Tidings (3)

A Carnivore’s Shame

Bearing in mind the recent seasonal gorging, here’s another Classic Sentence from the Guardian. This time courtesy of Neel Mukherjee and his deep ruminations on vegetarianism.

It slowly dawned on me that there were no rational, intellectual or moral arguments to be made for carnivorousness.

Heavens, he’s bold. There simply isn’t a good reason to partake of the flesh. None whatsoever. I do hope there’s a devastating argument to support such a claim.

The meat-eaters had always already lost. This is not the place to rehearse all those arguments.

Ah. Not the place. Isn’t it wonderful when arguments can be won entirely in your own head, with none of that messy business with evidence, logic and stuff you hadn’t thought of? Mr Mukherjee does, however, indulge us with one attempt at reasoning:

Far more convincing for me than all kinds of shocking exposés of the meat industry and the way a piece of steak makes it way on to our plates... was the unimpeachable moral argument against speciesism: because we are the most powerful animals in the animal kingdom, because all animals are at our mercy and we can choose to do whatever we want with them, it is our moral duty not to decimate, factory farm and eat them. It is an argument of such majesty and generosity that its force is almost emotional.

Note the invention of an entirely new prejudice for those so inclined to feel guilty about – speciesism. Note too the sly conflation of meat eating with factory farming and decimation. This “unimpeachable moral argument” could of course be expressed a little less tendentiously,

Because we can eat animals it’s our duty not to.

But then – amazingly – it loses much of its persuasive force. To say nothing of its majesty.

Yes, it’s easy to mock, but I suspect there’s a serious purpose to outpourings of this kind. It just isn’t the one being affected by the writer and much of his readership. Clearly, the object isn’t to test the moral premise of vegetarianism:

This is not the place to rehearse all those arguments.

Indeed. This is a place for something else – something that for many Guardianistas is much more important. It’s a chance to signal attitudes that are ostentatious, self-involved and most likely dishonest: “Watch me agonise over meat. Look at how concerned I am. See how I fret.” The point is to display The Passion of Neel Mukherjee as he wrestles with temptation:

I still haven’t been able to stop eating meat. In any restaurant, my eyes alight first, as if by an atavistic pull, on the meat dishes on the menu. In any dinner party I throw, I think of the non-vegetarian dish as central. I view this as a combination of weakness, greed and moral failure. Someone please help.

Again, note the key ingredients – gratuitous personal drama and pretentious guilt. This posturing nonsense is pretty much a Guardian staple. Readers may recall Cath Elliott being politically distressed by peanut butter residue, and note the similarities between her dietary drama and that of Mr Mukherjee. Perhaps such things are best understood as a kind of theatre for people who wish to agonise and be seen agonising, so as to indicate just how concerned and moral they are, if only to people who are equally conflicted and pretentious.