Pollan brought up some interesting notes on PETA and the like, namely their disregard for nature.
"A deep current of Puritanism runs through the writing of the animal philosophers, an abiding discomfort not only with our animality, but with the animals' animality, too."
He has an excellent point. At this point, domestication has become a biological thing, not a sociopolitical thing. The animals who live on farms could not live any other way, at this point in time. They don't have the mental or physical capacity to handle it.
This is one of the reasons why anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, etc. [anti-peoplist?] advocates don't like PETA. Comparing the animal rights movement to the civil rights movement is, indirectly, comparing black people to animals; it insinuates that animals have the same capacity to comprehend and suffer as black people did and do. I, as well as many others, find that personally offensive. It is as though the suffering of humanity has taken a back seat to the pain of animals. Maybe this is because Natalie Portman and Pamela Anderson don't find starving African childen covered in flies to be as cute as 8-week old kittens.
Don't get me wrong. I do support the struggle for a certain level of animal dignity. I do believe that what is going on in CAFOs and slaughterhouses reflects sadly on us. I do support putting an end to [UNNECESSARY] animal testing...we shouldn't be torturing rabbits so we can have long-wear lipstick that works.
BUT. We have prided ourselves on being 'better' than the animals. The flipside to being more advanced than other animals is that we can now flagrantly disregard what nature tells us. This can be great...the normal ecological constraints don't apply to us anymore. We don't have to worry about things like famine and pestilence, at least not in developed countries. But we can also ignore the warning signs that tell us that we're not living in a sustainable manner.
Is vegetarianism sustainable? We hear the basic statistics, like the rule of 10. But what about the normal patterns of the biosphere? Are ecologically self-contained 'systems' like Polyface Farms unethical? In Salatin's desire to replicate the patterns of the natural world, he must inevitably involve the use and slaughter of animals. Would a vegetarian world, made up of 'big organic' or 'industrial' farms, be ethical, if it was inevitably leading to the degredation of the environment, and thus to species extinction, drought, disease, and ecological apocalypse?
Well I guess statistics lie 75% of the time.
Until I get some better answers to my questions, I think I'm going to stay an omnivore. But I'm going to cut down on my meat eating [which is hard to do, as I really don't eat very much.]. Although the jury is out on whether going completely veg is practical, let alone sustainable, I don't think it takes a genius to know that eating less meat is better for us and for the world.