Atheists and Meat

Atheists and Meat

Kevin Smith is on the board of directors for the Centre for Inquiry, Canada's premier venue for humanists, skeptics and freethinkers and Atheists and Meat is in answer to “Is it a virtue not to eat meat?”

My first real sense of compassion and empathy toward nonhuman beings came in the form of a spider.

I had read E.B. White's novel Charlotte's Web, the story of a pig that is saved from a trip to the slaughterhouse by a scholarly spider, whose name graces the book's title. Although I realized that creatures with more than two legs cannot write, they do share with humans - in some capacity - the ability to feel.

Since then, I have never killed another spider.

I did, however, continue to eat pork, but would often wonder if Charlotte's friend Wilbur, or one of his tasty porcine relatives, was lying on my plate, under all that gravy and applesauce.

That was at a time when an animal's role was to provide those of us at the top of the food chain with sustenance. Slaughterhouses were out of sight, out of mind.

It wasn't until the '70s, when ethicist Pete Singer wrote Animal Liberation, that people started talking about animal abuse, but they were written off as fringe radical crazies, existing on a limited rabbit-food diet.

But it did plant a seed.

Today, animal-rights awareness and the virtue of respecting them have gone mainstream. More people believe our fellow animals must be treated humanely, as we electrocute them or shoot a reusable bolt into their brains.

I'm not at a point on my gastronomic journey to proclaim that not eating meat is a virtue, yet I have joined a growing number who have given up several face food varietals, for health concerns, but increasingly for ethical reasons.

We're on the cusp of an animal rights enlightenment.

In a few generations, the virtue of not eating meat could become a part of our moral landscape. And I'm sure by then, there'll be more appealing delights than tofu turkey.

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