It’s Not You, It’s Meat.

Via Karl Saliter
on Jun 10, 2012
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Photo: R'eyes

Some day, can we talk about what meat is without you throwing a hissy fit about how I’m moralizing?

I want to be free to say “eating meat is disgusting” without you hearing “you are disgusting.” Because it is, and my reasons are grounded in logic, facts and sound research. And you are not disgusting. The behavior of eating meat in today’s climate? Uninformed, unimaginative, yes. You as a person? Not disgusting.

I love you. Got that? I am not perfect. Hear me? Good, now can we put those two to bed? One time, can we converse about the manufacturing and consumption of animal products without you trotting out an irrelevant but deflecting comment? The tactic belittles both of us.

Let’s skip your quip that I’m judging you or f*cking hurting plants and soil. Yes, I also am ruining the planet by my wasteful existing. I consume oxygen. Guilty as charged. But all of that is irrelevant to this particular storyline and you know it.

You are being deliberately obtuse, consistently, and it obfuscates the conversation. This omnivore’s judo is more than a gut reaction: it is really your only solid argumentative ground.

Japanese Whaling Industrialists have been able to forestall talks about bans at the International Whaling Commission by pointing at the French and going, “Hey, you fois gras munchers, don’t talk to us until you stop force-feeding geese.” That is not an exact quote per se.

Finding fault with the one pointing out your unjust behavior is a vacuous argument which will forestall growth forever. We are all flawed dummies. Can we just start there?

And really, could we skip the threadbare lie that eating meat is a personal choice? I love that you can keep a straight face when you say it, but, as my dad would say, “Ya gotta be sh*ttin’ me.”

Photo: Royalty-free image collection

Animals are not little machines for us. But we don’t even need to go there.

The expense of that steak is shared by everyone. Water subsidies, rivers wrecked by cow manure, un-breathable air, billions of sentient beings suffering, organic, small-time farmers crushed underfoot, they all scream wordlessly that this position is a bald, cold, cruel lie.

Like many lies, it sounds really good. But eating meat is not a personal choice. Ask a cow. Or one of the 94 other animals most meat eaters consume every year. Ask a river. Ask a conscious taxpayer.

I am not talking down to you, or judging you. Now get your head out of your butt before it gets lodged in there permanently. See what I did there?

It is stunning how defensive and protective you meat eaters become when threatened with information and science revealing facts about eating meat. You leap to tangential defenses.

The effort to safeguard a certain amount of ignorance is almost instant, and often hostile. “Oh yeah? Well you drive a car, don’t you?” Ummm, yeah. We are not talking about my driving habit, this is a conversation about what meat is.

“Ha! Bet you heat your home with fuel oil, huh?” The lack of logic is constant, and its power is poleaxing, if that’s the word I’m after.

Bryan Kest, on his Facebook page, recently asked people who argue for a change to plant-based diets to shut up. He coached us to live life as such a power of example that people are simply inspired to emulate us. Seriously. This happened. From a major leader in the yoga world.

Thanks Bryan, that will make change happen. I picture a glacier with a flat tire. Heading uphill. On a windy day.

Meat eaters, on the other hand, run from conversations about the stuff they are eating faster than a policeman cruising toward a donut.

In response to “Forking Up”, a recent article I wrote for elephant, I had a reader comment that since I travel internationally, I cannot claim to be a vegan.

Okay. I give up. You are right.

But that is, without question, the least interesting, most irrelevant comment you could possibly contrive in response to what I wrote. I was talking about the power you command as a fork wielder. How did we get onto my penchant for plane rides?

What a joy to have just read the top essay in the New York Times “Ethicist Contest.” It was a fail on wheels. The task was to write why it is ethical to eat meat. The winning essay singlehandedly redefines the term “oy.”

In it, the writer points to an idyllic method of eating meat that maybe seven people on the planet are doing, and that the vast majority of humans could never afford. The essay is lambasted (!) in the comments so many times over that I’ll spare you the details.

There was no defense, in the essay, for the gruesome, ice-cold practice of producing and eating meat as it happens today. Because you cannot defend that. Really. You can’t.

