Let’s stir the pot shall we? I can’t count the number of times I’ve had this conversation in real life and it is always vaguely frustrating and typically I try and avoid it as much as possible, so I’m not sure why I’m broaching it here.
Perhaps because I get to speak my piece uninterrupted, I am allowed the luxury of collecting my thoughts and presenting them in a way that makes sense rather than being caught off guard and blushing, stammering something about “The animals! Won’t anyone think of the ANIMALS!”.
Yes, vegetarianism is whats on the plate today (hardy har).
First, a caveat. I don’t care what you eat. Much like I don’t care who you have sex with or what hole you put it in or whether or not shoes turn you on. I’m not trying to convince you. I’m just trying to provide a comprehensive answer to anyone who has ever asked me, with that slight edge of affront in their tone, why I don’t eat meat. “Is it like, an animal rights thing or what?”.
Wherein PETA Revokes My Membership Because I State That I Do Not Believe Eating Animals Is Wrong
The idea that humans have evolved eating meat, were designed to eat meat or somehow need meat to survive is not something I’ve ever had any desire to investigate or argue about, though this is often the first line of reasoning from those wishing to convert vegetarians back to eating meat, or convince them that they are somehow doing irrevocable harm to themselves by not doing so.
We also used to eat each other, burn women as witches and draw and quarter criminals. Dredging up the cruel abuses of our past does little to influence my present behaviour.
I’m not an anthropologist, I have no idea what the hell my incisors tell me about what I have been biologically determined to eat, nor do I particularly care. It’s not the eating meat or not eating meat that’s the issue (for me).
When I first started dating Adam he would often try to scandalize me by showing me pictures of him hunting with his dad, a dead stag propped in front of his grinning 16 year old self. In the photo the eyes of the stag are glossy and unfocused, its lips twisted into what looks, eerily, like a smile. It’s not a photo I’d frame and put above our bed but I also have no problem with hunting, in fact I encourage it. I think if you’re going to eat meat, it’s the best way to do it. Become involved with the process of tracking the animal, seeing how it lives (naturally, wild, as nature intended), its habits, its presence and finally, make the decision to pull the trigger.
Recognize that you have taken life, meet the eye of the animal that becomes “meat” once it has died. Feel some sense of culpability, of gratitude that this animal, this (is it corny if I say majestic?) majestic being has died in order that you might thrive.
Because even despite his attempts to scandalize, Adam still admits that the moment after he pulled the trigger and fired that fatal shot is the worst he’s ever felt.
This is important.
And not because I hope that your guilt will prevent you from eating meat, but because it is no small thing that we are taking lives to feed ourselves. This is something bigger than a hunk of frozen matter on a styrofoam package. This process costs more than $7.99 on sale.
All Animals Are Equal. But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others
Westerners are often horrified that in some parts of the world, eating dogs or rats is acceptable. I don’t understand this. Why is eating a dog worse than eating a pig?
I believe it’s because most of us have never lived with, or even in close proximity to, a pig or a chicken or a cow. We’ve never had to see that chickens have huge personalities, or observe that pigs are smarter than dogs, or that cows are hilarious.
We have become so far removed from the food chain that we have created a convenient distinction between “Pet Animals” and “Food Animals” that allows us to disconnect, to forget that Pork used to be a Pig. Steak used to be a cow.
I always struggle to express this thought coherently, because I’m not going for shock value, I’m not trying to say, stubbornly “Well you wouldn’t eat your DOG!”. Of course you wouldn’t. What I’m interested is in why?
I’m just… I guess I’m trying to argue that the life of a pig is not worth less than the life of a dog, simply because we don’t have a culture built around anthropomorphizing pigs, naming them, buying them clothing and four poster beds and making them part of our families.
I have a feeling that if I owned a pig and came to know it, love it and recognize its moods, its distinct person-hood, I wouldn’t be able to eat it. So I don’t.
The Mechanization of Slaughter Houses and Abattoirs Is Disgusting
I’m not going to pull punches on this one. This is the facet of the argument that I feel most strongly about, that disgusts me and DOES make me want to be the worst sort of vegetarian, the one preaching and shaking my fist and shouting insistently “This is WRONG!”.
Because although I do not believe that it is inherently wrong to eat animals, creating a life filled with anguish, pain and trauma, is.
We have learned too much, advanced too much to be continuing to commit acts this barbaric.
Despite my hands-off approach to this particular debate, you will never convince me that this is in any way anything but morally reprehensible. And if you are continuing to consume meat from these producers you are culpable. Ignorance is not an excuse.
Not all food-producing animals are raised this way, not all slaughterhouses are like this, not all meat comes from these sources. But do the research. Become aware of what the living conditions were for the animal your meat used to be.
Beyond the bleeding-heart, “Animals have feelings toooooo!” line of reasoning, I also question what ingesting this sort of meat does to a person. We are aware that moods are largely regulated by chemical compounds; adrenaline, stress hormones, serotonin etc.
What effect does it have when we are ingesting flesh that has been marinating in fear and stress its entire life? Can you really tell me that has no affect on the consumer?
Slaughterhouses Harm Humans Too
This is something I had never really considered in the almost 10 years I’d been a vegetarian, until recently. Most of the investigations into slaughterhouses focus on the state of the animals- the loss of life contained within those huge steel sheds, the horrifying abuses, the mind-numbing cruelty.
But what of the workers themselves? Increasingly, studies are discovering symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among the majority of slaughterhouse employees.
It makes sense. Slaughterhouse workers see violence on a scale that is almost unimaginable to the average person. And they see it every single day.
What does it do to a person to be killing animals, 8 hours a day, every day? What parts of yourself do you have to shut off in order to get this done? How desensitized do you have to become?
We (myself included) have all gasped at those videos (much like the ones I’ve linked to above) that show workers kicking animals, stomping them to death, laughing even. These people aren’t monsters. They have been forced to separate themselves from their guilt, their compassion. The compartmentalization that identifies the animals ready for slaughter as some sort of unfeeling “other”, is necessary , otherwise their work lives would become completely untenable.
And that too, that trauma and desensitization is also unacceptable. One’s job shouldn’t inspire nightmares.
So. I’ll repeat my caveat from before this long-winded explanation. I don’t care what you eat. Truly. I just want you to KNOW what you eat. And be ok with that. If you have educated yourself about where your food is coming from and you are okay with the process and you don’t find anything objectionable, then you’re good in my books.
I’m not okay with it, so I’ve removed myself from it. This doesn’t make me a better person, just as eating meat doesn’t make you a bad person.
And there we have it. A discussion of murder on a sunny day.
Tasty, tasty murder.