Ddot: Hey how’s it going?
SquisheeMan: Not much, just eating dinner.
Ddot: What’s on the menu?
SquisheeMan: Boca Burgers.
Ddot: Boca Burgers? What are those?
SquisheeMan: They’re meatless burgers with soy instead of meat. They’re pretty good.
Ddot: Oh wait…I think I’ve had those. They taste terrible! Why don’t you just have a regular burger?
SquisheeMan: Yeah, I guess real burgers are better, but I just can’t eat em.
Ddot: Why not?
SquisheeMan: Knowing all those cows are dying just so I can eat? I can’t do that!
Ddot: So I suppose you’re off pork too?
Ddot: Ever wonder why they call them hamburgers if they’re made up of ground beef?
SquisheeMan: Not really, no…
Ddot: Oh. Just wondering. So do you eat fish or chicken?
Ddot: Well how can you eat fish or chicken but swear off red meat?
SquisheeMan: I don’t know…I never really thought about it. I guess I just don’t feel as bad about it. I think about those poor cows, pigs and sheep and how they’re slaughtered. And how they scream when they’re dying…it’s sad.
Ddot: Well let’s put this in perspective. You feel sympathy for the animals, so you feel bad when one is killed, but you don’t feel the same sympathy for chicken or fish.
SquisheeMan: Yeah, I guess.
Ddot: Have you ever asked yourself why that is?
SquisheeMan: Not really…
Ddot: Well ask yourself right now.
SquisheeMan: Well, I guess I just don’t know.
Ddot: Well what is it that cows, pigs and lambs have in common but not with birds and fish?
SquisheeMan: They’re mammals. Fish are fish and chicken and turkey are avians.
Ddot: Exactly. Humans are also mammals; as a result they feel an innate sympathy towards other mammals. It’s the humanization of the animal that makes you feel bad about it. Chickens and turkeys are just as fearful of death as mammals are. It’s just that birds are more difficult to personify than mammals. The same goes with fish. We can’t humanize fish as easily as we can animals. But that doesn’t mean they’re less fearful of death. You’ve seen images of fish struggling against fishing line or swimming frantically after it’s hit with a spear or something.
SquisheeMan: Alright, you’ve convinced me. I’m off fish and chicken too. It’s all grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy from now on. I can’t kill a fish or a bird to eat it. The poor things!
Ddot: So I guess you have a newfound respect for life.
SquisheeMan: I do. I feel pretty good about it too.
Ddot: So then just fruits and veggies then from now on huh?
SquisheeMan: Yep. All those animals and birds dying. How can that not bother you?
Ddot: Hey, they taste good. When’s the last time you had a good filet mignon?
SquisheeMan: Don’t make me sick. I’m not gonna kill a cow.
Ddot: So what’s your food plan for the future without any meat?
SquisheeMan: Well, I’ll just stick to produce, grains, and wheats. Lots of rice and noodles.
Ddot: Rice and noodles huh? And just how does one make rice? Does one manufacture it?
SquisheeMan: No, it’s grown.
Ddot: Well, think about that. Rice is grown. Grown. Do not classify that which grows as that which is alive?
SquisheeMan: True, but what about noodles? Those aren’t alive. You don’t grow noodles.
Ddot: Yes, but noodles are largely made from wheat, which is grown.
SquisheeMan: Okay, so they come from plants. I got that much. But the problem there isn’t so much the sanctity of life; it’s that those plants don’t suffer the way that animals do in slaughterhouse plants. There, cows, pigs and chickens are all injected full of hormones and often live in cramped warehouses where they aren’t given any more space to exist than that which is absolutely necessary to survive. It’s terrible!
Ddot: So, to restate your previous point, it’s that animals suffer, the plants do not.
SquisheeMan: Absolutely. Plants don’t have nerve cells, plants don’t feel pain when they die.
Ddot: You have a good point. Plants don’t suffer or feel pain. Perhaps I should mend my ways and join up with the ranks of vegetarians. It certainly seems like a noble cause.
