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Letter to the Editor: Eating vegetarian, and making a difference

To the Editor:

Animals do have the ability to suffer and feel pain just as we do, so why do we continue to exploit them?

There are many great reasons to be vegetarian, including health, religion, the environment and — of course — the moral aspect. Although some of these may not be in an effort to better the world, any individual vegetarian is still making a difference in the lives of animals and the health of our environment. Michael Fitzpatrick ("The vegetarian delusion," Oct. 6) states in his column that "eating is a natural process" and compares our consumption of flesh to a lion eating an antelope. This is a gross assumption. There is nothing natural about the way meat, dairy and eggs get to our plates today.

The general public is completely disconnected from food production and takes no responsibility for the harm caused in the process. Ethical vegetarianism could simply be about not killing any being in order to please our taste buds, but there's a much larger problem at hand: the horrifying, filthy conditions that animals in factory farms are forced to endure. What we're consuming supports cruelty to animals.

In his column, Fitzpatrick suggests that vegetarians grow their own food because of the millions of rodents killed each year from harvesting grains. This criticism is rather backwards: 80 percent of the farmed land in the U.S. is used to support the animal by-product industries. Sixteen pounds of grain goes into producing only one pound of meat. By not eating meat, I'm not only boycotting the slaughter of 27 billion animals each year for food, but I'm also massively cutting back on the animals that get run over by tractors in the fields.

We all can live as compassionately as possible, within our own capabilities. If that means eating vegetarian a couple times a week, checking for the "not tested on animals" label or choosing pleather (which is often cheaper) over dead skin, it's making a difference.

I commend Fitzpatrick for reminding us that ethical vegetarianism is not an end all to the abuses of animals.  We have never implied that vegetarianism is a panacea, and our audience understands that abstaining from meat doesn't stop seal-clubbing. 
Animal abuse is pervasive, but each step towards a more compassionate lifestyle is worthwhile.

While I choose to be vegan in all aspects of my life, I know not everyone will. All I hope is that people will take time to consider the suffering of animals and live as kindly as possible.

Claire Miller '11
Brown Animal Rights Club
Oct. 6

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