So meat eaters, if this New York Times contest-winning essay is the best you can do, maybe let’s keep the topic of the meat industry and animal cruelty flowing for awhile.

Seriously. Can we talk?

The habit of deflecting and redirecting the conversation is leaving your side of the argument empty of logic and lacking in depth. The practice of eating meat remains morally undefended.

“Soy cows have feelings too” is funny, but it lets you off the hook on something bigger than you are allowing yourself to see.

You are abdicating an invitation to a more quiet, innocent approach. People like themselves more when they are causing less suffering from their choices. Really. They did studies.

Photo: Identity Photography

Try the salad. One time. Have the beans, they are delicious. Eat one meal knowing no animal died to make the plate. It’s your fork.

Stop being the meat industry’s b*tch.

Because it’s not you.

You are better than that.



Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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About Karl Saliter

Karl is a circus artist sculptor writer miscreant gypsy, living in Mexico. He has written two novels, "Compassion's Bitch," and "Breakfast In A Cloud," and has published neither. He often feels as if he was born under a silver whale of a frisbee moon in the back of a red cartoon pickup truck. That careening down route 66 at speed, he leapt up into the cab, took the wheel, stuck his baby elbow out the rolled-down window, and that though the truck had awesome chrome mirrors, he never looked back. He hopes you frequently feel the same.


135 Responses to “It’s Not You, It’s Meat.”

  1. Thaddeus1 says:

    Bravo. Humorous and to the point…for once. Thanks. My friend wrote a response to the NYT article as well, which you might want to check out.

  2. Katherine says:

    It is very tough to be open to your argument when you use such aggressive language, Karl.

    You seem to have some really good points, but I found myself disinterested, not in your argument, but by the way in which you alternately praise and disparage meat-eaters/readers. That is a manipulative style of relating to someone, and a lot of negative energy to relate to while reading.

    It's very disappointing, because I would so love to see a civil, engaged dialogue on this subject.

  3. maru says:

    It always make me laugh -not really- when I hear the saying…"you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar"?
    What if some of us do not want the damn flies to begin with! I dont want them, the truth i sthe truth and some people just dont want to hear it.

    There are some issues like this one, like slavery, like racism, like rape, which are not a matter of personal choice, but are a matter of LIFE or DEATH for these beings, and are black and white. There has to be an intervention at some point and it may not look like you want it to look. I wait for the day when a massive disease starts killing hundreds of thousands of people, so people can see that what they are eating i snot only disgusting, it is a nuclear bomb!

    Why meat eaters have to be handled with tongs and get so defensive when confronted with the reality of what their choices are doing to others, while vegans are alwayas attacked for standing up for injustice?? Why murdering is ok (by hiding behind the lame excuse of 'here in the artic we´ve been hunting forever -when you know well those were not the people/situations Karl was talking about- ) and trying to stop it is wrong? wow…

  4. maru says:

    In response to the previous comment, where you are put in the spot for using 'agressive language'… it reminded me of a parta of the book 'Franny & Zoooey' that I am currently reading, where in an argument with his sister, Zoeey confronts Franny for being constitutionally unable to listen to or understand the message of a son of God just because he dared to be upset and went into the synagogue and threw tables and idols around…

    I suppose all of us that read tis articles are all adults, we will not break like delicate German crystal glasses because an 'agressive' word is thrown here and there. We are also adult enough to choose to eat a product which is nothing else than the result of brilliant marketing but it nothing else than a cake mix of the pain of innocent beings and corruption.

    There is PLENTY to be furious and frustrated about! What different does it f***ing make? It is the message is what counts.
    Yeah, let's just wait for the time when millions of meat eaters can do us the favor to engage only if invited to coffee and cookies to a civil dialogue. And in the meantime, let's just continue to let billions of animals die with no mercy. IT IS ENOUGH! Not everything has t be sugarcoated all the time!

    Karl, you are a master of words and truth and integrity. This is a wonderful piece.
    I love it to pieces. Papa is right by the way.

