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Ever thought about how strange our relationships with animals can be? We spend billions annually on the care of our pets, but make no qualms about consuming other furry four-legged creatures, grilling, frying, slicing and dicing cows and calves and chickens and ducks and turkeys and pigs and an assortment of other beasts for food. Some people keep pigs for pets. I've seen a guy, walking a big black pig on a leash in Hollywood. That's where it really gets weird. Does he also eat ham? Would his pig, as ham, taste any different to him? I know pets resemble their owners, but don't pigs in general look an awful lot like humans?

Reminds me of a great line from Voltaire. "The custom of boiling and roasting a neighbor must be both ancient and natural, since it prevailed in both hemispheres; and therefore it must be an innate idea that men were hunted before beasts, because it was easier to kill men than wolves." Apparently eating wolves came later, followed by dogs. A tradition which persists in certain parts of the world. But suggest to a dog-owner that she eat - on second thought don't do that. I tried once. It didn't go well.

But cannibalism, now that would take us back to our roots. I wonder, does human flesh taste like chicken? The world is pretty overpopulated and all. And for you Bible scholars, the argument is that Cain killed Abel for the protein. Which I might add is a complete protein. Futurists beware: it's been done before. "Soylent Green is people!" And you thought Matrix was being original.

Here's the deal. Want to impress your friends at parties? The meat-eating friends, I mean. But are meat-eaters your friends? I for one have distanced myself from those who've failed to eliminate flesh foods from their diet. One friend told me that he was interested in giving up animal protein for the potential health benefits, but couldn't care less about the animal welfare part. Selfish bastard. Needless to say we are not that close anymore. Maybe I'm being too hard on people.

But really, the decision whether to persist in meat-eating once you've been informed of the many and pervasive drawbacks of such a diet-style is sort of an IQ test. Eat in such a way that is good for land and water and world hunger not to mention better for you, or make choices that put your health at risk and ravage the world. No brainer. Or be like me and avoid meat because that's what Alicia Silverstone does, and she's real purty.

Plus there's the consciousness difference. You can feel it after you give up eating meat for even a few days. Meat-eaters are on a different wavelength. I know because I've been there, feasting on flesh for more than a few months at a time, just because. I was grumpy and irascible and volatile and dense. Meat makes you dense. That's the best way to put it, blockhead! Not you. An erstwhile me.

But assuming you still associate with partakers of animal protein, here's how you can wow them by your powers of prediction at parties. Do it at parties. Ask a person why he chooses to eat meat, and before he has an opportunity to answer, interrupt him with his response, which you've anticipated, because the responses are so typical.

You see, the vast majority of omnivores (meat-eaters) defend consuming animals with one of four rationalizations, which scientists call the 4Ns. The Ns are for natural, necessary, normal and nice.

The Natural argument is that humans are natural born carnivores.

The Necessary argument is that meat provides essential nutrients.

The Normalist says he was raised eating meat.

And the Nice argument is that meat tastes good.

Scientists are quick to point out that the 4Ns are a "powerful pervasive tool employed by individuals to diffuse the guilt one might otherwise experience when consuming animal products," according to the study's author, Dr. Piazza. So after you've told your friend why he eats meat before he's had a chance to tell you, you can tell him why he feels that way, too.

Such are the powers of science. You can also take the time to refute the 4Ns by saying humans have digestive systems closely resembling apes, who are basically herbivores; the essential nutrients meat does provide are obtainable in plants or via supplement; we were all raised wearing diapers, yet how many sport them at parties?; and lots of things taste good that the conscientious consumer avoids in the interests of health and weight maintenance, so why not add meat to the list of such foods which if you ask me should include the Krispy Kreme Donut Hot Dog covered in bacon. Heart attack waiting to happen.

Personally I prefer leading by example to preaching, but since we've come this far, while you're at it seize the opportunity to inform the group that has now gathered around the punch bowl to listen to the mind-reader you have proven yourself to be that meat-eaters who employ the 4Ns as justification for a behavior that is becoming more and more socially unacceptable also think cows are stupid and support (scientists used the word "tolerate") social inequality.

Unless you don't want to seem like a major know it all, you could end your performance by pointing out that although research indicates Americans are more tolerant than ever before, the only thing we refuse to tolerate is intolerance itself. So why they gotta hate on the poor? Or is that a stretch?

Say that loud enough and you just may start a brawl. You know what they say, parties can be such a riot!

Love your neighbor.


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