I made a comment on Facebook recently. Maybe I shouldn’t have, I don’t know. I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut on some issues, I guess.
Someone posted a comment about how much she hates Michael Vick for his much-publicized dog-fighting crimes. I agree that dog-fighting, and what Vick did to the dogs who “lost”, is a heinous crime indeed.
What I don’t like is the fact that so many of the people who are outraged by Vick’s crimes are meat-eaters. To me, both activities cause unnecessary pain and suffering to animals who are capable of knowing—and therefore have a strong interest in avoiding—pain and suffering.
I mentioned that it’s hypocritical for those who eat meat to protest Vick’s actions when they contribute to a system that causes as much suffering as anything Vick ever did. My only intention was to spur some intelligent and rational thought about the logic of protesting how humans treat of one group of animals while willingly participating in the horrible treatment of another group of animals.
As is always the case with such posts, people became very defensive. One or two even said that humans have the “right” to eat other animals, as we are at the “top of the food chain.” This argument always makes me cringe.
First, what food chain? The one humans decided exists, the ones humans defined and put themselves at the top of? There is no food chain. There are, however, complex interactions in ecosystems that involve some animals consuming others. This is basic science, and I don’t disagree with it. But I fail to see what the fact that humans have a place in a complex web of relationships between all species on the planet has to do with any kind of moral justification for eating animals. I missed the link between those ideas.
The comment was also made that lions kill to eat. Again, this is basic science that I do not disagree with. Obviously, some animals do, indeed, kill other animals in order to survive, and this a profound justification for lions eating other animals. However, I fail to see how it is in any way a justification for humans eating animals. Humans are not obligate carnivores; lions are. Humans have innumerable other food sources available to them; lions do not. We cannot compare humans and lions in this way to justify humans’ meat-eating habits because there is nothing to compare.
And that is exactly what they are—habits. We do not need meat; we like it. And so many people use their love of meat to justify the way their meat is brought to them. But shouldn’t there be some reason other than enjoying the taste of flesh to justify the barbaric treatment “food” animals suffer at our hands? If we are going to take lives on this scale—as in, over 9 billion animals killed each year in North America alone, not including fish (which are, indeed, animals)—shouldn’t we have some reason other than “they taste good”?
Most people would agree, I think, that it would be wrong for someone to torture a dog or cat simply because doing so brings that person pleasure. For example, if someone thinks it is fun to light cats on fire, most of us would agree that is not morally justifiable or acceptable behaviour. We would agree that there is no good reason for someone to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on an animal. Most people would probably even extend that compassion to a cow or a pig—if someone thinks it is fun to light cows and pigs on fire, most of us would agree that anyone who could do such a thing is pretty sick and that such treatment of animals is wrong.
Yet we accept without question the daily torture of cows and pigs for no other reason than that we enjoy eating them. We don’t need to eat them; we like to eat them.
As always in discussions about eating meat, someone mentioned that she only eats “humanely slaughtered” meat. I asked her to think about that one for a minute, really think. Humane…slaughter. Most animals, given the choice, would prefer to live. They don’t want to die so that humans can eat them. We force them into terrifying situations, where they can hear others being killed, and we prod them with electrical devices when they do the sane thing and refuse to move, adequately demonstrating that they don’t want to die. We forcefully take their lives from them, and there is just no humane way to do that. Being shackled by your ankles, turned upside down (breaking limbs in the process) and having your throat slit is not humane by any stretch of even the most psychopathic imagination. Being forced into a chute to have a bolt shot into your head and your throat slit is not humane. Being gassed is not humane. Being boiled is not humane. Being smothered or crushed is not humane. These animals suffer, and I really don’t understand why people seem unable, or unwilling, to comprehend that. Is meat really worth that much to you?
One of the posters commented that she refuses to tell others what to eat. I’m not telling anyone what to eat, but I am going to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. I will tell people about what happens to these animals, because the animals deserve to have people know. They deserve better than what they are getting now, but things won’t get better for them until people know what is happening and commit to changing it.
I am aware that some see me as radical. I don’t understand this. I’ve committed to a life free of perpetrating violence on animals for my own selfish wants and desires. I’ve realized that there is no cut of meat on this earth that is worth the pain that goes into it. I’ve realized that not only do the animals suffer, but humans are hurting themselves by eating meat and other animal-derived products. I’ve realized that we are doing tremendous damage to the environment by eating meat. I’ve committed to making things better.
I’ve chosen to see the world for what it really is and refuse to be part of a brutal, violent and oppressive system, and I’m the radical? I’ve chosen not to consume the flesh of other sentient beings or the products of their bodies, which they are enslaved to provide us with, and I’m the radical? I refuse to drink milk because I am aware that cow or goat milk is for young cows and goats, not for human adults, and I’m the radical?