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Food for Thought: The Debate over Eating Meat (Contemporary Issues (Prometheus)) Paperback – May 1, 2004
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(1) Since this book would be for a class, I wanted something that presented a variety of perspectives.
(2) Since I'm a philosopher, I care a lot about good arguments and clear writing.
(3) And since the class would be focused on food, I didn't want something that spent too much time on issues like animals in research or zoos. Similarly, the arguments against vegetarianism shouldn't just be against more general notions, like animal rights.
(4) I also care about the amount of money my students have to pay for their textbooks. $100+ for a collection of articles published elsewhere is, I think, extortionate. This is especially important since I'm going to use the book for just a few weeks in a more general class; I would hate for my students to pay a lot of money for something that's only used briefly.
This particular book is excellent in all four respects.
(1) The book comprises 29 essays and an introduction by the editor, organized into 7 sections, on topics ranging from nutrition to religion to feminism and multiculturalism. Each essay is about 10 pages long. 11 (35%) of the 32 authors are women, which may not sound great until your realize that only about 20% of professional philosophers are women. In terms of number of essays, the book does lean notably towards the pro-vegetarian side of the debate.Read more ›
One essayist notes that "even in people who define themselves as atheists, vegetarianism may retain the character of an absolute imperative, a prophylactic against pollution that has all the marks of pious observance." (Pg. 81) He later answers the question of "why life should be sacrificed, just for this?" by replying, "the life that is sacrificed would not exist, but for the sacrifice." (Pg. 90)
Another essayist argues that "There can be no moral objection to mutually beneficial, ecologically responsible human-nonhuman relationships. Milk and eggs can be exchanged for shelter, food, and care. I know a number of people living on 'no kill' farms who treat their chickens, cows, and goats with respect and warmth." (Pg. 96)
Still another notes that "in view of the inevitable increase in the cost of meat and meat products that would be entailed by the far-reaching reforms needed in agricultural practices, it seems inevitable, though unfair, that the poor will carry the heaviest burden. Social conscience has its costs. If needed reforms were to be implemented, they would end the age of the cheap hamburger meal." (Pg. 322)
This book has an unusually wide variety of arguments and a broad range of discussion, and will be of considerable value to persons on all sides of the various issues.