who really like the taste and feel of meat; and for newbies still trying to wean themselves off carnivorism. So what’s the problem?
I’ve always been slightly puzzled by the disdain some people on the right have for vegetarianism. Vegetarian, vegan and organic food are a testament to what the free market can accomplish: As the market has grown, entire industries have sprung up to cater to it. If I had more money and less interest in cooking, I could subsist for a week on microwavable vegetarian meals without repeating myself. That’s pretty awesome.
Yet we have Goldberg dismissing the vegan diet on the ground soy cheese doesn’t taste like cheese (well no, it doesn’t, but we’re aware of that), and vegetarian burgers look like beef.
Rush Limbaugh has asserted, inaccurately, that there are no vegetarian pro footballers or weight lifters who’ve given up meat.
John Stossel has devoted several TV presentations to the risks of organic food but nothing (at least as of five or six years ago) to the risks of non-organic food.
So where’s the love? My only guess is that the hostility is at least in part that vegetarianism and organic food raise, at least by implication, questions: Questions about whether our meat-centered diet is sustainable, about the merits of factory farming, about pesticide in food. And for some free-market fans, questioning the way big business does its thing is hideously subversive: If it’s good for General Mills, it’s good for the country.
Any other theories?

9 Comments

Filed under Politics

9 responses to “A line I’ve always wanted to use

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