i should start by saying that neither in practice nor in principle am i a vegetarian myself. but i am very close. in practice, i haven't been a big meat eater for many years. for this there are several reasons, but in the beginning the main one was simply economic: meat is expensive, and i have never been a man of tremendous means. as luck would have it though, i grew up in a town for which green vegetables were the economic life blood and learned to appreciate them early. that is probably why, when i came into contact with vegetarians in my salad days, even if i didn't adhere to their ideas entirely i didn't dismiss them out of hand as most do. and also why i never felt any great hardship in not eating meat daily. in the past ten years, for a variety of reasons not only ecological or ethical, those three or four times a week became two, then one, then on occasions rarer and rarer. when i stopped eating kebabs before football matches, about all that was left was a couple of barbecues each summer and christmas dinner. in principal, i can understand the strict vegan or hindu ethos, i do not share it. i don't equate animal life to human. but i don't have to to be convinced that the way we in the west produce and consume meat is very wrong in many ways. meat is not always murder. but usually, in our society at least, it is much worse. one of my favorite quotes from lévi-strauss is: "a well-ordered humanism puts the world before life, life before man, and respect of others before love of self". here i'll do things backwards, following the methods rousseau uses in his emile and talk about rights before obligations, so the obvious first question to answer about vegetarianism is: what's in it for me? we like to say "when you've got your health"... but we know we don't really mean it, so let's start with money. people in france (everywhere i supposed) are always on about their buying power, about the difficulty of making ends meet; our family doesn't have the same problem as friends and relatives in like circumstances, and we have the same mortgages, clothes, amenities and entertainments. we only do two things differently: 1) we almost never use the car and 2) we eat almost no meat. look into your own budgets for proof of what i'm saying. health is a negligable aspect compared to wealth, but let's consider it anyway. just as for tobacco or global warming, there have been all kinds of studies about nutrition over the years. of course there are many factors to consider: the type of meat, the condition of its raising, cooking methods, our own heredity, etc., that make it impossible to generalize but my personal conclusion is that grosso modo, meat is just as bad for you as alcohol, cigarettes or heroin. after love of self comes respect for others. one of the basic respects we can show to them is to let them have enough to eat. here again i can rely on no one definitive study to back me up, and the figures i've seen vary wildly, but it is impossible to deny in good faith that producing meat wastes sizeable amounts of vegetable foodstuffs and water in a world where these are not in unlimited supply. one doesn't need to know the exact percentage of the world's grains and soybeans that go to putting meat on our american and european plates to argue that it is excessive; a whole range of words including selfish, inequitable, unjust... can apply. those most callous can stop at inappropriate, the most radical may see fit to use genocidal. behind the amounts are the methods; like many other commodities that end up one way or another on our tables, cattle feed has been forced onto the southern hemisphere as a cash crop to the detriment of their old methods of farming; an evolution that many argue is a prime reason for their growing poverty and hunger. there's another aspect i would like to squeeze into respect for others: pythagoras is quoted as saying "as long as men kill animals, they will kill each other". albert einstein's reasoning for espousing vegetarianism was not the effect it had on our physical health but upon our temperament. i'm skeptical about the hypothesis that the consumption of meat can have any great hormonal effect on our behavior, but it's seems likely to me that violence towards animals inures us to violence towards men. i will not claim the life of a cow chicken or pig is worth a human life, or even one hundredth or one thousandth of one. but if it is worth something, the cruelty with which we raise and slaughter animals, which isaac bashevis singer called an eternal treblinka is indefensible, and unworthy of any people who think themselves civilized. in this i join many of us who have thought themost clearly, from da vinci to franklin to thoreau to darwin to lincoln to schweitzer to edison to einstein but the citaion that sticks in my mind is gandhi: the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by its treatment of animals. of course not all great minds agree on this issue: on the other side there's andy rooney. the code of rural law in france and in europe says animals are not objects but sentient beings. inthis they follow the father of utilitarianism jeremy bentham who was thinking not only of animals but of beings many in his day considered subhuman, indians and negro slaves, when he said: "the question is not can they reason, or can they talk, but can they suffer". now it might be casuistry to say that what we are willing to do to animals one day we will do to jews or people with red hair the next. but the limits of our humanity being flexible, i think it is safer to keep its circle pressing outwards to avoid it collapsing inwards. finally (relieved? no more than i!) the world. factory farming is apparently as responsible for as great a quantity of greenhouse gasses as transportation. and as anyone who has been to rural brittany knows, hyperintensive leads to very dangerous pollution of land and groundwater. not to mention the smell. imagine being at the beach, right next to a sardine cannery, without a farm within miles, and all you can smell is pig excrement. whew! now i remember why i didn't want to start this thread!