Why I don’t eat other animals (or their juices)

As someone who has spent a long time living with a plant-based diet and wrestling with many of the philosophical and personal issues Adam alludes to in his post, “Why am I not a vegetarian?” I feel compelled to give a response particularly to the matters of killing, hospitality, and dispositional ethics. I apologize for the length of this, as Twain said, I simple “didn’t have time to make it shorter.”

To jump right in, I agree with Adam that abstract appeals against killing are rarely valuable, but this is because, as Haraway, Derrida, Butler and others have mentioned, these abstract, categorical appeals always fail to take an account of the discourses through which certain bodies have been made killable while others reserve the right to kill. In the case of our consumption, certain bodies (and not others) are made killable when they are rendered legible through discourses of species, animality, ability, edibility, proximity to the human, etc. Within the context of meat eating, and by pointing toward an ideally administered death penalty as one example of a way killing could be acceptable, Adam inadvertently highlights this juridical production of animals as edible. By citing the right to kill those who have committed heinous crimes in the context of the potential “non criminal putting to death” of other animals, it is as though cows ought to be killable because they are guilty of being edible. Adam does not make this strict parallel, but the logic gestured toward is so common in meat-eating discourses it was worth at least a brief mention (for more, see the section on Edible Intelligibility here). So while I agree with that we cannot simply suggest killing is always bad, we must also agree that whom and when we kill are not neutral facts of biological consumption, of law, etc., but products of discourse, language, and power. That we can begin the conversation with the given that by meat we do not mean the flesh Homo sapiens is precisely evidence of the discursive production of those who are edible and those who are not. For a poststructural, non-essentializing version of compassionate eating choices, a genealogy of edible bodies and their production as edible in the first is as important as the ontological inquiry about the species-specific richness of each life that stymies my justification for systematically consuming them. Continue reading “Why I don’t eat other animals (or their juices)”