Friday, October 1, 2010

A Carnivore Turned Vegan in 90 Minutes

By Prihatha Narasimmaraj '14

People have always been telling me to go veg. My health teacher tried in ninth grade, my mother tells me it clouds my spirituality, animal rights activists shout at me on the street (usually when I’m in the Berkeley, California vicinity). But as much as I agree with them, I love meat. I’ve convinced myself that I will never be able to stop gnawing on the three-pound salami I stash in my fridge (kidding, but seriously, salami is delicious). So as I walked to Whig Hall for the “Is Eating Meat Unethical?” debate featuring Professor Peter Singer, I wondered if my positions on the issue would actually change. As a matter of fact, they did. Several times.

8:05 PM. I see that the Senate chamber is divided so that vegetarians/vegans are sitting on the left side, and carnivores on the right. I am sitting with the undecided people in the middle, albeit on the right side.
Affiliation: Undercover Carnivore

8:10 PM. Introductions are made and the debate begins. Side arguing that eating meat is unethical (from here on out, named “Peter Singer side”) clicks through PowerPoint with pictures of adorable cats placed strategically next to pictures of not-so-cute chickens. I am not convinced.
Affiliation: Unimpressed Carnivore

8:11 PM. Man sitting in front of me accidentally spills a red-colored drink. I marvel at the symbolism as I watch his beverage seep across the floor.
Affiliation: Carnivore Reconsidering My Seating Arrangement
8:23 PM. Opposition takes the stage with a more practical (but unconvincing) viewpoint about the economic problems of shutting down meat production. Among other things, he argues that animals benefit from cultivation (dubious and confusing) and that indigent Tibetans have no choice but to eat yaks. Are you calling Tibetans unethical?
Affiliation: Carnivore Doubting My Faith in Fellow Meat-Eater

8:34 PM. Professor Singer stands and everyone perks up. Unfortunately, his argument is mainly a practical rebuttal of the practical opposition’s practical argument, which leaves me kind of disappointed. Where’s the moral philosopher I know and love? However, he addresses the irrelevancy of aforementioned yak-eaters and spices up his statement with a nice little anecdote about how it’s morally cool to eat roadkill.
Affiliation: Seriously Considering Switching to Club Veg

8:40 PM. Opposition returns with shameless praise of Professor Singer, but then mentions that Professor Singer defends bestiality (albeit in “certain cases”).Which leaves me and everyone else in the audience wondering how that works.
Affliation: Totally Distracted From Matter At Hand

8:50 PM. Series of audience members ask “thought-provoking questions.” No real progress made.
Affiliation: Vegging Out and Wondering When I Can Go Downstairs for Free Food

9:09 PM. Concluding arguments begin. Unfortunately, opposition chooses this moment to bring their A-game and I forget why I was considering swearing off meat. Something about metaphysics.
Affiliation: Confused, But I’ll Commit to Carnivores Just to Keep Things Spicy

9:29 PM. Argument ends with no real satisfying conclusion. Furthermore, results are completely skewed when people who promote vegetarianism are told to head downstairs first to eat. Naturally, the whole room stands up, swearing allegiance to high heaven.
Affiliation: Formal Vegetarian

9:35 PM. Munching contentedly on hummus, pita triangles, and diet Snapple (no meat allowed!) Perhaps the vegetarians did win after all.


Anonymous said...

Nice sequence and the apparent lack of conviction from the speakers? Finally its starvation which gave an apparent indication that the message was heard, but no real converts yet ??

Anonymous said...

misleading title. don't understand how you were 'swayed' by prof singer if you didn't even find him all that impressive.

Anonymous said...

I was there and I agree that the voting system was seriously flawed. Letting the people who vote for one side go to the reception first is the definition of preference to one side.