Defining Animal Suffering and the Limits of Science

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***Note****

I had a hard time writing this article, for several reasons.

 First, the subject matter is naturally heartbreaking and I had to admit to myself not being strong enough to visualize the almost incalculable number of ways in which we torture and harm animals. This also gave me more reason and strengthened my resolve in writing.

Second, the search for materials on the subject yielded an overwhelming number of books, articles, opinion pieces and scientific research, an amount that would take several lifetimes to tackle in its totality. I soon decided to continue writing my own notions and consult the literature whenever I felt it was properly needed. Moreover and more interestingly, the barrage of material only seldom dealt directly with animal suffering, and would only lightly touch on the subject from various aspects, such as neurological anatomy, ethology, biology etc. I give my suspected reason for this lack within the article.

 Lastly, since the scope of animal psychology is potentially vast but still in its nascent stages, I had to confine myself to very obvious observations. More detail is sadly needed and I might expand on this in the future. Similarly challenging was the multitudinous variety of living organisms that we call “animals”. In many cases, I tried to make clear which group or class I was referring to, yet at times, often when comparing and equating animal behaviors to those of humans, I would particularly concern only the mammalian animals.

***I do not own the rights to any of the images, and have tried to credit their sources to the best of my knowledge. If you are the owner of an image and want me to take it down, I will remove it****

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  1. Defining Pain
  2. The Limits of Science
  3. Nerves, Nociception and Neural Density
  4. Suffering in Animals
  5. Measuring Physical Pain
  6. Psychological Suffering in Animals
  7. The Denial of Suffering and of Animal Understanding
  8. Solutions – Legal, Educational
[Jeremy Bentham on animal suffering. Source: peta.org.uk]

There is a need to define animal suffering.

Mankind could only place animals in slaughter chambers, lock them within torturous confinements and research labs, once they became being desensitized to animal wellbeing. That is, once they have grown to believe that animals are incapable of experiencing pain in the same way that people do. That is, that animals feel their own pain as more of a fleeting sensory experience; that they do not have a scope for suffering, as humans define it.

The goal of understanding and defining animal suffering therefore begets from its onset two unique problems: one, can we assess pain in an objective way in any organism? And two, can we use the human concepts we have for suffering and relate them to other animals?

I will attempt to answer both of these questions to the best of my abilities.

Since animal welfare has been and still is to a great extent a stifled field of study, research that wholly corroborates different assertion is very much lacking. Nevertheless, I will attempt to use the theoretical knowledge existing in scientific literature and where need be, step out of science and into the realm of experience and common sense, to make lucid what humankind has known for millennia and forgotten only recently. That is, that animals share humanity’s ability for pain, for suffering, and therefore deserve being treated accordingly by humans. I will propose a scale on which to objectively assess animal pain, as well as human pain, since none is currently agreed upon.

Defining Pain

Humans are inherently emphatic. Realizing joy or misery in others usually strikes as with those very same feelings within ourselves.

Seeing someone in pain can hurt us if we let it. This goes just the same for animals.

Humans can relate to nonhuman animals, and it appears that in this sense, empathy is shared among many species in nature, who offer cross species commiserating, playtime and what to the observant eye will appear as a form of sensed understanding.

Examples of animals who took in orphaned animals from other species are found in abundance. The mythical founding of Rome is based on the not so mythical act of a feral animal revealing its motherly side to be empathic for outsiders. Humans at times care for other animals as if they were their own kin, as pet owners many times refer to their dogs or cats as their children.

While cynics and skeptics often consider this to be “unnatural”, it is in fact the face of empathy, and it is so natural that many of us have been conditioned to disregard it.

The ability to torture animals and treat them as “automatons”, as Renee Descartes defined them, is made possible only due to an increasing process of forgetting and detachment that results in relinquishing our own place in nature.

David Abram eloquently revealed how humanity has estranged itself from nature and thus from its own origins and home. In his book The Spell of the Sensuous he analyzes how progressive man has historically and philosophically lost himself within his own thoughts and symbols, until he successfully managed to see the world around it as foreign and brutal.

Abram manages to show how mankind’s unique forms of expressions, namely language and tools, are devices that at once create an estrangement from nature, but at the same time reveal our inevitable place within and dependence upon the natural world. Drawing from philosophers like Maurice Merleau-Ponto and Martin Heidegger, Abram reveals how human language emerged from our primal sense of space and from realizing and coming to terms with our own physical presence in the world. Abram’s historical research of the origins of language reveals how it emerges in humans of many different cultures, first as an unfolding of natural expression, and then over time becomes for humans an instrument of used to conceal nature and to try and surpass it.

