Benton’s smoky ham and bacon

It's equal to the best I've had, including what I've sampled in Spain.  (I've also had especially fine ham in Slovenia.)  You can read about it and order it here.  It ships without incident or loss of value.  It's what David Chang uses in Momofuku and its affiliated restaurants, by the way.  It's not even very expensive.

Speaking of animal products, a few of you asked me a while ago how the eating of animals could possibly be morally justified.  My primary objection is to how we treat animals while they are alive, especially in factory farms.  The very rise and continuing existence of humanity is based on the widespread slaughter and extinction of other large mammals, not to mention other animals as well.  I'm not saying we should feel entirely comfortable with that, but rather a "non-aggression" stance toward other animals simply isn't possible, short of repudiating all of human civilization, even in its more primitive versions.  Everyone favors the murder of animals for human purposes, although different people draw the lines at different places.  I don't know of any good foundationalist approach to these issues, but at the very least we should be nicer to non-human animals at the margin and less willing to torture them.

At the policy level we should tax meat more heavily and regulate farms more strictly, for both environmental reasons and reasons of animal welfare.  I draw a line at where the life of the animal is "not worth living," but for me animal slaughter is not immoral per se

There are a few things you can do personally, including:

1. Buy less from factory farms.

2. Eat better meat and in turn eat less meat, substituting quality for quantity.  This is a common demographic pattern, so it shouldn't be too hard to mimic.

If you are a vegetarian, I think that is excellent.  If you're not, Benton's is a step toward both #1 and #2.

Comments

Tyler, why is it wrong to harm animals? I suspect you aren't a moral intuitionist and you don't seem particularly religious; so I am curious why you say that its wrong to harm them.

Also, why is wrong to cause them unnecessarily suffering when they are just going to be slaughtered anyway.

(This message is not an endorsement of harming animals. I am just curious why people think what they do.)

'short of repudiating all of human civilization'

This has to be a joke, right? Why would living a vegetarian life style, even if almost universally adopted by a society, be a repudiation of human civilization? Particularly when noting that civilization is rooted in the idea of cities, made possible by wide spread agriculture producing the food surplus necessary to support a larger population than possible without agriculture.

Now if you would to say that foregoing killing other humans would be nothing short of repudiating all of human civilization, an interesting moral argument could be made. But not killing animals being a repudiation, and not merely an acknowledgment of civilization's historical path and a desire to change it, appears bizarre.

If you are vegetarian, do something unselfish and come up with products that will make it convenient and affordable for the rest of us to reduce meat consumption.

I used to get the veggie whopper from Burger King and before the place I ate at stopped carrying it, it tasted like cardboard. No turnover. In fact, I asked them one time and they basically said they stocked it just for me.

If you like animals so much, why are you eating their food?

Have you tried vegetarian sausage? It may be a'ight, but to call it sausage is a crime against humanity.

Many arguments to define 'the line' are based on whether we as humans value the intelligence or happiness of other creatures.

A common defence of eating animals is that we are supreme as humans in our intelligence, and we have a right to eat them. However, we must then accept that since we are genetic cousins to other animals, there is not really a great divide between us, and at some point in our personal development we were stupid enough that we were liable to be eaten. Would we logically take this further and eat babies and the mentally disabled?

If we are aware of darwinian evolution, then it is hard to see how other animals could feel significantly lower levels of pain than us. On this basis, if we believe causing other humans pain is wrong, then it seems logical to extend this argument to other animals. Of course, nature is cruel, and we can never eradicate all suffering, but by reducing meat consumption, becoming a vegetarian (and in its logical conclusion, a vegan), I can minimise the suffering I personally cause.

Arguments which assert that we naturally eat meat and that that shouldn't change have to justify why the natural order of things is moral.

a) The very rise of humanity is based on the widespread slaughter and extinction of other large mammals.

b) The continuing existence of humanity is based on the widespread slaughter and extinction of other large mammals.

The claim a) is likely to be true.

The very different claim, b, is preposterous.

