Daniel Lazare's review of Tristram Stuart's book on the history of vegetarianism is insultingly dismissive of a very real area of philosophical, ethical, environmental and political scholarship. I'm left to wonder why The Nation chose someone so obviously unfamiliar with this scholarship while someone else could have given a more informed, more enlightened review.
Lazare's trite, tired and overwrought complaints against vegetarianism--too numerous to even list--are easily answered by someone who has actually familiarized themselves with this field of thought. To take just one example, Lazare argues it may actually be more humane to keep domesticated animals meant for slaughter under our care because freeing such animals back into their natural habitat may subject them to greater pain rather than less.
First, vegetarian scholarship long ago problematized arguments based solely on the reduction of suffering, as suffering is impossible to calculate. Additonally, it's now commonly understood and accepted that a life anesthetized of all discomfort isn't necessarily a better life because of missed opportunities to grow, learn, and thrive.
Second, Lazare predictably falls into the same mental trap humanity has been struggling with for thousands of years: the arrogant assumption that we have the right to intervene and reign over the rest of the natural world. A long-standing pillar of vegetarian scholarship has been the call for humility and non-intervention. I ask The Nation that in the future it give the issue of vegetarianism the same level of serious and informed debate and discussion it grants to other political issues.
Margaret Betz PhD
Feb 21 2007 - 3:16pm