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. karlsaliter says:

    Louise, the ethics of eating meat in this context does not apply to people who have no other option. And I credit you enough to believe you know that, and are being deliberately obtuse in bringing it up as an example.

  2. karlsaliter says:

    Depends how you do it, Suri. It can be really delicious with some study.
    Hats off to you for having tried it. It sucks worse for the animals.

  3. karlsaliter says:

    Louise, nobody is locking you in a cage and forcing you to read this.

  4. karlsaliter says:

    Suri that is a topic for a different article, and a good one. But its also yet another deflection. Discredit the author to obfuscate the topic.

  5. karlsaliter says:

    Paul you are right, there is no need for the writing to be hurtful.
    I believe I have been calling people's lame, vacuous arguments stupid, not people.
    And I think the difference is a huge one. But that's just me.

    I also agree with your idea of giving thanks, and growing food. Both are awesome.

  6. @Suri_k8 says:

    You are right but the Navarrete paper in Nature doesnt exclude meat from the equation ……
    Here is the link to the article. Navarrete et al posted in Nature 2011 , Energetics and the evolution of human brain size,

    And a peek:
    Starting with Early Pleistocene Homo, this increase could have come from any of the three sources listed in Fig. 3. First, they improved diet quality as indicated by increased consumption of meat and bone marrow1 and by tool-assisted food processing, at one point including cooking4. Second, despite having moved into highly seasonal habitats9 they reduced temporal fluctuations in energy budgets by cognitive buffer- ing25, which is also known for other primates15 and birds14. Third, provisioning and food sharing probably arose with the adoption of cooperative breeding and substantial meat acquisition among the earlier representatives of the genus Homo4,26. Comparative research suggests that such energy subsidies for reproducing females and dependent offspring can support increased brain size19,21.
    The second pathway to brain enlargement is increased energy allocation to the brain by savings on other expensive functions, although the expensive-tissue hypothesis for organs is no longer sup- ported. One likely trade-off could be found between brain size and the costs of locomotion……..


  7. @Suri_k8 says:

    In fact if you check out figure 3 , it proposes complementary pathways that include improved diet quality , For an adaptive increase in relative brain size :

    Increase in net energy input—–>
    Improved diet quality -Energy subsidies (cooperative breeding)-Stabilized energysupply(avoidance of starvation)
    Change in energy allocation—–>(-)Locomotion costs , (-)production
    = Larger brain (relative to bodysize)

    This is the part that refutes the ETH but it has to do with gut size:
    These results therefore refute the expensive-tissue hypothesis as a general principle to explain the interspecific variation of relative brain size in mammals. In our view, this finding reduces the plausibility of the argument that human encephalization was made possible by a reduc- tion of the digestive tract1,5.

  8. @Suri_k8 says:

    The one in the journal of Evolutionary Biology , is about fish and metabolism and has nothing to do with meat, cant comment on it because i could only find the abstract:

  9. @Suri_k8 says:

    I wonder if you only read the abstract because well, if you had read the entire story you would have noticed that meat is definitely mentioned.

  10. @Suri_k8 says:

    Or dissmiss an uncomfortable comment by saying it is off topic …..very clever… Well , not so much …
    Karl , there are millions of animals dying right now and you are here "raising awareness" , expecting other people to put their buttsies in the line….. If all vegans are as worried as you, dont expect things to change… the meantime how many cows did you save since you posted this??

  11. @Suri_k8 says:

    I didnt try it i lived with it for eight years ….so im not just talking.

  12. @Suri_k8 says:

    Oh and in the abstract it says that "support for the hypothesis is mixed".

  13. 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.

  14. Cmac says:

    I must agree with Maru ..are animals not held in slavery…if not racism..speciesism for some animals are considered less important beings than others, some species are protected from being eaten or abused such as cats and dogs ..and are animals not raped (artificially inseminated ). Being Veg for 26 years doesn't make you a "Superior Veg"…who cares about meat-eaters stereotypes of us..the only issue here is to save beings from suffering. In the 21st century there is no need to eat meat and to do so is a selfish choice that causes needless pain. We should all have respect for our fellow beings Human or otherwise.

  15. paul says:

    It is a thin line, and many people don't see how calling an argument names is any different from calling the progenitor of the argument names. And I don' think you've been sticking to arguments, with "You are being deliberately obtuse, consistently, and it obfuscates the conversation. This omnivore’s judo is more than a gut reaction" and "Now get your head out of your butt before it gets lodged in there permanently." to pick a few. (vs. "keeping to X argument and X statement is being obtuse" or "here are some facts that need to be on the table before any discussion is to be had") Maybe there is some irony I miss in these statements, but if you are going to address the arguments, don't involve the people who make them. Emotion and identity is an integral part of food, and even the most delicate phrasing is going to be met with anger and defensiveness.
    That said, I do say "because it is disgusting" when asked why, and name health and environmental hazards, and ethical objections. And if they ask "so am I disgusting" I say "I don't know, that's up to you" (because it is). But I'm not much of a proselytizer because I've been eating dairy and rarely from places I trust; in other words I'm a hypocrite (not to mention my sad tomato plants). (Which is another game played in these debates- who's the bigger hypocrite, a game that lays no groundwork for trust and honesty, which are vital to get to any understanding.) I wonder though about PETA who I think has helped to make a lot of progress, mainly because I see more acceptance than contempt for vegetarians, maybe not so much their a particular aggressive tactic, but their aggressive presence has forced a cultural acceptance. Ok phew, I didn't expect to go on so, if I have one critique of this article it's that I found it confusing in tone, being simultaneously accepting/engaging and insulting. But thank you for it, while it may not have saved any cows (!), at the very least I'm an instance of a person reevaluating their dairy consumption, disproving the contention that writing has no value.