If, over the course of the next ten years, everyone on earth adopted a vegetarian diet, we would

- all live on average much longer (~7 years) and healthier lives
- we would greatly reduce deforestation and CO2 emissions, and other environmental ills
- would have more than enough food to feed everyone on earth

I would not go so far as to claim that it is the contrary of b) is true, but it would be much closer to the mark than b).

jdm,

I think you got it. Probably Tyler is pointing out that it is awfully convenient to be a moralistic vegetarian if there are no grizzly bears in your backyard. Most of what we view as progress is simply gains in efficiency. Slavery was made obsolete by machinery and factory farms will be made obsolete by advances in veggie processing and tissue engineering. Maybe we'll fight a war over it in the mean time to show how progressive we are.

the repugnant hypothesis seems to apply here. regardless, the argument is that domesticated animals made a deal with us -- we shelter them from predators, then eat them. that deal made sense when animals had decent lives on farms, not when terrorized on factory farms. as for why we shouldn't want to cause suffering, doesn't the question answer itself? so it's rational to take the position that you'll only eat domesticated animals from farms that treat them well (thereby respecting the deal). and it's hard to argue against eating some of the domesticated animals -- what do we do otherwise, set them free (to be eaten)? keep them as wards?

Tyler is a Calvinist.

you're ignoring the args for why it's OK to eat domesticated animals, if treated well. let's turn this around: your argument that eating other animals is wrong leads to the conclusion that we should kill all the predators to protect prey. agree? if so, why not?

Way too much anthropomorphism going on in this entry. What about the feelings of those poor plants morally bankrupt vegetarians devour continuously?

Making comparisons between human and nonhuman animals is not necessarily "anthropomorphism". Just because I can't ask a dog if s/he feels pain doesn't mean I'm not fairly sure that s/he doesn't deserve to be tortured. Same for a cow or a pig.

What quality of nonhuman animals' pain makes their feelings not worth considering?

Well still no one is talking about the ham but I thought I would mention after thinking about ordering a country ham for a long time this post finally pushed me over the edge--I have one aged whole country ham coming my way! I'm really excited.

Tyler, care to make a post about your favorite preparations/tips for the ham?

"Making comparisons between human and nonhuman animals is not necessarily "anthropomorphism". Just because I can't ask a dog if s/he feels pain doesn't mean I'm not fairly sure that s/he doesn't deserve to be tortured. Same for a cow or a pig."

Re-read some of the comments; you'd think some of the people believe animals speak English, draft constitutions, and have bills of rights based on them. Even your post has a flavoring of anthropomorphism by interjecting s/he into your sentence, as if beef has conceptions of gender identities. You then go onto asking about their feelings, and whether they should be considered. How is that not anthropomorphism? I then went on to pose why vegetarians don't consider the feelings of plants to demonstrate the absurdity of some of the comments I've read.

And while I agree with your point that animal torture exists and is not humane; my point was that people take animal rights a bit to far at times.

"If observation of the natural world tells us anything, it's that species eat other species. "

Pretty much my sentiments; some eat plants too.

Its very convenient to scorn animal morales et al and makes a splendid intellectual debate over a $200 wine and well done mitochondria to employ our mitochondria. Well, Tyler Cowen is honest, pragmatic and reasonable at-least at the current stage of our civilization. Conscious consumption is probably the best small step in that long road, since right now life is worse than death and we can make their little time on earth better. Good news is we will change and the bad news is until then other species have to suffer.
These lines from Ben Franklin's biography says it all:
"Hitherto I had stuck to my resolution of not eating animal food, and on this occasion I considered, with my master Tryon, the taking every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had, or ever could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter. All this seemed very reasonable. But I had formerly been a great lover of fish, and, when this came hot out of the frying-pan, it smelled admirably well. I balanced some time between principle and inclination, till I recollected that, when the fish were opened, I saw smaller fish take out of their stomachs; then thought I, “if you eat one another, I don’t see when we mayn’t eat you.† So I dined upon cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other people, returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do."

"'short of repudiating all of human civilization'? This has to be a joke, right?"

not_scottbot: it's not just about vegetarianism. Turning society veggie would be easy! This is about the everyday objects and processes around you, which are also, often, based on dead animals.

Let's look at a few of the products you may use daily that - unless their packaging specifically says otherwise - probably fall into this category:
- shoes (leather)
- white sugar (cow bones)
- wine (isinglass: that's fish bladders)
- Band-Aids (animal by-products in the adhesive)
- paint (fish oil in rust-retardant types)
- razors (according to this dude in the pretty impeccably fact-checked NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/opinion/22steiner.html?pagewanted=1)
- apple juice, vinegar, vitamins, marshmallows, gel capsules, eclairs, chewing gum, jelly beans, Altoids, shampoo, foundation and other liquid cosmetics, and about a billion other things around you that are usually made of, or processed with, gelatine (cow & pig skin)

Bone char - processed cow bones - is also a certified organic (and cheap and efficient) fertiliser. So Brooklyn vegans, go wild with those pricey Whole Foods potatoes. A cow probably died to give you that smug pot of 'vegan' soup.

