David Sirota on “Talking to Carnivores”

August 25, 2011

Some useful stuff in his latest Salon piece, but I strongly disagree with much of it.

I personally avoid using the “carnivore” term at all costs, since it comes off as pejorative, and I find that people who feel insulted tend not to be receptive to change.

Sirota recommends avoiding discussion of the ethical issue:

So, when you are inevitably asked about your vegetarianism, any hint that you don’t want to eat meat because you don’t want an animal to have to die for your palate will likely get you either condescendingly ridiculed as a tree-hugging hippie or viciously attacked as an arrogant, conceited holier-than-thou freak.

I’ve never found this to be the case, and I think that’s because my rhetoric targets the meat industry—not the meat eater. The argument spotlighting animal cruelty can be made forcefully, tactfully, in very few words. I typically say something like:

I avoid meat, dairy, and eggs because these industries brutalize every animal they come into contact with, and then lie to cover up these abuses. On top of that, because animal products are commodities, every producers is constantly striving to cut costs. This, in turn, results in an industry running an ethical race to the bottom, as it strives to raise billions of animals at lowest cost and in as little space as possible.

That’s the three sentence version of my commodity cruelty argument, which I lay out in detail in Part I of Meat Market. I’ve never found anyone able to effectively refute these points, and I consistently find that this line of rhetoric makes a powerful impact on omnivores.

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