SquisheeMan: Yes, it does.
Ddot: Well first, one thing troubles me. The idea of ‘suffering.’ Perhaps we should better define it before we come up with a definite conclusion on the matter. How do you define suffering?
SquisheeMan: That’s simple enough. Suffering means to suffer pain, to hurt. When one is in pain, they suffer.
Ddot: Well stated. But we can’t simply define pain as what happens in the nerve cells. Were you not in pain when your girlfriend broke your heart? Or when your uncle died? Surely that pain cannot be simply in the nerve cells.
SquisheeMan: Yes, that’s true, pain and suffering are not simply because of damage, or nerve cells. Pain can be in the mind. But I hardly see how that is relevant to the issue of whether or not it is morally right or wrong to eat animals.
Ddot: Well, I’m not saying it is or it isn’t, I’m simply speaking extemporaneously. Let me look it up on dictionary.com. Have you tried firefox yet?
Ddot: It’s ridiculous. I can get a word defined by typing it in on a bar at the top right corner, click on dictionary and it gets the definition right there.
Ddot: Yeah. Firefox.com dude. Good stuff. Anyways, here’s a good definition: “To undergo or sustain something painful injurious or unpleasant.” Would you disagree with that definition?
SquisheeMan: I can’t say that I can.
Ddot: Good. Thinking about it, that definition of ‘suffering’ reminds me of the Second Noble Truth of Buddhism: All suffering is caused by desire.
SquisheeMan: I’ll go with the dictionary definition; I’m not so sure of that.
Ddot: Well, hear me out. When the Buddha wrote that, it was in a different language. A better definition would not necessarily be ‘suffering’ but ‘dukkha’.
Ddot: Yes. ‘Dukkha’ is not necessarily suffering. It can also mean general discomfort. We experience Dukkha when we have to pee, when we are too hot, too cold. When we are uncomfortable. When we’re hungry. Basically when we generally don’t like the situation that you’re in right now. That is dukkha.
SquisheeMan: But what does that have to do with desire?
Ddot: I’ll get to that right now. Any type of suffering can be rewritten as ‘I desire to’. If you’re too cold? “I desire warmth.” When you have to pee? “I desire a toilet.” When one is uncomfortable? “I desire comfort.” When one is bored? “I desire something to do.” When one is hungry? “I desire food.” Especially with your ex-girlfriend. “I desire to be with my girlfriend.”
SquisheeMan: No I don’t. She’s a bitch.
Ddot: Okay, well you did when she broke up with you. And that caused your suffering. The same with your dead uncle. When you missed him, you basically thought to yourself, “I desire his company.” I can rewrite any sort of complaint in those terms.
SquisheeMan: Okay, I see your point.
Ddot: Okay, now that we’ve accepted that, let’s take that one step further and apply it. We know what it’s like for us to suffer. How does an animal suffer?
SquisheeMan: Well, not enough food, not enough sleep. Too much expended energy. Not enough sunlight.
Ddot: Those are all valid. Do you have a dog? What happens when you leave it alone in the house?
SquisheeMan: Oh yeah it eats up everything. It doesn’t like being left alone.
Ddot: Alright, well how can we rewrite that?
SquisheeMan: Hmmm…I guess we could say that it desires company.
Ddot: And when it humps my leg every time I sit down?
SquisheeMan: It desires your leg. Or rather, sexual relations with it.
Ddot: Well, let’s say that it desires sexual relations in general, and it suffers when it doesn’t get any. Let’s take that another step. The ant.
SquisheeMan: An ant doesn’t have any desires.
Ddot: Is that true? Does an ant not need to sustain itself and the entire colony? Certain ants desire food for itself and its fellow ants. Ants need to eat and sleep. Certain ants dig or build for the nest. They desire to do that. Queen ants are simply there to build the colony. They desire to lay eggs or whatever it is that they do. These aren’t machines programmed to do what they do. These are creatures, born and raised desiring to eat, sleep, and whatever it is they were born to do.