Once you really think about the effects of your choices as a consumer - particularly when you widen your reach and consider the genuine, quantifiable environmental damage from palm oil harvesting or air miles, for example, that causes genuine, quantifiable animal - and human - death, it's chilling.

So let's be realistic. Pretty much all of the things we use in the West on a daily basis - from the bleached cotton of the sheets you wake up on to the gas that runs your darling Volvo or your smug bus commute - all of it is profoundly damaging to the parts of the world where it's processed for your lazy consumer benefit, by people you don't much care about. Never mind the destruction of the local ecosystem and its effect on the distant animals you also, apparently, don't care much about.

Here's a good, brief New Yorker article on the subject: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2009/11/09/091109crbo_books_kolbert

I think that's sort of the point of Tyler's post. So many objects and conveniences we use in the West have their origins in, if not direct animal death, at least profound human/animal suffering and environmental destruction.

That's why I eat meat (albeit not a whole lot of it). To be veggie, as a middle-class developed-nation citizen, and to think that it significantly reduces my impact on global human/animal/environmental suffering, would be a grotesque act of self-delusion.

My position on this is pretty basic.

I believe it is wrong to harm or kill and animal unless:
A. You are going to eat it.
B. It is going to eat you.

MouseJunior +++

How is agriculture morally justified? A pasture that supports a field of grazing cows also supports woodchucks, squirrels, insects and birds, not to mention dozens of species of grass and wildflowers. All of those species have their habitats wiped out when they're cleared for corn or wheat.

Eating a pig kills a pig. Eating bread kills an ecosystem. Any moral calculus that assigns value to the lives of animals and plants has to favor pastoralism over agriculture, as the latter doesn't just kill animals - it kills whole species.

Last time I checked we don't hunt all our animals from their natural habitat nor is it feasible. We put them in sheds and grow food crops to feed them.

Now unless someone cares to explain how we reverse the laws of thermodynamics this means we have to increase agricultural production to maintain the same calorie intake.

Just because we can't completely remove the negative impacts of human civilization doesn't mean we can't try to minimize it. Constrained optimization baby.

Vegetarians are always going to win the moral debate. Deal with it.

I'm consoling myself with a giant hunk of roast beef.

em is outstanding.

Civilization is based on division of labor. Our brain cells are freed up to think about our specialties. It is possible to be overspecialized, but that is a different problem from the one activists think they can solve by trying to make us "think globally."

If you want to score factory farms for how they treat animals for example, you had better make it as simple as possible, and it had better be correct.

I'm probably too late to get much response, but I'd be curious about how Tyler or the others who want to kill fewer animals respond to evolving nutritional ideas.

The evidence is still inconclusive, but let's assume that low carb diets turn out to be the best for human health.

Is it better to have millions of obese humans eating potatoes and suffering through diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and all the rest or is it better to have dying animals?

P.S. Vegetarians are better looking and smarter than meat-eaters..... (Shakespeare wrote a sonnet to this effect).

>A final note to jdm....how can you, or anyone, make the claim that >all people everywhere converting to vegetarianism would stop >deforestation and lower co2 emissions. That is completely >ludicrous.

A large part if the deforestation in the Amazon is to grow soy, which is primarily used to feed animals. See for example

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinreview/27bittman.html?pagewanted=all

For CO2 and diet see for example:

http://www-news.uchicago.edu/releases/06/060413.diet.shtml

>Where are we going to get the land and resources to >grow enough >food to make up the caloric gap left by absence of
> tasty animals in everybody's diet

Most of the meat people eat is from grain or soy fed (rather than range) animals. You need between 2 to 5 (as high as 10) calories of grain or soy to produce a calorie of meat. So you need roughly speaking between 2 to 5 times as much farm land to produce meat calories compared to grain or soy calories.

Many animals that we raise for food would not exist if they weren't food for us.
What is a good life for a cow? Is it not better to be slaughtered humanely than to be
ripped up by a predator in the wild, break a leg or starve?

Here are economics factors that tie in to animal welfare:
http://www.grandin.com/welfare/economic.effects.welfare.html

(This website is a trove of information regarding livestock behaviour, humane slaughter, etc.)

and... a fairly sophisticated description of how animals can be property, but still have some rights
http://www.grandin.com/welfare/animals.are.not.things.html
These are writings by Dr. Temple Grandin, who is autistic, and a professor of animal science at Colorado State University.

And while I agree with your point that animal torture exists and is not humane; my point was that people take animal rights a bit to far at times.

I'm a vegetarian

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