  5. Louise Brooks says:

    Katherine is completely correct in her take that Karl's approach in this essay is aggressive. It is also rude, snarky, arrogant and condescending. Haven't you ever heard the popular saying "you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar"? Talking to another human being with this tone will not win any converts nor will it get omnivores to think Karl may have some good points. It is simply a turn off to be talked to in such a manner. Approaching other people with an attitude that you alone possess "the truth" is the height of ego and arrogance. Karl reminds me of the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons that sometimes come to my front door. Armed with the so-called "love of Jesus" and the way to "eternal happiness" they think they KNOW what is right and just. Much like Karl. Heaven forbid there may be other perspectives in the world.

    Karl, you will not win any converts with your style. You may wish to reflect on why you think you have the final answer on what foods are morally permitted to eat. Unfortunately, life is not so black and white.

    BTW: there are much more than 7 people needing to eat meat on this planet. Come on up to the high Arctic here in Canada. The Inuit have been hunting for thousands of years. They hunt animals and eat meat, or they die. No tofu, veggies or fruit here.

    Mara: excusing Karl's arrogant attitude and hiding behind your belief that he is "right" is cheap and easy.

  6. maru says:

    I agree with Russ, some things just have to be said…

  7. GeoffOfOz says:

    I guess it comes down to whether you actually want to convince other people, or just put a message out there. Marketing is all about convincing people.

    I am sure want to convince people of your point of view, as you believe it is a moral issue, and that there is only one right answer – don’t eat meat. You aren’t interested in a conversation or an informed choice, merely a conversion.

    Food is culture, first and foremost. Most of the things we do with food are based on social and community needs not nutritional necessity. When you threaten their social and community needs, or are at least perceived to, people react angrily.

    Persuading and convincing people needs to more comprehensively allow for this.

  8. Ariel Nessel says:

    Thank your Karl. It is indeed remarkable for me to see how many serious spiritual aspirants still eat the flesh of their fellow earthlings. I think the challenge for the ethical vegan community is to try and recall what dust was covering our eyes when we use to eat animals, and what was it that allowed us to see more clearly the consequences of our actions and make a change. Allen Drury wrote that "People defend nothing more violently than the pretenses they live by." So how do we encourage others in a way that provokes a willingness to question their often un-investigated assumptions? That is what I would am trying to figure out. I do believe it has something to do with expressing my personal sadness and heart-felt concern surrounding the horrific lives and deaths of countless beings who are my equals in their ability to feel pain and suffer.

    As far as what Bryan Kest wrote, I would conjecture that many of his personal heroes would have very different opinions about about activism on topics closer to his heart such as anti-semitism, racism, environmentalism etc. In an ideal world, inspired actions would speak loud enough to also inspire change for the masses. Alas, this is not the world we live in, where billions of dollars and hundreds of years of cultural have trained humans to not consider the needs of their co-inhabitants of this planet. I like the way Albert Einstein put it back in 1930's Germany: "The world is too dangerous to live in — not because of the people who do evil, but because of the people who sit and let it happen." and as the famous Nazi "hunter" and Nobel Peace Prize winner Eli Weisel put it… "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.". Or, even one degree further, from Martin Luther King Jr, "Our lives begin and end the day we become silent about the things that matter."

    So thank you for your editorial and rather than "shut up" as Mr. Kest would like, keep speaking your truth, so that others can reflect to see the deeper truth, that as we do to others we also do to ourselves.

  9. @Suri_k8 says:

    You forgot to mention the science part where it says that animal protein is the only reason we could evolve such big, complex brains like the ones we have now… meat is the only reason why you can write this story.

  10. La mexicana says:

    Maru y Karl me encantaría que le echaran todo este rollito a los lancheritos de playa , a ver que cara ponen, y de paso sugieranles que se compren su lechita de soya de 40 pesos el litro… ideología vegana solo cabe en EU y el primer mundo y con los ricos…..cero contacto con la realidad.

  11. karlsaliter says:

    Thanks for commenting La Mexicana. I am not sure I follow you, but I do know it is cheaper to eat veggies than meat. Especially after you factor in the cost per heart attack.