SquisheeMan: I suppose that’s true. I mean by that that I can’t disagree.
Ddot: Now, let’s take that same reasoning to plants. A plant needs nutrients, water, sunlight and carbon-dioxide to survive. And when it doesn’t get the necessary components for survival, it suffers.
SquisheeMan: So plants suffer?
Ddot: Yes. If we take into account our definition of suffering as not getting what one desires, then yes plants suffer. It suffers when it doesn’t get enough nutrients, water, sunlight, similar to how we suffer when we need food, water or air.
SquisheeMan: I’m sold. I’m just going to eat marshmallows the rest of my life.
SquisheeMan: Yeah. They’re just made from sugar.
Ddot: First of all, I’d like to see you survive off marshmallows the rest of your life. See how long that lasts.
Second of all, sugar is formed by plants such as the sugar beet and sugar cane. The plants form sugar by reacting carbon dioxide with water. By harvesting their sugar, we are essentially taking their nutrients and using them for our own. So no marshmallows.
SquisheeMan: Dammit, I like marshmallows. But hey, what about people like fruitarians.
Ddot: Fruitarians? What the hell are fruitarians?
SquisheeMan: They only eat fruits of other living things. They will not eat or harm any plants.
Ddot: You’re serious.
SquisheeMan: Yeah, I read about it a few weeks ago. They only eat fruit and seeds. There are similar diets who believe that cooking and processing foods using modern processes and additives pollutes the environment.
Ddot: And there’s obviously the moral aspect of it.
SquisheeMan: Well, yeah.
Ddot: Hmm…see I still find problems with this. What exactly is a fruit?
SquisheeMan: Huh? What do you mean?
Ddot: What exactly is a fruit? I know it’s edible and more often than not pretty good, but what purpose does its existence fulfill?
SquisheeMan: Oh. Well, the trees use it to reproduce. When I was a kid I planted a tree with a peach pit. It actually grew to thirty or so feet tall before we moved away.
Ddot: Think about that for a moment. You planted the peach pit and it grew into a tree. Let me rephrase that for emphasis. It grew. And, by our notion of what is alive or not, the peach pit you planted was alive, was it not?
Ddot: And say you didn’t plant this peach pit. Would it grow into a tree?
SquisheeMan: No. It needs to be planted so it can get soil and water to grow.
Ddot: So then restating that, the peach pit needs soil, nutrients and water in order for it to stay alive. Would you say that’s correct?
Ddot: To put that in another way, it suffers because it does not get the necessary nutrients in order to survive and it dies when it doesn’t get them.
SquisheeMan: Yeah, I guess it does.
Ddot: So the same goes for all fruit or seeds. If they don’t get the necessary nutrients or water to survive and grow, they suffer and die.
SquisheeMan: What about those who do so for dietary purposes?
Ddot: Well, dieting is a relative issue. Some who are on Atkins will tell you to just eat meat and salads. Others will tell you to cut calories or sugars. Still others will tell you to eat low-fat foods as healthy eating. No matter what you eat, as long as you maintain a balanced diet, it can be considered ‘healthy’.
Ddot: But from a morality standpoint, one’s well-being depends on nutrients provided by other life-forms, whether it’s fructose, lactose, sucrose, proteins, starch and fats. So basically, in order to maintain our survival, other life forms have to suffer or die. Certain plants and animals such as wheat, cows (milk) or bees (honey) may continue to grow after we take what is meant for consumption, but these life forms suffer as a result of us taking nutrients that were meant for their own use and consumption. We’re morally reprehensible either way.
SquisheeMan: So basically, regardless of whether I eat the Boca burger or a genuine burger, some creature will suffer or die.
Ddot: It certainly seems that way, yes.
SquisheeMan: Well seeing as these Boca burgers taste like ass, I think I’ll go with the real thing.
Ddot: I knew it! No one can honestly like those things. I don’t know who you were trying to fool, but I wasn’t buying it.
SquisheeMan: Yeah, yeah.