Language, as Abram reveals, is a symbolic mechanism which has turned from an instrument for humans to communicate and express themselves, to a symbolizing mechanism which alters our ability to see the world. Language creates ideals and detaches us from the actual thing that we see. For instance, saying to someone “I feel pain” conveys the message of our sensations, but it has little power to move someone to empathy as the guttural cry we might unleash or our tears when sensing pain.

Following these notions, I believe that language has replaced many of our sensed, felt and experience knowledge of our surroundings with conceptual structures, made completely from the symbols in our won brain. Our ability to sense and empathize with others has been replaced by surrogate mental images, and has, over time, undermined our ability to perceive with our intuiting bodies. This, I believe, is the historic and cultural process of losing our ability to empathize , which has led to relating to non human creatures as automatons.

I claim that animal torture is made possible for humans due to the facilitating of an underlying perception, which regards animals as lacking the ability to sense pain in the same way that human beings feel it. In other words we consider them as incapable of suffering. It is the only thing that makes us able to forgo our drive for empathy and replace it with indifference.

Suffering in common parlance combines the unpleasant exposure to both physical and psychological pain. It is because of this anthropocentric word that humans have excluded any organism that is not an exact physical and mental replica of themselves from the select group of beings who are perceptive and responsive to pain altogether.

We have somehow grown to believe that we alone are capable of suffering, since we are equipped with superior brain functions. This delusion is held all too readily nowadays, with many believing it is necessary or inevitable to kill animals for sustenance.

In a previous article, I claimed that humanity cultivates the notion of extreme apathy to the slaughtering of animals in the meat farming industry, as a remedy to its own guilt for killing animals. I have decided there as well to regard empathy for other creatures as natural and a-historic. It occurred to me then, that the ability to disregard suffering was a key element in our ability to sustain the torturing and brutalizing of other living beings through such a long period of time.

The time has come to reveal suffering and pain, first as characteristics of all living multi-celled organisms; and second, as an objective and classifiable sensation.

The limits of Science

The entry for ‘pain’ in Wikipedia illustrates a picture of a scientific community whose conception of pain is surprisingly indecisive and outdated.

While progress in brain and nerves medicine in the last decades has revealed a great deal about physical pain’s actual form and its unfolding route within living organisms, the science of measuring pain is still very much fumbling in the dark and even denies the possibility for achieving an objective assessment of painful sensations.

With pain being one of the closest and most basic sensations we know, this inability may possibly open up the realm of scientific ineptness. It is, as I will claim, an indication of the politicization of science, in that humans mostly employ it to fields that concern them and them alone.

The scientific study of pain generally assumes that since people react subjectively different to pain, it must be impossible to objectively measure pain.

Examples for this ineptness are frustratingly glaring in the case of measuring physical pain. One instance is the attempt to gauge different women’s responses to labor pains by burning their hands with a lighter in between contractions and asking them how these sensations compared.

The working assumption today is that if an individual reports they are in pain, we should take their word for it and treat accordingly.

These assumptions obviously make the practice of doctors and nurses very hard. Cases where this working guideline fails are instantly abundant. Reports of pain can be exaggerated, a quest for pain killers or drugs, they can be a psychological call for help or a hallucination.

The reverse is also true. Not reporting pain by an individual could hide the truth of an ailment. Add to this the existence of SEPA (genetic condition making a person unable to sense pain); or the cultural and ethnic effects of susceptibility to pain; or the fact that many humans, such as toddles, disabled people and injured people are many times incapable of expressing their pain accurately, and you will see the need for a more, well, scientific working criteria and usable scales for pain. All of this before discussing pain in animals.

Has science failed with assessing pain? Is pain simply not interesting enough for scientists to explore? Is science inadequate for the job, and should we search for ways of measuring pain somewhere else?

I think not.

Science has been surprisingly sluggish in creating calculable techniques for what it has known for a very long time; which is, that pain and many of our other physical sensations are carried through the fibers running through our body and connecting out innermost organs with the outside world, and allowing us to experience it on all sensory aspects – our nerves.

Nerves, Nociception and Neural Density

The surprising thing about the inability to measure pain is that scientists do know exactly through which pathways the body translates outer sensations to the form of inner physical discomfort, or pain. They also know what causes pain to be painful.

