On Ethical Responsibilities and Eating Meat

Note: I’m actually looking for your advice & input on this so please share your thoughts if you’re so inclined.
I’ve been turning the phrase, ‘You have a responsibility to become more ethical than the society that raised you’ over in my head recently, considering the implications and the ways I’m meeting (or failing to meet) this challenge. There are some ways I could live a touch more vulnerably, openly and honestly (which would provide just a stitch extra space/security for others to do likewise). There are definite opportunities for me to more fully engage in a practice of charity work with causes that are meaningful to me. There are ways I need to change my consumption habits. And, moving forward I can definitely do a better job of practicing my values publically and politically; even at the risk of disappointment when trying to engage with our janky-ass, democracy-curious, frustrating, brilliant, promising, and combative republigarchy. I have the chance to more fully reject my own immature desire for quick ‘simple’ fixes and learn to appreciate compromise, and developing working relationships, learn to treasure communication with people I can be so quick to dismiss and get better at loving the process, loving the work as opposed to being driven by ego and fixation on the results.
Those things though, I feel like I have a plan (if only a vague one)… clear next actions I need to take next when I carve out the time and energy. However, the ethics around the meat industry (and my complicity in it) are –for me- a little more ambivalent and I’m not entirely sure where to go from here.
At this point, I should point out that I am an enthusiastic consumer of animal flesh. I don’t see anything fundamentally wrong with killing a living creature and eating it. Ultimately, everything on this planet was born to die and be consumed-converted into something else (even me).
That said, the way in which meat is produced for me as a 21st century middle class American is an environmental and ethical catastrophe. The mass utilization of antibiotics on livestock threatens to undermine one of the fundamental medical pillars that supports out modern world (effective treatment of bacterial infection). Feedlot runoff is horrendous for any ecosystem it touches (which is to say, just about every ecosystem on the planet). The amount of land required for the raising and feeding of livestock hobbles biodiverse ecologies where it doesn’t destroy them outright. Also, and perhaps most importantly, factory farming represents mass torture of animals at an industrial scale. And this is just a few of my most immediate and pressing concerns… I could easily go on.
And yet, for all that I am unwilling to go vegan, vegetarian, or even pescatarian. Even so, this tension/problem is something I should do a better job engaging with. Here are some options:
  • Hunt More If I’m going to eat animal flesh, acquiring it by hunting (whether hunting of prey populations whose predators we’ve eliminated/suppressed or hunting of invasive species) is probably the most ethical way to go about it. Unfortunately, this requires space to safely store firearms and a deep freezer so isn’t something in the cards for me at the moment.
  • Eat Less This is probably the best options, and one I could create benchmarks around. More to the point, this would take looking into meatless cuisines that I find ‘satisfying’ in the way that I currently associate with meat heavy meals.
  • Make ‘Better’ Buying Choices In this season of my life, money is less of a concern than it’s ever been. There are certain farming practices that ameliorate some of my ethical concerns (usually at an uptick in price). Here though, I’m concerned about being misled by branding/buzzwords that make it *seem* like that harm has been reduced when it hasn’t or (more generally) I suspicious of ‘feel good’ buying since so often it feels like the pointless purchase of indulgences.
For my vegan/vegetarian friends do you have any tips and tricks on how to shift my meals so I miss meat less? For my omnivorous friends who are trying to make more ethical choices about meat, what do you look for when you buy?

Continue reading

On Problems

When I was much less mature, I was fond of bandying about with the phrase, ‘The reward for a job well done is a harder job.’ I used the cliché to signal that I wasn’t a sucker; that all the ways I ‘didn’t try’ were indicative of me ‘sticking it to the man/refusing to play his game’ as opposed to the more honest conclusion that I (often) didn’t give my all to ensure that I could dismiss any failure as not ‘real.’ Nowadays, I’m fond of reframing of the phrase. ‘The consequence of a problem well solved is a better/harder/more interesting problem.’ And that’s an outcome I’m actively working towards.

While I’m alive, there will never be an end to ‘problems’ and, most of the problems I/we have now are due to the solutions of the past. Trying to finish a book is a *much* better problem than figuring out how ingest enough calories so as not to starve (which had been largely ‘solved’ by my ancestors). Trying to figure out how to use my limited financial, political, and emotional resources to nudge my society towards being more just and humane is a *much* better problem than trying to figure out how to keep a larger animal from eating me and –again- my ancestors pretty much took care of that. But even though these are better problems… these are still problems.

Likewise, it’s helpful to remind myself that, as I raise my daughter, I can’t actually protect her from challenge; the *best* I can do is to suitably equip her to solve the problems of her life and (hopefully) give her better and more interesting problems than I myself had to deal with. I’ll give my all, and in so doing I’ll solve so many of problems (some with such completion that I’ll risk being able to even recall that the issue was once a problem for me) but the reward is *never* the cessation of growth and change and hardship – it is only the transmutation of these forces into a different form, possibly even one that would be unrecognizable by the standards of the past.

Composing a Life

I decided to type out my first toastmasters speech aka ‘The Ice-Breaker.’ Note: when speaking publically it is my custom to not properly write a speech, but instead outline one to develop a solid skeleton on which I drape an assortment of examples\anecdotes\facts. This helps me focus on what I want to communicate rather than slavishly trying to recreate the words on page. Also, because I’m practiced, keeping the speech ‘loose’ helps me feel more natural, aids in transitions (as, one missed line won’t hobble a segue) and (most importantly) this helps me expand or contract my talk based on time restraints and audience reaction.


Composing a Life


One of my favorite podcasts is ‘On Being’ and on a recent episode I heard the guest speak about ‘composing a life.’ I appreciated this metaphor; so often it’s been easy for me to fixate on this or that monolithic aspect of my life and view *that* as the arbiter of everything important… defining myself by a single relationship or a job say. What I like about trying to view my activities\life as a composition is that it brings renewed attention & interest in all the little things I do, it relieves some of the anxiety that any one thread has to be ‘all-fulfilling’ and reassures me that I have innumerable options by which to reach better balance. Today, I wanted to discuss three different practices I engage with to compose my life.

First, I practice Continue reading

Pokémon Go and the Invitation to Play

I considered –briefly- writing an essay about why I’m not playing Pokémon Go despite it seeming to be nearly perfectly designed to appeal to me: a breakout, hyper popular Augmented Reality Game (ARG) that is currently dominating the overall geek conversation that all my friends are playing *and* you catch + battle Pokémon? That checks off so many of my ‘interest’ boxes it’s almost obscene. But simply put, I’m not playing because -at this point in my life- I have to be almost Spartan in my selections of past-times & hobbies, and I’ve decided that I don’t want to add any that involve a screen (since so much of my life is staring at one anyway) even if the screen in question is mobile and is actively aimed at getting me to interface with (a mediated version) of the larger world. I can’t do everything, I can’t play every game; and endlessly chasing the new hotness means I’d never get to enjoy anything.

However, I did want to touch upon the great promise of Pokémon Go as the first ARG to hit critical mass and so fully breach into the popular imagination. I also wanted to explain what it is about this promise that I believe makes it one of the most helpful trends I see in the world right now. That is, I wanted to write about Pokémon Go and all the ways we are getting better at inviting ourselves and one another to play. Continue reading