Dinner Chatter

Ahhh… another confounding dinner at home with the boys. It started with a reference to the ubiquity of computers and Doug noted that you probably couldt go into any house in America and find computers. Maybe not a PC, but the kind embedded into TVs, microwaves, cars, cell phones, and digital watches. He quickly amended, “except for Amish houses.”

This led to a discussion of whether or not the Amish would remain computer free forever. After all, they have adopted some technology over the years. For example, they use small engines, and while those engines are typically older and computer-free for now, it’s likely they’ll have some form of digital control circuitry in years to come.

Which naturally leads to a question about how the Amish decide what’s legal and what’s not. I explained that from my understanding, each sect has a council of elders who decide for their group how much tech is too much, and different sects make different decisions. But it wasn’t at all clear to me if the goal was to just keep a certain pace behind the mainstream or if they were trying to cling to the 19th century forever. I can’t help but wonder if they’d be allowed to use an OLPC Laptop since it is powered by a hand crank. Maybe it would be okay if it only ran DOS?

And speaking of groups with indecipherable rules, the topic quickly jumped to vegans. Okay, we get that they don’t eat meat, nor will they consume cheese or eggs or wear leather or fur. But what about oil? That comes from animals–ancient ones, but animals. And if oil is out that takes out plastics, transportation, motors, engines, and electricity. Being Amish is starting to look pretty good.

Further, bees are animals, and they pollinate plants, so is it okay to eat by-products of their work? What about manure for fertilizer? That’s an animal by-product. Although it was suggested that human and/or plant waste would work as well, and fortunately for us all dinner was just about over by that point. This whole discussion was degrading quickly into a circle-of-life thing where it was all too clear that you can’t step outside the circle and still call it life.

Dinner being over provided an opportunity for a bit of research. Consulting the Vegan Society we found the vegan philosophy in their Articles of Association:

…the word “veganism” denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.

Well there’s enough wiggle room in that definition to satisfy the folks at Jello. The big hole being the statement, “as far as is possible and practical.” What’s practical could be having a steak because that’s what’s for dinner and it would be rude not to. So you can rationalize pretty much any behavior with that caveat alone.

But the one that strikes me more is the statement about exploitation and cruelty. First, there’s all the issues about what defines cruelty, and is that to the individual animal or the species as a whole? I rather like my dad’s take on this. It would be cruel to livestock to not eat them because they’ve been bred to be domestic and couldn’t survive in the wild if we just set them all free. He has a point.

It’s also clear to me from that definition that it should be okay to eat animals that weren’t killed for the purpose of eating them. In other words, if you hit a deer with your car, then it’s venison for dinner. You can’t be cruel to or exploit something that’s already dead. But I somehow suspect that “roadkill” won’t be on the menu anytime soon at your local vegan eatery.

This concludes the meal… you may now resume your normal conversation already in progress.

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