Posted from the US
I have been a vegetarian (technically a ovo-lacto vegetarian) since I was about 11 (when I became acutely aware where my hamburger was coming from).
There is much debate about this semi-vegetarian idea, which can be broken into roughly 2 camps:
- Those who embrace it as "eating less meat is good, let's not be puritanical about it"
- Those who are absolutist "vegan or die!"
Here is one opposing view to the whole idea of being a semi-vegetarian:
(Peter Singer and a few others take a bashing here).
One of the current "it" authors out there is Jonathan Safran Foer, who wrote about (and has influenced) the "new" vegetarian ideas:
The whole thinking seems to be more about anti-factory farming, anti-pollution - "the earth factor, the gross factor". It seems that the friendly, organic meat farm is not seen as the same level of scary Evil as the factory farm - so eating meat that has been hand-raised and treated well is not seen as problematic.
There surely is a difference between the factory farm and the small, well cared for organic farm on the scale of Evil (let's reference Google's Do No Evil Unless We Can Make $ here). The factory farm's Evil points must rank higher. The small organic farm's motto is "We Are Not As Evil".
But come on - what are they doing? They are both basically killing animals for us to eat.
There is a binary position here:
- Do I eat animals that needed to die for me to eat this sandwich/soup/burger?
- Perhaps my fleeting hunger can be satisfied better without ending an animal's life?
Our hunger is not binary - there are many, many, many non-killing ways to eat, and we can eat really, really well without meat. But for the animal it's very binary: I live, I don't live.
So while I'm all for reducing the amount of animals that are suffering and eaten, the real change that we need in people is one from being selfish to unselfish:
- Selfish - I'm vegan/vegetarian because it is healthy/fights cancer/I can lose weight/it's trendy
- Unselfish - I'm not eating meat because no animal has to die to fill my belly
As humans we are granted very little power and control over life - but we have immense power and capabilities over death. Too much actually. Being vegetarian can be about giving up our power to kill - we surely have it, but do we need to use it?
When we are young the cold, harsh realities of life are hidden from us. But as we grow up the veil is lifted and we peer into this dark place. But we can look into that abyss and refuse to partake of it.