It is through our nerves, a very objective and accessible body part, that we experience pain as such.

Since the advancements of Spanish Neuroscientist Ramon y Cajal in the 19th century in revealing the branch-like structure of neuronal pathways, the nerve system has been widely explored, mainly in human beings.

[The branch-like structure of nerve fibers as illustrated by Ramon y Cajal. Source: Wikipedia Commons]

Mapping the nerve system has led to the foundational understanding of the relation between our bodily sensations and the linkage between the nerve ends in our body (all 7 trillion of them), our spinal cord and our brain.

When these nerve endings are stimulated to a damaging degree or effect, we feel a type of pain categorized as nociceptive. These are pains are created by such immediate harms as cuts, bruises, blows, stings, burns, i.e. sharp pains and local; yet some nociceptive pain can be more dull and spread over a broader region of the body, such as sprains  and minor burns.

Scientists classify pain into 4 categories, or types:

  • Nociceptive: a physical pain, often local (such as bruises, burns, cuts, fractures etc.)
  • Neuropathic:  damage or disease of the nervous system (sensations of burning,  stabbing, tingling and the likes)
  • Nociplastic – Like Nociception but without evidence for a source of pain (like fibromyalgia)
  • Psychogenic- pain caused by mental, emotional and behavioral causes (like headaches, back pain, stomach pain, but also all emotional distress pains, from heartbreak to hysteria)

Since the nervous system appears unquestionably responsible for the creation, the sensing and the prolonging of pain in humans, it would seem wise to look at animals’ nervous system and objectively use it to compare their capability for pain. This will lead us to understand whether certain animals meet the criteria thought by humans to be exclusively theirs, for being able to suffer.

Suffering in Animals

There are several reasons to assume that animals not only feel pain similarly or exceedingly to humans, but that they possess the unfortunate potential for suffering.

Slaughtered animals raised for their meat go through these events in their life:

Being shoved, pushed and beaten; being crammed with no space to move; being denied of the feeling of the sun and its nourishment and warmth; being forcefully fed; being mutilated in various body parts like chopping your facial organs and ligament ends to prevent you from scratching and clawing; being fed until you are unable to move properly; being incarcerated and forced to live inside your own excrement; developing sicknesses; being electrocuted; if you’re female there’s being raped repeatedly; and then there’s giving birth and your new born being taken away from you immediately; being forced into tinier compartments; suffocating; being finally tied and raised from your legs and hoisted into the air; having your throat cut and bleeding until you can no longer breath.

These are just some of the misery that meat factory animals have to go through.

There are other countless atrocities that humans commit and inflict upon animals in leather and fur factories, laboratory animals used for testing of all sorts, from pharmaceutical drug testing, cosmetic testing to tobacco and toxins testing; by hunters and poachers, by people in the entertainment industry, from circuses to movies who exploit animals of all kinds; there are race tracks and exotic trade markets and countless other uses in which men use and abuse their neighbor life forms.

While to many this is enough to throw their hands in the air and believe that it is the way of the world, I believe many today are rising to a new understanding, evidenced mostly by the rise in the interest in veganism and stopping animal consumption throughout the world, a form of quiet protest.

[Increase in worldwide searches for ‘veganism’ since 2004-now. Source: Google Trends]

The use of animals by human beings reveals humans’ shameful hypocrisy in treating animals.

On the one hands, we use animals for tests of products intended for ourselves, for people, as in laboratory experiment for drug trials.

Yet, we are unwilling to admit that animals have the same capacity for pain and suffering as humans do. For if we would – this would deny us of our guilt-free ability to treat them as our prisoners, as inanimate objects available for our every whim.

This in a nutshell is human cowardice. We would vindicate torture, rape and cruelty by labeling them as ‘scientific’ if we only thought that it will save our own skin from harm.

Measuring Physical Pain

I do not suggest throwing out science and its research out the door.

Science as a system of thought has the great merit of the capability to change in accordance to the world. Since reality is always a matter of change, this feature elevates science to one of the best systems for coping with life that mankind has achieved.

Nevertheless it has many shortcomings, the greatest in my idea is the opposite of changeability which is idealism.

Science’s mechanism is many times observational, yet its language of expression is mathematical. These are incommensurable methods, since mathematics is an idealized form, one which seldom exists in nature (there are few “exact” things in the world that are not created by man. Math’s most fundamental law, A=A, is almost nowhere to be found in nature).

