The Oct 9th issue of New Scientist had an article titled “Eating Skippy?” written by a now, former vegetarian about the merits of eating the flesh of Kangaroos.
I like to think of former vegetarians (and vegans) more as “born-again meat eaters”. Like some born-again Christians, they often hang onto a pile of partly-understood rationalizations for what they are doing, believe they have discovered absolute truth, and won’t shut up.
Fortunately the author of this article doesn’t seem to be one of these. Her article seems to be pretty compelling, but in the end it shows that if you do something for the wrong reason, it won’t stick.
There are a number of reasons one might become vegan: for health benefits, for reducing environmental impacts, to imitate a celebrity (that’s what PETA counts on), for animal welfare or for animal rights. The problem is that all reasons except the last one are arguable, and only a few rationalizations from vanishing.
The article does show that Kangaroos consume less water and food and produce fewer greenhouse gasses than other animals. Oops! there goes the environmental arguments. She also shows that flesh is more healthy than that of other animals. There goes the health reasons.
Kangaroos are very easily stressed, and that stress ruins the taste of their flesh. Therefore they can’t be confined and must be free-range; they can only be hunted in the most stealthy manner, which means they know nothing of their fate until the moment the bullet enters their skull. And there goes the animal welfare reasons.
The article does mention “animal rights” at a few points, but, as is so often the case, it ends up confused with “animal welfare”. Here are the two mentions of “animal rights”: ”Many animal rights groups remain opposed to kangaroo harvesting, saying it is cruel…” and “Animal rights groups, such as Australia’s Voiceless, say any orphaned young at foot will starve to death.” This shows that most groups which use the phrase “animal rights” are really welfarist groups. And, while I don’t know if the author intended this, these statements are strawmem: by using the phrase “animal rights” but then bringing up welfare concerns, which are easily dealt with (q.v.), the implication is that the animal rights concerns can be dismissed.
But the animal rights argument is straightforward: Kangaroos are sentient beings and we have no right to kill them. But that wouldn’t fill four pages of a magazine, now would it?