Dinner as one long moral dilemma


In case you missed it, New York Times science writer Natalie Angier did a fun piece just before Christmas about how even veganism is morally questionable as an eating strategy, now that science keeps revealing the complex ways in which plants interact with other creatures and their environment.

And lest I feel smug about my fungi-based New Year's Eve dinner, porcini in a cream sauce over pasta, in Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, Paul Stamets cites research demonstrating that slime molds are intelligent enough to figure out the shortest way through a maze in order to arrive at a meal of oat flakes.

And I'm sure we'll soon learn that oat flakes, too, possess a certain kind of intelligence, and there is nothing guilt-free about devouring them.  Do the slime molds feel bad after a good meal, too?


  1. In my opinion, the moral delimma is not in what we are eating but how it is being treated when it is alive and how it is being killed. Our bodies rely on food, and just as the animal kingdom eats other animals, so do we. It’s the cycle of life, not a morality issue. The issue comes with the manner in which so many of our animals are raised and slaughtered.

    Instead of using guilt to try and make people stop eating food that is necessary for development and health of the body and mind why do we push our efforts into working for a more humane system of producing meats, eggs, milk, and the like?

    Education, not guilt, is the way to produce true change.

  2. I personally love this topic and think about it a little too often! (For my own sanity, anyways.)

    I think it’s all about looking at the whole food chain thing… and realize that we have to fit in the chain somewhere! And I mean, not necessarily at the top either. Even though we all seem to think the top is great in other areas of life. 😉

    Okay enough ranting… thanks for bringing this topic up, I’m looking forward to reading the other comments.

  3. At the risk of getting into trouble (which I always seem to do here), I have never understood people’s need to shame others about eating. I personally consider myself vegetarian, but I enjoy seafood from time to time. I don’t get the meat-eating thing, but I never stop my husband from ordering filet mignon (it’s just not getting cooked in my kitchen).

    How we nourish our bodies is so ultra-personal, it has to be each of our own decision. I guess IMHO, I just hope it’s actually a decision people consciously make and not a mindless rote behavior.

    My 2 cents!

  4. I’m with Johnebook! My personal food mantra is: Buy simply produced and unprocessed food that has traveled the
    least distance. I also find I like buying from the local farmers that raise their animals with dignity. It’s not the most efficient way to eat and dairy, but then I don’t eat much meat and dairy to start with.

    Here’s the post where I defined my personal code for buying food: http://foyupdate.blogspot.com/2009/12/research-best-options-for-buying.html

  5. I’m with Kate and Foyupdate as well. We try to find foods grown with integrity whether they be animal/vegetable/or anything in between. And we try to find them as close to home as possible.
    I sometimes wonder if vegans realize how many cute little bunnies are mangled by the combines that harvest all the soy they eat? Most food is not death/pain free. I’m not vegetarian, but I do understand why some people choose that.

    Eating is a very personal/cultural thing, why can’t we accept other’s food heritage, whatever it may be, and maybe even learn to celebrate each other’s differences.

  6. Just think of it this way…if you had oatmeal for breakfast, those mushrooms would have followed the maze of your insides to their meal. Or something. 🙂

  7. Kate nailed it on the first comment. I tend not to comment on what people eat since that’s a personal choice. Could we all be choosing kinder and more sustainable diets? Yeah probably, but the only person who’s been living in this body for the last 30 years is me, so I’ll be making the diet decisions.

  8. You are worried about eating plants? Are you also worried about how much space yu will take up in the groud when you die?

    It’s 2010 and we continue to go down hill with the “living is endangering your life” mentality.

    The TROLL

  9. I have been tracking the mycelium (who I call the “Mother Fungus”) under my garden for about 2 years now. I have a crazy number of horrifying funfus popping up – Dog Vomit Slime Molds, Netted Stinkhorns, Common Stinhorns, Devil’s Dipstick (a true horror) and assorted puffballs. I can tell you that the Mycelium has some sort of rudimentary brain – the placement of the fungi is so odd, and so frequent, that I SWEAR it is playing a practical joke on me.
    (re-reading this comment, I realize I sound completely insane, but I am posting this anyway, to inform the gardening masses. BEWARE THE MOTHER FUNGUS)

  10. I’m a long time member of PETA – People EATING Tasty Animals. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, fine, that’s your choice. Key word: CHOICE. I don’t want a vegetarian telling me what to eat anymore than a vegetarian would like someone berating them for giving up meat. I love salads, vegetables, fruit, grains of various sorts (breads, pastas, rice, porridges), nuts, seeds and fungi, but I also love my meat from air, land and sea.

  11. Only the well off can dither about food choises. Much of the world does not have this luxery, they just are scrambl;ing for sustance.

  12. Wow, the assumption seems to be that because I posted this, I am a food prig! Au contraire. I love to cook and would find the constraints of vegetarianism almost intolerable.

    My friend and neighbor–a hobby farmer–raises most of my meat, and he and his wife could not be kinder to it while it’s alive.

    But that doesn’t mean that when I encounter a pig in its pen and watch it enjoy a summertime bath with the hose, that I don’t feel a bit bad about my intense love of a ham and bean dish.

    Science seems to be heading in one direction: every creature on the planet has some kind of intelligence that previous generations of humans never even guessed at.

  13. Fruitarians are the current winners, obviously.

    And tibs is right — aren’t we lucky that we can worry this much about these things? One of my pet peeves is celebrity chef glamourising “peasant food.” There’s nothing glamourous about being poor.

  14. My husband, not a vegetarian, has long been a proponent of Vegetable Rights. Whenever someone smugly mentions he is a vegetarian, my husband glares at them and says, “What about the broccoli, mate?” I think we all have to face the fact that nature is red in tooth and claw, and we all do the best we can. How about an organization PETAR – People Eating Tasty Animals Respectfully?

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