When someone who thought they were just an eater meets a vegetarian or vegan, they become a meat eater. They’re just eaters until a vegetarian or vegan enters the room. We are the ones defining them, and they recognize that at an implicit level.
So Living Among Meat Eaters says, “Even after you’ve recognized the structure of the absent referent, it’s not all cheery, because the world doesn’t want this, and these are the things that are going to happen.” I saw it as the practical application of the insights of The Sexual Politics of Meat. Vegetarians and vegans are seeing the literal dead animal, so we’re already more literal-minded than the average person. We get trapped in anti- vegetarian arguments because we also literally believe that people want to know about our position, but then they buffet us with ridiculous questions.
Meat eaters like to believe that they are doing what vegans do — eating humanely — without actually doing what vegans do — not eating animal products.
Meat eaters will buttonhole me demanding “What about the homeless, what about battered women?” and insist that we have to help suffering humans first. I always find this ironic: I know that this question is actually a defensive response, an attempt to re- establish the meat eater on higher moral ground than the vegetarian. In fact, only meat eaters raise this issue. No homeless advocate who is a vegan, no battered-women’s advocate who is a vegan would ever doubt that these issues can be approached in tandem. In addition, the point of my work, basically, is that we have to stop fragmenting activism; we cannot polarize human and animal suffering since they are interrelated.