Friday, December 5, 2014

Final Project Rough Draft

Emma Sullivan
Dr. Adam Johns
Seminar in Composition
5 December 2014
Final Project Rough Draft
Regardless of where you stand on the spectrum of meat consumption, let’s go back to a time thousands of years ago in which there was no fast food, grocery stores, or agriculture for that matter. The rudiments of civilization were just beginning to emerge, and we were hunter-gatherers, self-sufficient; crafting our own spears, hunting our own game, and gathering our own food. There was a certain level of ambiguity as to where our next meal would come from and when it would be, for a migration could arise if an area became unusable as a food source, or perhaps an enemy was readily approaching. Essentially, we needed the meat we hunted in order to sustain ourselves until the next meal, or through the next migration-- our primitive lifestyles literally required us to “bulk up”. Peculiarly enough, these early humans were not fat.
            Back in present day, I daresay that none of us are widdling our spears to go out and hunt a deer in Schenley Park for dinner. Let’s also consider that fact that in order to hunt said deer like a true hunter-gatherer, we would be getting more exercise than most Americans get in a week. So why do we keep eating (meat especially) like ancient nomads who don’t know where their next meal is coming from? Today, we kill animals as if Chick-fil-A is closing down for good and they want to give everyone in the world one last six-piece chicken nugget box, not to mention severely harming the environment in the process. Ideally, I would like to kindly ask everyone in the world to become a vegetarian and have them listen. Alas, this is impossible, and how things are, are most certainly not how they ought to be. So, rather than proposing severely radical ways the world ought to change in ways that are sadly unachievable, I believe it would be more valuable to look at how things are, and ways that individuals can and have changed, and why it is so hard for some to stop saying “I could never become a vegetarian”.
            To start off, I’d like to address some of the reasons I’ve most often heard of people are weary of a plant-based lifestyle, these reasons being; the “I love meat too much!” and the “I need the nutrition!” contentions. To the “I love meat too much” argument: in the following pages, I hope to shed a new light on the prospect of vegetarianism and perhaps some reasonable alternatives to the full-fledged lifestyle. If all of the world’s meat products were to suddenly vanish overnight, inevitably you would have to make do. Psychologically, it may seem difficult, yet conceptually it’s so simple. To say “I could never become a vegetarian” is like saying that you couldn’t survive without coffee, or chocolate—when in reality you just don’t want to imagine a life without it, and the idea of whether you should absolutely have to is one that will be explored.
To the “I need the nutrition argument”: I ask that you keep in mind that there is a right and wrong way to go about any lifestyle change. Suppose someone is to begin a vigorous exercise routine for 2 hours a day, but does not supplement this with the proper nutrition and caloric intake— they’ll inevitably find themselves feeling tired and malnourished. Under the same principles, if a chemical engineering student only sleeps 3 hours a night, a decline in their academic performance is inevitable. I recently came across an argument made by Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability pertaining how veganism was an epic harm to her health—thus ensuing her work on why not to follow a plant-based diet. Of her nearly twenty years as a vegan Keith comments, “A vegetarian diet—especially a low-fat version, and most especially a vegan one—is not sufficient nutrition for long-term maintenance and repair of the human body. To put it bluntly, it will damage you. I know,” and it did damage Keith in several ways, leaving her with a degenerative joint disease that unfortunately will stay with her for the rest of her life (Keith 9). But, of this cautionary tale I have a few questions and comments pertaining to Keith’s lifestyle choices as a vegan. The first is whether she made an effort to know and obtain the necessary nutrition her body needed, nutrition she would no longer be receiving from meat or dairy. Perhaps she was already nutrient deficient before beginning her vegan diet. There also exists the possibility that it may have been in her best interest to seek out the help of a nutritionist, naturopath, or other experienced professional within the first weeks she began experiencing hypoglycemia, the cease of her menstruation cycle, and exhaustion rather than waiting years (Keith 10). Each person’s body and lifestyle is different and therefore has unique needs to function properly. Knowing these needs and how to satisfy them is key to any dietary transition, and ultimately the understanding I want anyone in question of a plant-based lifestyle to understand.
Now, to move from why people are weary of not eating meat to why people should be weary of eating meat, it’s essential to look at why individuals go vegetarian and just how things are in the food world today. People often ask if my choice in going vegetarian was for health or moral reasons—which are two of the biggest factors in many people’s choices to stop eating meat. For that reason, I would like to focus on the facts behind these two reasons, and also the relationship between the two seeing as they can be intimately intertwined.
            The moral reasons why people go vegetarian are rather straightforward. Generally, most don’t like the idea of animals being killed for food, or the idea of eating something that was once a living animal. Within this realm there are copious unique mindsets and further reasoning behind the moral dilemma of eating a body that was once a thriving cow (or perhaps not-so-thriving, considering today’s agricultural standards).

Questions: The argument I am trying to stick to so far is in the last sentence of the second paragraph. I may go back and modify it slightly as the paper progresses but I think it’s a good outline that I can support well given the length of the paper. Ultimately, the goal here is to get the reader thinking about and considering some form of vegetarianism or severely reduced meat consumption, and this concept will be made blatantly clear. From where I stopped writing, I plan on getting some concrete statistics, facts, and perhaps anecdotes to talk about agriculture, the more “gross” parts of eating meat, and also how it’s impacting the environment. Next, I will most likely go on to incorporate the documentaries I’ve been talking about to provide solid real world examples of people changing their diets and lifestyles. I think these films will be a good bridge between talking about the solid facts and switching to what the reader can do. For the piece of the paper dedicated to personal changes, I plan to present a few different ways people go about reducing meat consumption, and want to incorporate a TED talk on being “vegetarian on the week days”. Throughout the paper I am going to be going back to the two counterarguments I laid out in the beginning of why people are generally closed to the idea of vegetarianism. What do you think about the general direction I’m heading in? So far, I do not plan on blatantly including any texts from class, but I may consider working some Lewontin in, especially if you think the paper needs it.  

1 comment:

  1. This is well-written, especially the introduction, so I'm not going to nitpick at anything. My comments will focus on your overall approach.

    As you know, there are many books and documentaries about why one should become a vegetarian. One old-school one that had some influence on me 20+ years ago was "Food for Thought: Feeding the World", which ironically I read in my equivalent of freshman comp.

    But you aren't writing a book, nor creating a two hour documentary. It's possible, although not always true, that another general, big-picture book-length contribution to the literature on why one should (or should not) be a vegetarian/vegan can be productive. But what can you hope to add in one short essay?

    The answer is to focus. Don't try to do it all - don't even come close. There's some material at the end about experimental/temporary vegetarianism which might be a possible focus. There's also the possibility of writing an essay on a particular text (e.g., the Vegetarian Myth, which you cite). Or, as I've suggested before, you might write an essay on agricultural policy, or food policy - writing in favor of taxing meat, or some forms of it, directly or indirectly (high taxes and strict regulation of antibiotics in animal feed?).

    What I'm getting at is that you're writing well about a subject that you're passionate about, but unless you find a narrower focus you won't really be very accomplishing very much. If anything, this version is *more* general than the proposal, which isn't a good change.

    You said this was your thesis, more or less: "So, rather than proposing severely radical ways the world ought to change in ways that are sadly unachievable, I believe it would be more valuable to look at how things are, and ways that individuals can and have changed, and why it is so hard for some to stop saying “I could never become a vegetarian”. My basic point is that this is *extremely* well-traveled territory (here's one very mainstream example, although you have your own:

    So here's my challenge to you - how can you make a distinctive (possibly personal, possibly not) contribution to the existing literature, rather than falling into the trap of doing something which has been done 10,000 times already?


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