|Francisco de Goya y Lucientes|
1810-12, huile sur toile
Musée du Louvre
And eating animals is one of those topics, like abortion, where it is impossible to definitively know some of the most important details (When is a fetus a person, as opposed to a potential person? What is animal experience really like?) and that cuts right to one’s deepest discomforts, often provoking defensiveness or aggression. It’s a slippery, frustrating, and resonant subject. Each question prompts another, and it’s easy to find yourself defending a position far more extreme than you actually believe or could live by. Or worse, finding no position worth defending or living by. Then there is the difficulty of discerning the difference between how something feels and what something is. Too often, arguments about eating animals aren’t arguments at all, but statements of taste. And where there are facts—this is how much pork we eat; these are how many mangrove swamps have been destroyed by aquaculture; this is how a cow is killed—there’s the question of what we can actually do with them. Should they be ethically compelling? Communally? Legally? Or just more information for each eater to digest as he sees fit?