Are vegetarians evil? Or are they simply misguided? As I think of the vegetarians that I've known over the years, I really don't think I've ever met a single one that didn't also exude moral superiority, whether of the quiet and hardly noticeable sort, of the loud and obnoxious sort, or somewhere in between.
When I think of the responses that meat-eaters make to vegetarians, overwhelmingly the justification offered is some variation of "Eating meat gives me pleasure." Just to be clear: I also put justifications for eating meat for reasons of health under this rubric. Part of health is the absence of nutritional deficiencies and as well as the absence of mental and spiritual maladies.
From the vegetarian's perspective the meat eating is somebody else's pleasure. Vegetarianism is one instance of a broader conundrum: the problem of other people's pleasure(s). Another instance of this: sexual mores. Consider the hullabaloo that Evangelicals make about homosexuality. The conflict about homosexuality mirrors oddly enough the conflict around vegetarianism: Christian Morality condemns certain desires and behaviors. Or if delicate ears prefer: Christian Morality would limit desires and behaviors to their life-affirming and positive forms: procreation, monogamy, love, etc. But in so doing, sex as a vehicle of self-discovery and enhancement of one's autonomy and individuality is quietly and delicately hushed up. Self-discover in whatever venue is fraught with error, mistakes, poor judgment, and above all learning from experience, which is to say from bad experience.
It would then seem that the sometimes not so subtle air of moral superiority that vegetarians sometimes exude is rooted in the pleasure of denying oneself a pleasure of little value to the vegetarian. The vegetarian denies himself the pleasure of eating meat because she cares little for it. And because the vegetarian can make this little self-denial in the name of justice, fairness, kindness, avoiding cruelty, or what have you, it must of course follow that any person who is unwilling to make the same self-denial is necessarily immoral.
Morality is in large part then dependent on the belief that some pleasures are inessential, unreal, immoral, and only apparent pleasures. The pleasure that one can deny oneself will almost assuredly be intimately bound up another person's autonomy. For such a person, there is nothing "apparent" and "merely" about it.
For most meat eaters giving up meat, the possible reason to give up meat is because vegetarians are unhappy with the consumption of flesh by non-vegetarians. Just like Evangelicals find other people's pleasures to be a powerful political rallying point.
So, I ask anyone stumbling upon these pages: an analogy worth pursuing? Is an argument? Or enough of a taunt to disarm the not-so-clever and the all too unwary?