Massimo Pigliucci’s blog Rationally Speaking is normally very good, but this post by contributor Julia Galef is just silly. The basic point she makes is that vegetarians are being irrational if they refuse to eat meat even if they receive it on a pizza by accident. Oh, and they should eat oysters also. (Odd that she cites Peter Singer as a reason to do so, since he talks about why he doesn’t in his book).
Having been a vegetarian for more than 20 years, I can say that Julia really has no clue about this. Most of the vegetarians I know do not consider meat to be food anymore. Many are even put off by it. So, seeing pepperoni on a pizza would render it unappealing or even unpalatable to many vegetarians, regardless of whether the animal was already dead and it was presented by accident. Also, it should be obvious that if one chooses to stop eating meat because they associate it with suffering, then this association does not simply vanish when one hasn’t actually asked for meat but receives it accidentally.
How to explain these persistent constraints to Julia? Maybe an analogy would work. Imagine you’re eating a delicious stew and you ask the chef what kind of meat is in it. He says, “dog” (or, if you prefer, “cat” or perhaps “endangered black rhino”). The animal is already dead, butchered, prepared, and served. So, by Julia’s logic, it would be irrational for you to stop eating the stew. In fact, given that you already do eat meat, and given that it’s pretty arbitrary which animals we consider food and which companions, any revulsion you might feel is even more irrational than a vegetarian removing pepperoni from a pizza.
It’s a surprising lapse in reasoning on an otherwise great blog.