This post is also about vegetarianism. I just want to add a few points to the list of parts of vegetarian orthodoxy I disagree with from the previous post.
Killing animals is the worst thing about meat
The killing is not the worst part, nor is the living in captivity per se. The species raised for food now are artificially selected for this kind of “niche”, and although we certainly torture them unnecessarily while we grow them into fryable bits, they wouldn’t lead happy lives in the wild either. The problem is that as long as species selected to be food exist, people will want to keep them immobile and just healthy enough not to be poisonous to us. The logic of limiting suffering (as opposed to keeping every animal and every species alive) says rather that we should let the animal species adapted to be raised for food go extinct.
Good hosts accomodate vegetarians
In Japan they definitely do not. The relative rarity of vegetarianism (despite it having a long history here) combined with hosts’ need to control the experience for guests down to the last detail makes someone’s revelation that they can’t (or more accurately, won’t) eat a single thing on the table incredibly awkward. Except in certain yoga-friendly circles, extravagant eating in Japan is still a matter of “look what a rare and expensive thing we killed and put in a nabe/terrine/the open air, and just for you!” The thing is, as blissfully unaware of social advances around the world as people can be in Japan, not knowing vegetarians are coming to your party and therefore not preparing anything especially for them does not make you a bad host. From what I understand of food etiquette in France, guests are supposed to accomodate the host (who after all has done all the work) rather than the other way around. Something being true about food in France doesn’t make it automatically true worldwide, but in this case I agree. I host people at various events pretty often and never like being treated as if my house/school were a restaurant and the guests were customers.
Vegetarianism is easy in Asia
Asia doesn’t have just one food culture. I’ve been to Taiwan and Thailand (incidentally, places that are just as often confused with each other in Japan as in the USA) and found vegetarianism one of many commonly found types of food. Taiwan confusingly calls their vegan cuisine 素食, read “sushi”, which also doesn’t have any garlic or onions in it. Thailand even has a vegetarian week, which we heard about only when we arrived there a week after it had ended. Japan and Korea seem to be rediscovering vegetarianism now after having forsworn it in the name of modernization in the 19th century, along with tattoos and open homosexuality. Even products here that would seem on the face of it not to need meat have it among their ingredients: potato chips, “vegetable” curry, and vitamin supplements. We once went to a restaurant specializing in a rare kind of mushroom and asked if he would prepare it somehow other than in a beef stir-fry, which was his usual method. So he stir-fried them with the beef and then took the beef out. We appreciated the effort but… yea, a lot of people here still have no idea what vegetarianism is. To sum up, food is probably healthier overall in Asia if only because corn has not completely taken over, but not because it’s vegetarian.