  16. mijnheer says:

    Here are a couple of extracts from the JEB article:

    "There are three obvious explanations for the mixed support the expensive-tissue hypothesis has received in comparative studies: First, it is possible that the expected constraints do exist, but that differences in the selective forces acting on different species obscure the correlations that those constraints would be expected to generate. Second, it is possible that the constraints do not exist, but that selective forces may sometimes introduce negative correlations between tissues that are then inaccurately interpreted as evidence of trade-offs due to constraints. Third, it is possible that the expected constraints exist, but the trade-offs they produce are simply too weak to be detected in many comparative studies. By conducting this study within a single species, we control for the first two possibilities. We therefore believe that the lack of support seen here for the predicted constraints is a strong indication that the expected constraints simply are not relevant for some species even at this high level of variation in investment, and that changes in investment in metabolically expensive tissues are primarily compensated for in ways that do not produce changes in tissue mass. …
    "We suggest that support for the expensive-tissue hypothesis from comparative studies be viewed with considerable scepticism if the effects of the hypothesized constraints have not been demonstrated within any of the studied species."

    I am not an evolutionary biologist, so I am not in a good position to assess the merits of these studies. The subject is fascinating, but from the standpoint of ethics, how humans got their big brains in the first place is simply irrelevant.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. Ned says:

    So Karl, no hot dog at the Yankee game?

  20. 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?

  21. karlsaliter says:

    Well, you seem pretty stuck on this, so:
    I work with and donate to local animal rescue groups in Mexico and the states.
    I am organizing a festival to spread dietary/cruelty awareness this coming fall.
    I give to Mercy for Animals and PETA.
    I opened a non-commercial yoga center that disseminates pro-vegetarian information to students daily.

    Now having answered your question, really, the question is beside the point. Trading question for question, do you have any ethical reason why it is ok to eat meat, given how it is produced? I think it is really sad that you stopped veganism because of the old "what difference can one person make". You obviously care.

  22. Louise Brooks says:

    Karl, you keep dodging the point. It is your approach that I and others have a problem with. The topic of meat eating is irrelevant. You seem either unable or unwilling to really learn from what your critics are trying to tell you. Why?

  23. Louise Brooks says:

    Again Karl. You are dodging the point about your approach. And again, why? This is all quite revealing about your personality. You are right everyone on the opposing side is wrong.

  24. Louise Brooks says:

    That is beside the point. You alone cannot dictate the rules of human dialogue. Each side will say things the other side finds silly, insulting, offensive, etc, etc. So what? You must be a real treat to live with.

  25. Louise Brooks says:

    Ah no, Karl. I am not being obtuse. Your essay is an absolutist claim that humans eating meat is immoral. You did not issue a disclaimer with your argument that people with no other option could eat meat. I brought this issue up because it shows the flaw in your absolutist argument.

  26. Louise Brooks says:

    Wow, you and Karl really do deserve each other. Quite a friendly pair aren't you? Just heap scorn and contempt on your fellow human beings each and every day. No ahimsa for humans, only for animals.

  27. @Suri_k8 says:

    Hi karl , i like this new tone of yours , more honest , better than the one you used in your original post …. So i will drop my agenda and be honest too ….. I stopped veganism for health reasons and i know you ve heard this before but it is true , it happens , some people just dont do good with a vegan diet ….and this is why im so convinced veganism is not for everyone , because i think there are lots of people like me that have had the same problem , you try and try but your body just wont adjust , ill spare you the datails , ill just say that it took me 4 years to gain all the pounds i lost after 8 years of veganism .

    I dont have an answer to your question , i wish veganism worked for me but it doesnt and i do care . Being honest , i dont think meat eating will ever go away and that is why i think that all of those who are interested in animal welfare should invest their energies also in changing how the meat industry works today.

    And im sorry for being so pessimistic but i am convinced that not even the 3-9 million vegans that live in the us (which is the most veganized country) can actually make a big difference , a difference that matters…. Unless they organize and start working towards conquering less ambitious goals ( veganizing everyone being the most ambitious goal)

    One last thing , i dont think that putting all the blame on the consumer is beneficial , producers and the industry in itself are just as guilty , why would they be spared of guilt.?

  28. 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 )

  29. […] 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 […]

  30. maru says:


  31. 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 !!

  32. karlsaliter says:

    Morality implies choice, and given that you understand this, of course you are being deliberately obtuse.

  33. 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."

  34. iamthatkindofwoman says:

    Logical fallacies and nothing more being used as a cudgel for flesh eaters pitiful excuses for apathy and laziness.

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