Monday, June 9, 2008

Salmon Woe

I so enjoyed my sushi on Friday that I ordered even more last night, this time from Matsuri.  The phase of squeamishness about fish had passed; qualms about eating animals didn't even enter my mind.  I just enjoyed the surprisingly tender texture and mild taste of raw salmon and the smug knowledge that it was providing me with a good deal of protein and omega-3s.  I felt great.

And then all my good energy was quashed this morning when I got to work and looked at  Taras Grescoe, the author of the cheerfully titled Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood, had written an op-ed listing all the reasons for which it is evil to eat salmon.  There are a quite a few:  the approaching extinction of wild Pacific salmon after decades of overfishing; salmon's high price; overcrowding, disease, and parasites on salmon feedlots; unregulated nerve-deteriorating pesticides in supermarket know, complete and utter unsustainability.

Eating animals seems more and more to be a losing game.  Either the moral weight of killing an animal seems too heavy to justify the benefits of animal protein, or, in the cases in which it seems difficult to muster much moral concern for the welfare of an animal—the case of salmon, for instance—the environmental consequences are inexcusable.

Vegetarian food is by no means wholly without bad consequences, but it seems (except in a strictly literal sense) less thorny than meat.  Sure, there are pesticides and migrant workers and GMOs and greenhouse gas emissions to worry about when it comes to plants.  But somehow these problems seem dwarfed by the aggregate evils of eating animals, and somehow they seem more easily avoided by conscientious shopping, too.

Grescoe, perhaps to avoid being seen solely as a bearer of bad news, suggests putting slightly more sustainable sardines on one's bagels instead of salmon.  It's a kind offer, but I think the next time I'm at Absolute Bagels on Broadway, I'll stick with cream cheese.  Maybe even Tofutti.

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