  12. jean says:

    Death is as much a part of the nature of this world as life. You live in a world where animals eat other animals, part of nature. It is in human nature as well to eat animals. Yes it is vital that we make healthy eating for ourselves and for the planet a priority, but you will not change a human pattern that is ancient overnight or probably not at all. You most certainly will not change many people with shaming language and anger filled diatribes. Fundamentalism of any kind is not good for the world. It is rooted in anger, flowers into hatred and can bear fruits of violence. Be mindful of how you engage in the world that you claim to be trying to make a better place.

  13. maru says:

    Le comento a la Mexicana que a excepcion de los ninos, los humanos dejamos de necesitar soya a MUY temprana edad, asi que se pueden ahorrar la lechita de soya a 40 pesos el litro (informacion falsa por cierto) e intentar alimentar a sus hijos con mas leguminosas, cereales, frutas y verduras, digo, si de verdad les importan sus hijos. O prefieren darles carne saturada de antibioticos, hormonas, excremento, y muchos mas interesantes ingredientes. Lo de siempre, poca informacion.

  14. karlsaliter says:

    Deep thanks to Suri and Jean! It was a genuine pleasure to read your comments,
    especially where you have unintentionally reinforced much of what I posit in the article.

    I believe the search for ethical reasons to eat meat will continue.
    As billions of animals are born into 24/7 suffering and killed without mercy, the question
    "Is this right?"
    can continue to be avoided by sheer unapologetic bluster.

    At least we can take comfort in our old friend Irony.

  15. paul says:

    I don't recall where I read this, but, "the only sustainable living is stone-age living." If you are living in of and from "the land" then the ethical stance is going to take different parameters and framing than those of us reading and typing on computers and living in thoughts. If you want to go and eat meat, go and raise it and eat it, hunt it with tools "of the land" and of course do the courtesy of thanking your food. If you want to eat vegetables go raise it and eat it. Here is the first link I saw: If you can follow through, it will pay for itself. But regardless, do everyone a favor and be thankful for your food.
    If meat-eaters are going to try and make any case amongst vegetarians, they can skip the "born this way" arguments (also made by vegetarians) and start with the obvious facts of the horrors of factory farming. So too can vegetarians make headway by asking for consuming only animals known to have been raised in "natural" and open environments- it is more expensive and it tastes better, and is more a treasure- are you eating trash or treasure? But regardless give thanks for your food.
    As for rhetorical approach of this article, I liked that it addressed some of the over-reaches and false parallels made for meat eating, and tried to talk to people like they are humans, but still I found the negativity distasteful. I think people can be sassy and flashy without calling people variations of stupid head.

  16. Andréa Balt says:

    Wow! I am amazed by reading all the comments on this article… There are hardly a couple addressing the real issue and providing counter-arguments, and half of those only prove what you're saying in the post, Karl… Rhetoric? Really? Did you read the article? It's like going to a museum & arguing about the picture frames…

    It reminds me of this one time in college. I studied in Argentina (a country famous for its yummy cows & dairy) & as a final project for one of my communication classes, my friend & I made a short documentary on the problem of eating meat in our current reality…in which we tried to present the problem of the current meat industry and its negative, massive effects on the environment, health, economics, politics, etc. (a general view)…Anyway, the dept. chair was also invited to the showing and after watching our short, he raised his hand.

    We were excited as to what his arguments could be – he was considered an ahimsa-type-intelligent-man-in-a-high-position-deep-bow-to-you-kind-of-dude & an avid cow-&-other-living-beings-eater (like most people in that town). We were ready to discuss… Anyway, he says: "It's an embarrassing, journalistic low-blow on your part to show this video & make us sit here & watch it…" I was speechless! (It was actually one of the best shorts & we got an A for it.) "Excuse me?" I dared to ask… "Yea, I didn't need to watch that cow getting killed." Again, speechless… He continued: "You can't make a solid argument through the use of emotional & shocking images…" So, I was outraged & I tried to contain myself & said: "So, you have nothing to say about the killing itself but you just disagree with the reporting of it? You get mad at the reporter? That's funny, you get bad news & punish the messenger for the way he / she delivers them? Dude, let me say it again…the world as we know it is ending, are you aware?" And then chaos followed…OK, maybe I didn't call him "dude" so I wouldn't get expelled but I did fight for my (& that cow's) rights. :)

    Note: The clip was one of the softest footage of a cow getting killed – it doesn't even match the real atrocities happening, basically the least shocking, basic everyday killing we could find…I'd love to tie that man to a chair someday, glue his eyelids to his forehead so he can't blink & have him sit through the entire Earthlings…here, take this for a low blow, this is what's really happening beyond your plate. But I won't 'cause that's not ahimsa or good rethoric. You don't only have to be good in this life, you also have to look good – and sadly, the second seems to be more important for most.

