There has been a lot of talk about the benefits of eating lower on the food chain. There are health reasons, environmental reasons, and ethical reasons that are put forward to show the rightness of choosing such a lifestyle. The health arguments can be spun either way. Mostly they come down to balance and moderation, not vegetable vs. meat. Ethics is only an argument because we hold ourselves separate from the natural world. No one judges the carnivore evil and the herbivore good. A lion is a lion, Eating meat is what it does. A lamb is a lamb. Eating grass is what it does. There is no ethical issue there. Only we have ethical problems with what we because we see our selves as somehow not subject to the laws of nature. The environmental argument makes even less sense. Changing what we eat will not change the destructive nature of our agricultural methods or the needs of an exponentially expanding human population.
I think the real problem (and there for the real answer) lies in our idea of a food chain.
In nature everything is food for something. In nature there isn’t a food chain, there is a resource loop. It’s circular. The buffalo eats the grass that grows from the bones of the buffalo. There are many more members in the loop, all using resources from the same pool and returning them to that pool . The buffalo is the grass, the grass is the buffalo. Everything in that community is a different manifestation of the pool of resources found there. The cycle continues forever each member of the community being a real part of every other member. It’s beautiful, magical, perfect.
We took ourselves out of the loop. We are still an expression of what we eat, it just is no longer an expression of where we are, the community of life we are a part of. We take resources from all over the world, use them, and then instead of returning them to the communities we took them from we concentrate them into toxic mountains of sludge and waste we must struggle to dispose of.
The answer to the problems vegetarianism tries to address is not to eat more vegetables, it is to reinstate ourselves in the community of life. Draw the resources we need to live from the pool of resources in our community and return those resources to that community to maintain the circle.
If I eat my chickens, I eat the grass they lived on. I return my waste (processed by various worms, microbes, plants, etc) back to the soil to feed the grass that feeds the chickens. Someday when I die, I hope we will be sensible enough to allow my body to be returned to that same cycle. If we are not that advanced, then I hope to be cremated and have my remains sprinkled on the pastures and gardens from which I drew life.