6 min read

The BBQ Debates: Meat Is Bigger In Texas

If you read my work you are well aware that I believe that eating animals, in the vast majority of circumstances, is morally wrong. This position, which I can defend historically and philosophically-after nearly a decade of thinking and reading about the matter-is one I have centered my life around because so much verifiable (if invisible) suffering is at stake. My adherence to this position is not a "personal lifestyle choice" any more than a decision to walk outside and start hitting dogs with a tire iron is a personal lifestyle choice. It's a choice based on thoughtful moral inquiry and grounded in an objective sense of right and wrong.

For this reason, I find exhibitionist displays of gluttonous meat eating to be objectionable. I live in the world. I live among and deeply love many meat eaters. And I could even justify eating meat in some circumstances, but almost never in terms of animal domestication. I think it's fair to expect that anyone with even a remote awareness of what must happen to bring meat to the table has an obligation to treat eating animals with at least a perfunctory sense of gravitas. After all, killing animals that are emotional, self-aware beings, even if you have come to terms with that killing, should never confer bragging rights. Remember when George W. Bush used to discuss the death of American soldiers in Iraq with that quirked smile on his face? That's kind of how I see celebratory and gleeful writing about eating meat. Call me a crank, but I have my reasons.

This is a long way of introducing an article in Texas Monthly that made me sad. Not angry, not wanting to engage in ad hominem attacks, but just sad. I should note that I have written for Texas Monthly (about chicken fried steak, no less!), that it's a first rate magazine, and that I know and look up to many writers there. But I should also note that the magazine used to do a lot of great capsule music reviews, got rid of them, and hired a full time BBQ editor, a decision that earned the magazine considerable national attention. It was an article by that very editor, which ran yesterday, that led me to respond. The piece is here.

I must confess to being put off by the fact that the author, Daniel Vaughn, invited readers to share concerns with his cholesterol level as an occupational hazard. I found this to be a particularly strange request given that his occupation requires the slaughter of sentient animals for food we do not need. That said, my initial response was a bit unfair.

I tweeted: "What marks life as full time BBQ editor? Blissful ignorance to animal suffering, evidently." This tweet implied that Vaughn was indeed ignorant of what his celebrated diet represented-that is, that he had not justified his decision to support unnecessary animal slaughter. Perhaps he has. Perhaps he could illuminate the matter for me (and I'm being serious here). He responded: "why the comment about my ignorance? It's as silly and myopic as me suggesting you're ignorant to the tastiness of meat."Fine. So, I'm now wondering: what is that justification?" Fair enough. So if you've justified your choice to eat animals raised for meat, where I can read/hear about it? I'm eager to learn."

And, I'm happy to say, we have exchanged emails and plan to meet in the near future, a meeting during which we'll discuss my recent American Scholar piece. I genuinely look forward to the discussion. Stay tuned.