Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Okay, I'm Going to Say it

I rarely, if ever make a "deal" out of being a vegetarian. Mainly because people who do are preachy and annoying. No one likes being told that they are eating "wrong," or that the reason that someone else has made a life choice that is different from yours is based on a set of moral principles that are different that yours, that at the end of the day, you can get behind (a little), but can't reconcile with your dinner. Because, despite all the science, no one can deny that it feels icky to slice up a cow, with big ol' cow eyes. Right? It's easy to eat steak; it's difficult to eat cow.

I never argue with ANY of the facts, figures and data behind a meat-eating lifestyle. Top of the food pyramid, blah, blah blah. Got it. Protein, etc. Check. I've been doing this for over three years now and I'm good to go. Protein in check, balanced meals; I'm good. I don't subsist on mac and cheese (as some would believe) and I am happy and healthy. And, I'm not wasting away (as other meat eaters would assume vegetarians do).

The sole reason for my choice is because I cannot, ever eat another animal. We have recently made a conscious choice to buy free-range eggs as well. Because I'm not a vegan, I eat eggs. I can't stand the thought of not knowing what type of farm my eggs come from, and I've seen research on farms where chickens are kept in anything from drawers to coops where they can't even turn from side to side. Nope, can't bring myself to eat an egg that was laid under those conditions. Over the years now, we've made lots of conscious decisions like this. For example, we don't buy Tyson products; we buy Purdue because their factory/slaughterhouse practices have a better track record for cruelty. Not to mention, their products are "better."

You may ask, how can I eat cheese and buy leather. I struggle with it. Cheese is one of my sources of protein, and I know what cows go through to be milked (hormones to keep them producing milk, and sometimes ridiculous conditions). I try to limit cheese, truly, because of this, and work protein in from other major sources. Leather. I have no good excuse. Literally, none. I can claim that real leather lasts longer than Vegan Leather (yes, that's a thing); I can claim that I won't buy anymore (I would by lying); I can pretend that my one Cardinal sin here won't matter (it does). But, in the end, we aren't all perfect and have to accept ourselves for who we are. I am a boot-loving vegetarian. End of story. Maybe one day, I'll change. Maybe I won't. If my lifetime consumption levels saves a pig or two, I'm happy.

Peta (I know, groan now) despite it's reputation, has taken a much more moderate stance these days, and is much more, of a do-what-you can, organization. They are certainly "NO CRUELTY" ever, but they don't believe you are horrible if you have some boots. Their suggestion is to give them away, obviously, but they don't advocate throwing them at someone, or destroying them, for the sake of making a statement. They sort of think that, they have been made, the damage has been done, wasting them is wasting the life of the animal.

Recently, I was assigned to teach an argument class. We have tons of interesting discussions in there, and I'm teaching my students proper argument techniques. In other words, they can't shoot from the hip and fly off the handle. We are learning the logical fallacies, and how to construct a coherent, logical argument. For the most part, I allow the students to lead these discussions (come up with topics that are relevant to them, and I moderate, and interject when I see fallacies that they should be noting, etc). You should've heard the debate we had about whether welfare recipients should have to drug test. It was amazing. Just coming up with the terms of our debate (whether we should agree on random or scheduled drug testing was a lively discussion).

Vegetarianism came up last week, and the conversation has been sticking with me. A few of the points that stuck with them for many minutes are ones that I get asked all the time, whenever we have dinner with someone new, and I'm sort of forced into my "not a soap box," but stock speech arena.

1. What about bacon? Aren't you tempted by bacon? (Seriously, people are OBSESSED with bacon these days).
2. Why do you worry about animals, when there are so many people to worry about? Abused children? Homeless? (fill in the blank with your oppressed population)

So, based on argumentative writing, both of these points are a problem. Let's start with point 1:

Yes, bacon smells good. I'll never eat it again. Here's an example of why.

To me, bacon is not "bacon," it's a pig. It's a mother sow separated from her piglets. It's fatty and delicious to you because she was raised in a pen where she couldn't turn around, for her entire life. It gets fatty because she wasn't allowed to move. Yummo. Nope, it's not bacon to me, to me it's a sad life and it's horrible. I can't put that in my mouth without feeling devastated. When you taste salty goodness, I taste salty tears. (that was an argumentative appeal to pathos, by the way).

Pigs are highly intelligent creatures, and the term "hog wild" comes from keeping them penned in conditions like this. From lack of stimulation and movement, they will literally go "wild." I can't make it through a video like this without sobbing. When bacon smells good, I can literally, in my head, hear the squeals of piglets, taken from their mother; or, I can imagine that woman, sitting on the broken leg of the sow.

There are countless videos like this of modern day, current (in THIS country) slaughterhouses, from reputable research teams, including Peta. No one trusts Peta because they propagandize. So, the Humane Society was my choice here. By the way, slaughterhouses in other countries (oy), I think I'd have become a vegetarian a LOT sooner.

The direct answer to the question of does bacon smell good, though? Yes. Am I tempted by it? No. Is that an argumentative point? No. That's like asking Obama, regarding the budget crisis: Don't you want poor people to have money? Don't you care about them? Well obviously, but that's not the extent of the situation, now is it? I'm sure he wants senior citizens to keep social security too. And, I bet he wants the military to keep benefits. Oh, and I'm pretty sure he wants to work on education and a million other programs.

Now, let's approach point 2:
This is what we call a Red Herring (that's a real thing in argumentative writing). It's a common argumentative strategy that is applied, usually, in the news media or by politicians, when they don't want you to focus on the issue at hand. Usually, the two issues are tangentially related, but they aren't directly so. It's a common tactic, and I call it the "squirrel" tactic. An unskilled debater, or argumentative writer will see the "squirrel" and become distracted, begin arguing that, and forget his/her main point.

For example, the suggestion is that because I don't eat meat, I don't care about children/poor/etc. I could easily become heatedly defensive about the second part of that statement and begin defending myself, insisting on all the ways that I do care about these people. Or, I could dismiss that second half of the statement, and focus on my point. Which I usually do: "I don't eat poor children [or whatever else was suggested] either...moving on to why I don't eat meat."

Another example of a Red Herring is a headline like this:

Rapist innocent of bank robbery.

Um, okay? What does his being a rapist have to do with robbing a bank? It's a piece of information inserted into the headline, in order to sway your opinion of the suspect before you even read the article. A rapist may rob a bank, he may not. These two personality traits are unrelated; one does not beget the other, but because the two ideas were connected, your brain forged a connection between two types of "bad" people and made an assumed (hopefully for the paper/news outlet) presumption of guilt. The implications of things like this are far-reaching.

This is the "what does that have to with the price of tea in China?" approach. It works, a lot, on people early in their writing. This is what I have been using to teach fallacies.

Purdue Owl: Logical Fallacies

It's amazing to see just how many of them you'll find in, say, Facebook memes.

(By the way, the Purdue Owl, is widely known from University to University as a consistent source for reliable, writing information. I've used it since my undergrad, and now I use it as a teacher. This is a reliable source. I love making my students aware of it, so I use it all the time, instead of a book that has the same information, because I know they aren't reading it)

I know this is a total tangent: not related to school, our lives, or to Collin or the family; but, it's been on my mind because I really enjoy teaching, and I'm enjoying this argument class a lot more than I thought I would.

So, that's what has been on my mind this morning....oh and UVA released an English PhD result this morning. One. It was a rejection (with a pity offering to an unfunded MA). It's rolling, sloooowly.

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