  17. Andréa Balt says:

    Jean, I was being sarcastic, there is a place in life for laughing even at the tough things — just as I believe Karl has done at different points throughout this article. What I'm still hoping to see is some kind of intelligent argument pro-factory farming & the current meat industry situation…& some kind of possible solution to this problem…& out of 75 comments, only 3 or 4 seem to address the issue.

    The point is, we stay near the shore, very few omnivores are willing to dive deep & take responsibility for their actions. And those who are (just like the responsible vegans), instead of being met at the bottom (at the root of the problem) by their critics, they're being criticized for how good or bad they can swim…

    I agree that the medium in which we deliver our message is important, but in this case, the message is so grotesque, scary, profound & imminent that it's funny we can have 75 comments on the medium and totally miss the real problem. Dark humor & silliness aside, this is what I'm trying to illustrate in my comment.

    Now, can anyone really add a solid argument that goes beyond rethorics? A possible solution, middle ground? None of us is perfect & neither is our communication, but are we able to go beyond that & address the real problem? You seem to say that you can't, unless the frame / the way in which the message is delivered adjusts to your idea of "peaceful activism"?

    I can understand that, but I simply think that by taking that approach we're missing the point & the mass insanity is still happening & destroying our planet & lives. I'm not perfect, but aside from my sarcasm, I'm willing to face my choices & face my food & do the best I can manage, while I keep my mind & discussion open to find better ways…it's a journey. This is what Karl is asking for.

    I don't personally think that eating meat is fundamentally wrong…actually, I have no idea, I just think it's creepy in its essence – but that's me – I know humans have been eating animals for as long as we know, but then again, that's not the point.

    My argument (& I believe Karl's as well) is not about the philosophy of eating meat or even about the rarities or occasional meat eaters, it's about the madness of the current meat industry: literally destroying the environment, promoting inequality, air contamination, impoverishing third world countries that cannot afford anymore loss, global malnutrition (obesity on one end + starvation on the other), finishing up our water natural resources, torturing billions of sentient beings every year (numbers are doubling) heart disease, diabetes, cancer… all this crazy stuff caused largely by the meat industry & consumption, that we support on our daily trip to the supermarket. Stuff we vote on with our money every day (and money means time & effort & that, ultimately means bits & pieces of our lives – we truly are what we eat, in more than one way).

    These are the issues.This is the picture, not the vegan's misplaced comma, sarcastic remark or "poor choice for a frame". That's important too, but I don't think it's comparable to what they're denouncing.

  18. karlsaliter says:

    Rather than questioning your intelligence, Jean, I am questioning the intelligence of your arguments. There is a difference which makes a difference. Coming from where this piece is written, The "Now get your head out of your butt before it gets lodged in there permanently" does not violate Ahimsa.

    Not all discourse needs to be gentle, and sometimes kicking someone in the ass is a form of service.

    You presuppose I am unaware of my choice to take an abrasive tone. You also condescend to me repeatedly in your comments, at the same time presuming to instruct me in content delivery. And then call my work disingenuous. It is delicious.

    Your desire to paint my words in your colors is quite beside the point, which is:
    "It's Not You, It's Meat."

    All of what you say about how I write can be filed under "You".

    And you are so deeply asleep, so mired in your point of view, that you have missed this communication from me and others in this thread numerous times, assuming that if you do not hear from us what you want, you have not been understood.

    The amusing part about your communication is that it depicts with stunning accuracy the exact conversational quagmire the article decries. It's all in the title. really.

