some people don't like to eat animals that are cute. that's backwards. i don't want to eat anything ugly. lobsters and mussels may taste good, but they're not appetizing. fish is kind of on the edge. thanks to france, the line between friend and food is eroding. boar, bunny, and lamb are common on the table. since the words are the same for the food and the thing walking around (not like beef vs. cow), when i see something furry i start thinking about eating it. i start checking out the legs for meat.
the "cute" thing points to having established a bond with the dish. "i can't eat it, i just pet it." somehow there's a difference in utility. but i want a relationship with my food too. what's more intimate than eating something? and mammals are easier to relate to than e.g. fish. "thanks. i appreciate you." chomp chomp.
i don't like abstracting food away from the source. aside from losing some pleasure in understanding and appreciating what you're eating, it opens up lots of opportunity for food abuse. if you won't look under the covers, people will take advantage of that and put any number of horrible things in. transparency is good for food and government and just about everything else.
related: i had a sausage last week that had big bits of tripe and other things in it. weird enough to make me look up what was really in it. can't say it didn't make me a little nauseous afterwards, but it's my responsibility when eating to know what i'm eating. but this is a good counterexample: all the bits and pieces of the animal are just fine with me. use the whole critter. waste is a sin. better you and me eating it than it gets ground up and fed to chickens, who get ground up and fed back to pigs, which is how farmers get around the restriction that you can't feed ground up animals to themselves or they get BSE. (anything can get solved with one more level of indirection, after all.)
of course it's hypocritical of me. i'm not a big enough person to work for a year in a slaughterhouse. living in a rural virginia turkey town turned me off of chicken for a long time. the death wasn't the problem for me (carrots scream when you pull them out of the ground, you know), just the horrible conditions. so like anything there's no solid ethical high rock to stand on, but shades of your legs being wet. life creates destruction as a byproduct. that is an inescapable consequence of the second law of thermodynamics. to be alive is to kill something else. so for me it's about being as aware as i can be of what i'm doing.
why not be vegetarian? related discussion topic: the difference between kiling me and a killing a carrot. contexts include: self, family, friends, community, humanity, earth, universe.
i read once (armchair linguist) that in english, the words for food came from french (nobility) and the word for the animals are germanic (common folks working in the field). hence: cow (german) vs beef (boeuf, french); deer vs venison; sheep vs mutton (mouton), etc. language is cool.
as for distancing yourself from food. my dad bought his property (must be like 12 yrs ago now!) and the farm had 2 cows on it, destined for slaughter. ("property for sale; nice view; cattle") they named them 'rump' and 'roast'. i thought that was a pretty direct way to not avoid their fate.
missy's stepdad hunts in his backyard. that's so cool. when i was really young we had some goats, chickens, and i think a pig that wasn't around for too long. i learned to milk, chase, and (i guess) eat. i love that, but if you're not treating it as a hobby it's impractical in the same way as building your own bicycle from minerals.
i'm coming to realize i want to spend my time as high on the humanity achievement pyramid as i can, and that's directly at odds with reducing abstraction in life. you can't both learn to sing opera well and saw the lumber for the stage. since sawing is a solved problem, better to focus energy on the things that sawing buys us.
there's also a very real guilt living up there since even now not everyone has sawed lumber. don't know how to handle that yet.
This ties into a book review i've been meaning to write for months of a book I read recently called "Animal, Vegetable, or Woman? A Critique of Ethical Vegetarianism". When I finally write it I will let you know. Lots of really fascinating stuff about ethics and nutrition.
sounds great. i've been reading some basic things about ethics lately (yay wikipedia!), trying to solidify the right questions to be asking. so much of it seems implicitly tied to the context of society, boiling down to doing what benefits humanity or some subgroup as a whole. that's only one step removed from egocentrism though. humans are so self-centered (me more than most). 99% of art is just rehashes of standard human emotions. yawn. no one thinks about the carrots! or beyond, which was what my obscure mention of context was about. i get turned off by things that are just for the good of humanity. too short-sighted and anthrocentric.