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Those Ignorant Hicks Ruin Everything

I recently had a little argument that started when someone — no, I'm not going to say who, except to say a respected scientist who may have been in Boulder too long — announced that if people really knew how meat was produced, they'd think twice about eating it.

That struck me as both arrogant and odd. I grew up on a cattle ranch; later in life, I cut meat for money. I'm pretty clear on the process from bull covering cow, to bull calf, to steer, to feedlot, to abattoir, to butcher. So my immediate reaction was "heh, city folks."

My second reaction, almost as immediate, was to be annoyed.

The truth is that the people who actually do know from childhood how meat is produced are the least likely to have qualms about it. It's the people who grow up thinking meat comes from the meat factory on a styrofoam tray, already wrapped in cling film, who never thought about the connection between steer on the hoof and steak on the table.

Now, if one of these city kids then decides they're against meat and want to be vegetarian — or vegan, even — it's no problem for me. I was a vegan for some months (and yes, a woman was involved) and a vegetarian for about six years for various reasons, and was perfectly happy as an ovo-lacto vegetarian. Your body, your choice, as they say.

What annoyed me was the subtext, the underlying apparent motivation of the speaker, which pretty clearly could be summed up as "If those ignorant hicks only knew, they'd agree with me."

This attitude, that the issue in any dispute isn't a difference in opinion but just invincible ignorance, seems to me to underly a whole lot of the arguments we have politically today, and an awful lot of time it's an unfounded assumption. It seems to me it's the people who didn't know where meat comes from who get outraged by the cruelty of it — although they'll watch The Lion King and sing about the Circle of Life and never think twice about it. Just the other day, there was an essay by Karin McQuillan about being outside the defensible perimeter of the United States, explaining why guns could be essential household tools and maybe, just maybe, better border controls would be good. There was Jimmy Carter of the 55 MPH speed limit, who figured no one needed to drive faster than that but didn't consider those ignorant hicks who saw it turn a 30-minute drive to the nearest grocery store into nearly an hour. All of them seem to be based on the hidden assumption that people are ignorant hicks who must be protected and made to think the right thoughts.