After reading Possum Living
, people sometimes ask me, "How could you be so mean as to raise a bunny then kill it and eat it?" I tell them that our rabbits had the best little bunny lives they possibly could — lots of space, no predators, good and varied food, other bunnies for company, plenty of clean water, and a quick death. That's as good as it gets for most animals.
We could ask if it would have been better for the bunnies to have never been born than to be born and die. We can't answer that because we aren't bunnies. But we can consider it for people — it's a question that's been debated at least since the ancient Greeks. Most people are in favor of existence. You are reading this now, so you must exist. (I read, therefore I am?)
In any case, we can agree that it is wrong to neglect or torture animals. But that's how agribusiness treats most commercial animals. Cows are fattened in lots so filthy and fed such crummy food that they have to be given antibiotics continuously. Pregnant pigs, calves for veal, and chickens are kept in excruciatingly small pens. Many will die a slow death. This is wrong. I don't buy this type of meat.
When I was possum living, there was a family-run dairy farm a mile down the road. The cows grazed in clean fields. They reminded me of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem about the family cow: "And blown by all the winds that pass, and wet with all the showers, she walks among the meadow grass and eats the meadow flowers." That's the way cows should be raised. If they also had a clean death, I can eat this type of meat with a clear conscience.
Another issue of conscience for meat eaters is where to draw the line on intelligent animals. Obviously, humans are taboo. It's harder to decide about other animals. Most Americans won't eat a dog because dogs are intelligent and affectionate. Yet, if we applied the same logic to other animals, few Americans would eat pork since domestic pigs are just as intelligent and affectionate. On the other hand, rabbits and chickens, although cute, aren't very smart.
It's perfectly possible to possum live and not eat meat. You'd just have to eat more beans. Soybeans are cheap at a food and grain store and any kind of bean is easy to grow. But even vegetarians and vegans face ethical decisions. Is it OK to kill insects that eat domestic plants? If an animal dies on its own, such as when a dove flies into a window, wouldn't it be OK to eat?
Just because it's complicated doesn't mean you shouldn't think about it. You may not succeed completely, but you can at least try to eat with a conscience.