Rook, I think the point is not that one must personally slaughter and butcher the animals you eat, but you should be morally capable of it. If I am willing to eat a cow, I should be willing to kill it myself. That doesn't mean I have to - at this point in history most people are urban specialists, and the infrastructure for personal butchery of animals would be incredibly unwieldy, not to mention ineffecient due to wasted time - but that I could. The moral copout lies in being perfectly able to eat the meat while being unable to procure it for yourself and therefore paying others to do work you consider morally wrong in some way. It's not a viewpoint I accept, but it's one I can appreciate. I have gutted and filetted fish, but I would be morally able to kill a cow for my hamburger. For me, the important thing about eating meat or even plants is respect - the understanding that something gave its life for my nutrition, just as eventually my flesh will die and feed other things. As long as people realize the price of life, I have no problem with them eating anything.

While this is really a minor point in the United States and most of Western Civilization, the hypocrisy longwinter mentions is actually a serious religious problem in several nations. In Tibet, the butchers are almost unanimously Muslim, although they provide meat for the entire population. The Buddhist priests allow this because the Muslims are heretics who will be devoured in flames, so the state of their soul hardly matters. The not dissimilar examples of Indian dalits and Japanese burakamin shows the problems with condemning others while profiting from their work. There was an excellent science fiction story written along these lines, where the engineer in charge of sewage and waste disposal for a space station was held apart from society. For a more Western example, imagine the surgeon, the abortionist and the executioner. I wonder how many people who approve of their work would do it themselves, assuming they had sufficient knowledge, or even invite them in for dinner.