Why can we care and yet not care at the same time?

Today, at my favorite environmental economics blog (oh yes it is…), I saw a picture of a robin’s nest. My guess is that the proud photographer didn’t really put the picture there because it is his best wildlife shot ever (sorry, John…), but because he genuinely cares about those birds that are hatching in his garden. However, my guess also is that John, at the same time, is not a vegetarian (right or wrong, John?). How are these two positions reconcilable?

Now, I want to immediate add that I have a hard time not eating sausages at BBQs, or saying no to meat if it is placed on the menu. It is just like saying no to the second beer after having drunk the first… However, when two birds fell out of their nest yesterday in my garden, I was trying to save them, even though I directly knew they were most likely too young to survive and too hurt to live another day. Again – how can this be that we seem to care about some animals, or some humans, and yet not care at all about others?

Again, I refer to the book `Man’s search for meaning‘. The author writes that in the most dangerous moments, one always tried to save oneself and maybe a close friend. But one very well knew that for every person saved another would die. While I do understand this to be the case for extreme situations like concentration camps or life-and-death situations, the same reasoning can clearly not be applied to everyday situations like the one above. Especially since no cow will have to die if noone eats meat…

My guess is that a large part of the reason for which still so many people actually eat meat is that most of the meat is highly processed these days. Imagine you’d have to kill yourself the cow whose meat you’d want eat. Would you do it? Certainly I wouldn’t. I know many who wouldn’t. In fact I even hypothesize that most wouldn’t.

Now, given that meat consumption should be decreased in order to meet the food needs in the future, and given that society may see the need to have a social change towards a more holistic system of moral values, it is important to remind meat consumers of what is going on behind the scenes. I start:

Then: Bon appétit!

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