  19. Jean says:

    Ok now I am also a liar, but I do have one more thing to say. I am sitting here having a good ol cry about various stuff and I felt a strong need to tell you this. Our anger is limiting us, I include myself here. My anger has impeded my ability to communicate with you. Yours has kept you from seeing that I have been trying to reach out to you. For that I am deeply sorry. I do understand your frustration and I do honor your path. Just feeling like in all things we need more love, not less of it. I pray for change and healing for myself and all beings every day. Be kind to all you meet because each is fighting a hard battle. I honor the light in you.

  20. MelS says:

    If your goal was to bond with the like-minded through airing your dissatisfaction, then this article is a success. If your goal was to get meat eaters to really think, it's a total fail. I'm not sure which was your goal – it's in elephant so I can gather that goal #1 is more likely. Also, you write to the meat eater but from a point of moral superiority which also suggests the article is mostly about you.

  21. maru says:

    This article is amazing and straight to the point, which most people have a problem with, well, too bad… and I love it.
    And yes, it is not you, it is meat!

  22. Steph says:

    This article is so very ego based…How long have you been a vegan? You sound like you are very new to the game and on a tower of drama seeking soap boxes. A veg. for 26 years I can say that it is people like you who create the very stereotype (of non-meaters) as small minded crazies. And Maru, putting meat eating on par with slavery, racism , and (ahem!) RAPE? Really?? I am shaking my head in extreme disappointment and quite frankly, disgust. Take a breath my friends. There is wisdom and fortitude in the bigger picture and in respect for your fellow human beings.

  23. maru says:

    Steph, I stand by what I said. And I am not 'new in the game' either, as you insinuated about Karl.
    I see the dynamics of factory farming (not the fact of eating meat) exactly as a system of corruption, slavery, rape and murder.

  24. karlsaliter says:

    Thanks for commenting, Steph. I first went vegetarian at age 17, roughly 29 years ago, so yes, I am still new to the game. I can do the even-tempered thing too, but I sometimes get very frustrated with (not the meat eaters, this is where people are mistaken) the very poor logic put forth by meat eaters on why they eat meat today.

    If you have found a way to be even-tempered in the face of what's going on, good for you. But give me room enough to express myself. Given the ugliness of our topic, my tone is tame enough.

  25. Ned says:

    So Karl, no hot dog at the Yankee game?

  26. karlsaliter says:

    Wait Wait, I never said THAT! Looking forward to it, Ned. :)
    God, no beer either. I'm just a boring date. Do they serve hummus?

  27. Itspi good says:

    Eating meat is natural and I am all for it if it suits your constitution. At my age and seeing all I have seen I feel it is ignorant to tell others that you know more what's better for them then they know themselves. The article also sounds soooo angry, I hope that Carl's veganism wasn't supposed to reduce his anger because in that case it failed he should try meditation. Don't forget hitler was a vegan and animal rights activist. Since Maru is his wife her comments are pretty biased. It's ignorant to say carnivores arguments for nourishment are illogical and vegans are logical, that's the basis for fundamentalism and the beginning of war. Watch out Carl you never know who you might inspire with your anger and fundamentalism. Pretty soon you may have the wrong kind of followers, ones that blow things up! ( or maybe down deep you would find that satisfying )

  28. […] ever saved a cow. Literally. It was in the comments on my fire-and-brimstone vegan article, “It’s Not You, It’s Meat.” Have I rescued a single pig, or am I merely hanging my dusty derby on the smoke and mirrors of […]

  29. Carolyn says:

    Fabulous post/essay! I find it VERY hard to keep anger out of my thoughts about meat-eaters. And why is it that vegans have to be nice? There's nothing nice about factory farms. Nothing. It would be great if meat-eaters would just listen sometimes instead of defending themselves.

    Btw, I saw this essay because someone sent it to the wondrous Marla Rose. If you haven't already made the acquaintance of the Vegan Feminist Agitator, do yourself a favor. She is AWESOME !!

  30. iamthatkindofwoman says:

    The word you are looking for but didn't use in your article is "straw man" meat eaters often invalidate their own arguments by using those, ditto ad homien.
    The only genuine and logical reason for anybody eating meat would be if they said "OK, I admit it: I just don't care about anything other than my own selfishness."

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