A writer for the New York Times recently put forth an interesting proposal: engineering carnivores out of existence so animals in the wild won’t be killed by other animals.
Wherever there is animal life, predators are stalking, chasing, capturing, killing, and devouring their prey. Agonized suffering and violent death are ubiquitous and continuous.
If I had been in a position to design and create a world, I would have tried to arrange for all conscious individuals to be able to survive without tormenting and killing other conscious individuals. I hope most other people would have done the same.
After quoting the famous verses from Isaiah describing a heavenly future where the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down the kid, and the calf and the young lion will declare themselves best friends forever on Facebook, the writer lays out his own possible future here on earth:
To be entitled to regard ourselves as civilized, we must, like Isaiah’s morally reformed lion, eat straw like the ox, or at least the moral equivalent of straw.
If we could arrange the gradual extinction of carnivorous species, replacing them with new herbivorous ones, ought we to do it? Suppose that we could arrange the gradual extinction of carnivorous species, replacing them with new herbivorous ones. Or suppose that we could intervene genetically, so that currently carnivorous species would gradually evolve into herbivorous ones, thereby fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. If we could bring about the end of predation by one or the other of these means at little cost to ourselves, ought we to do it?
To his credit, the writer admits engineering a world without predators could have unintended consequences, such as overpopulation among the herbivores, followed by starvation. He also acknowledges that some nature-lovers would object to the intentional extinction of any species — even blood-thirsty carnivores. But then he makes his crucial point: when the good of the world is at stake, no single species is sacrosanct. If some must die off so others can live, so be it.
After reading the essay, I considered it for a long time — especially that last crucial point. With my mental gears oiled by deep thinking, I soon came up with my own proposal for improving the world.
A Modest Proposal
by Tom Naughton
It is a melancholy sight to those who travel this great world to see the streets crowded with beggars, followed by three or four or six children all in rags. Unable to work for an honest livelihood, they are forced to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either become thieves or leave home to fight for the current warlord.
I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of people has led to a deplorable destruction of the planet, as the need for producing an ever-greater food supply has taken its toll in the form of over-farming, over-fertilizing, and over-irrigating; and therefore whoever could find a cheap and easy method of either reducing the worldwide requirement for food, or increasing the supply without further environmental damage, would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up as Preserver of the Planet.
I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope shall meet with the least objection.
The number of souls currently living in this country is said to be 300 million, of which I calculate there are about 21 million vegetarians. While it is claimed by health experts that this group is leaner than others, even the most conservative estimates put the average weight of an adult vegetarian at well over 130 pounds.
I have been assured by a very knowing explorer that a healthy vegetarian is a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled; and I make no doubt that one will equally serve in a fricassee or stir-fry. Therefore I offer, for public consideration, that is time for the carnivorous people of the planet to consume the vegetarians for sustenance.
The advantages of the proposal are obvious and many, and of the highest importance.
Firstly, it would greatly lessen the number of Plantists, with whom we are currently overrun. As anyone who produces written works centered on carbohydrate restriction or Paleolithic nutrition can attest, Plantists are our most self-righteous and hostile enemies, constantly showing up unannounced and uninvited, and plotting to take over through devious and dishonest methods of conversion. With the institution of my proposal, carnivores could defend against attacks upon their dietary choices by replying, “Those are some interesting theories, but require further explanation. Please stop by this address tomorrow evening, and I’ll have you for dinner.”
Secondly, it would ease the strain on the world’s scarce resources through both direct and indirect reductions in the population. The direct reduction would occur as the result of re-purposing vegetarians as steaks, chops, hams, filets, and other protein-rich meals. The indirect reduction would occur for the simple reason that vegetarians are disproportionately represented among those who are young and passionate, and therefore prone to reproduce. A direct reduction by two now could therefore result in an indirect reduction of 16 or 20 over subsequent decades.
Thirdly, it would greatly reduce the economic barriers to providing a high-quality, protein-rich diet for the masses. Plantists have frequently criticized the resources used and expenses incurred in raising cattle for beef. By contrast, vegetarians would provide the unique advantage of raising themselves, at their own expense, until they are ready for consumption. Thus they would reduce the cost of meals for carnivores both by providing an inexpensive source of complete protein, and by reducing the overall demand, and therefore the price, for beef, chicken, and pork. A surplus of those products would likely follow, which would encourage producers in the United States to offer them as cheap exports to starving people overseas.
Fourthly, it would reduce unemployment by regularly removing a significant portion of the adult workforce from the population, and by encouraging carnivores to hire vegetarians for domestic positions, albeit on a temporary basis.
Fifthly, it would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by creating an ever-growing supply of inexpensive, pre-owned hybrid automobiles, such as the Prius and Smart Car.
Sixthly, it would provide a renewed source of entertainment to the sporting classes. In regions where the deer, quail, and pheasant populations have dwindled, the hunting grounds could be re-stocked annually with vegetarians.
Seventhly, and most importantly, it would lead to an improvement in the nation’s overall health, with a concomitant reduction in medical costs. Plantists have pointed out for years that vegetarians are the healthiest people in the world because of their exclusively plant-based diets. By extension, vegetarians themselves would also make some of the most nutritious meals. Carnivores who refuse to give up fatty meats and eat their vegetables would likely relish the opportunity to eat low-fat, low-cholesterol vegetarians as an alternative. Instead of guiltily avoiding eye contact with the vegetarian section of restaurant menus, they would eagerly seek out the latest creations, such as Sam Chowder, Eggs with Benedict, McDougall with Cheese, Oz and Onion Omelet, Vegetarian Liver with Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti, or (sure to be a hit) T. Colin Campbell soup.
I am aware that some will raise objections to this proposal; the most likely being that consuming vegetarians for food is immoral. This has already been refuted by an influential and highly intellectual writer the New York Times, who pointed out that when the good of the planet is at stake, no species is sacrosanct. It has also been refuted by the most passionate Plantists themselves, who have stated countless times that a pig, a frog and a boy are metaphysically equal. If you ask a sincere Plantist, “I’m going to broil either you or that pig over there … do you have an opinion about that?” the only honest answer could be, “Morally, it doesn’t make any difference.”
Another objection I anticipate is that it would be unfair to consume only the vegetarians among us. This objection, however, is flawed on two counts. Firstly, since the Plantists have spent so many years explaining that humans who eat meat are polluting their bodies, carnivorous humans cannot possibly be fit for human consumption. Secondly, no matter how nutritious a food may be, it will never become a significant part of the nation’s diet unless it is palatable. As countless bumper-stickers have informed us, vegetarians taste better.
In closing, I profess that I bear no animosity towards vegetarians, and have no personal interest in promoting this proposal. My only concern is for the good of the public and the planet.