lemon jelly

A Family Affair
June 26, 2008, 12:05 pm
Filed under: food, philosophy | Tags: , ,

Tomorrow is a bit of a big day. I’m hopping on the train after work to visit my parents for the long weekend. Since they will try to overfeed me as parents are apt to do, I will have to tell them at some point that I am no longer eating meat or animal products obtained in factory-farm conditions.

It’s quite possible that I have a penchant for melodrama, but I don’t think that this will go over well. I would never say that my parents are small-minded people, but I do think of them as being rather set in their ways. It’s not as if they’ll treat my new dietary restrictions as a moral affront or a challenge to their own lifestyle, but I’m afraid that they won’t understand where I’m coming from or even consider it a viable alternative to how they live. I expect a string of protests concerning my health and well-being and then many efforts to persuade me to eat some meat at least once in a while. It shouldn’t be a terrible affair of cursing and door-slamming, but I anticipate some pain on my part.

Of course, it doesn’t quite have to be this way. In a sense, I’m under no obligation to explain myself to them. Understanding isn’t in fact required on their part, only begrudging acceptance. However, I’m not a big fan of this kind of thinking. It smacks of teenage brattiness and bellowing things like “It’s my life, and I can do what I want!” It is unreflective self-assertion at its worst. Yes, as a free and rational individual, I am entitled to make my own decisions and to conduct myself as I will without the interference and interjections of others. At the same time, I think that that very free agency entails a responsibility to offer a rational account for the choices I make. So, just because my diet is well within the domain of personal choice doesn’t mean that it can’t be subjected to scrutiny or that it doesn’t require defense on other, more objective grounds.

Tomorrow, then, I will sit down with my parents at dinner and tell them that I’m no longer eating meat and a large variety of other animal products. I expect much dismay and maybe even some disappointment, but I won’t leave it at that. I will try my best to get them to understand that I have made a personal and moral commitment to recognising the interests of non-human animals and why this means that I won’t be eating the way that I used to. Then and only then is free choice a legitimate trump card.


3 Comments so far
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Read the chapter on ‘vegetarian diplomacy’ in the book I lent you, don’t wait until dinner to tell them (if only so they don’t prepare food for you that you’re not going to eat), and offer to make something vegetarian to accompany whatever they have planned. Good luck! ;)

Comment by Steve

Thing is, it only smacks of teenage brattiness and bellowing if there’s a chance that they might understand.

Sure, there’s moral high ground to be occupied by explaining your choices, but if they’re going to be stubborn and set in their ways, then I don’t think free choice is even relevant in the discussion.

Comment by AR

Thanks, Steve. Maybe your book will be my reading on the train.
AR, most of “moral high ground” came out of a conversation I had with Dan a couple of days ago. He was of the opinion that I didn’t owe my parents an explanation. And that’s true in the sense that I’m not obligated to get them to understand, but it just got me thinking about free agency and its relation to moral responsibility. I think claiming free agency entails at least being able to give a rational account for one’s actions. Otherwise, it is just really hollow, teenage brattiness.
Anyway, I don’t think that being an obstinate bitch about this right off the bat will be much help as far as peaceable relations go. I’ll at least try to explain things.

Comment by Katie

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