So, if scientific rigor can map out the workings of the nervous system and its link to the sensation of pain, we might as well continue and classify all animals based on their capability for pain – i.e., based on the complexity of their nervous system.

[Neuronal complexity in living beings. Source: Peter Waldhous (2015) via Wikipedia]

Science’s slow progress in measuring pain has to do with its quest for finding absolutes. And unfortunately in the assessment of pain even in human beings, that endeavor is not possible.

Reported pain, as we have seen, is skewed and perceived differently by people due to various factors, which at times includes even their ethnicity. Hoe can scientists assess pain in animals?

I claim that, while this bafflement indeed characterizes modern science’s notions regarding the evaluation of pain in nonhuman organisms, it is quite literally a copout.

For scientists have no problem whatsoever using other living beings and equating them to humans when it suits projects.

For example, if scientists are adamant about testing human medicine on animals, why can’t the comparison work in reverse? If animals have a similar mechanism for the appearance of side effects as do humans, we can surely expect a similar sensation of pain from them.

From Wikipedia, List of Animals by number of Neurons (emphasis mine):

“it has been suggested that the total number of neurons in the pallium or its equivalents may be the best predictor of intelligence when comparing species, being more representative than total brain mass or volume, brain-to-body mass ratio, or encephalization quotient (EQ). [1] It may thus be reasonably assumed that the total number of neurons in an animal’s corresponding sensory-associative structure strongly relates to its degree of awareness, breadth and variety of subjective experiences, and intelligence.”

Classifying animals based on neuronal density as a measure for their sensitivity to pain is so reasonable that it seems implausible that it wasn’t already done.

Yet no scale for animal susceptibility to pain is available, which begs the question whether outer forces, commercial and political are at play.

Nevertheless, we can extract the information from the neuronal classification of organisms that is available everywhere and suggest our own scale, as tentative and informal as it may be.

The non-sensitive – Fungi and plants.

Since organisms from the flora and fungi kingdoms have no nerve endings, they are incapable of feeling pain. This does not deny that they “die out” when cut away from their source of nourishment, but it does mean that they don’t feel it as anything like pain or suffering.

So, despite the act of severing their life supply by plucking or picking fruit from trees or their roots, they do not sense immediate pain the same way that we do. 

This could answer arguments by carnivore apologists who claim that plants feel pain too and so they have the “right” to kill and eat animals.

The Least Sensitive – Insects and Bugs

With the tiny Tardigrade starting the list of known organisms with nerve cells, with 200 neurons, insects take up the majority of the list’s bottom, reaching up to 1,000,000 neurons with the common cockroach.

Does having 1,000,000 neurons in comparison to Humans’ 10 billion or so means that they are 10,000 times less capable for pain than we are? It might be a stretch, yet I would argue that we might indeed utilize this list for the comparison.  

You might note that the list is indiscriminate of size, with ravens having a whopping 20 billion neurons in their brains and Orca whales topping the list with 43 billion, roughly twice as many as humans’ neuronal count.

Psychological Suffering in Animals

A theme of this article has been the failure of science to convey any wisdom regarding even our most intimate sensations.

An entire area of experience which science has not yet fathomed is psychology – a field which contains thousands of descriptions for emotions, feelings and sensations that we grasp with on a daily basis, and yet are all considered unsound by the standards and mathematical language of science.

Most humans would not dream of saying that suffering does not exist, simply because it is immeasurable.

Heartbreak, lust, envy, regret, anger, rage, as well as joy, laughter, exhilaration, love and pride, are all part of our experience and we can all relate to them in a semi-objective way; that is we each know what other people are feeling when they describe their feelings in these terms.

And since Freud, human emotions were granted the legitimacy of being investigated, systematized, even quantified in an endeavor which may have not received the stamp of hard sciences, but nevertheless has acknowledged their existence and scope.

It might not come as a surprise, then, that scientific language only begins accepting certain experiences after they become powerfully manifested and voiced by people in dominant cultures.

Animals, unfortunately for them, speak in many voices but it seems that mankind is choosing to deafen its ears to those voices and cries.

This muting is only possible due to man’s confining his consciousness within his created symbols and his estrangement from his own animal nature.

In reality, man’s emotions have nothing particularly unique about them. I claim that human emotions are as animalistic as our susceptibility to pain.

Psychological pain is the aspect of discomfort that can be defined as “suffering”.

Yet, it is often wrongly perceived as a uniquely human trait that involves the higher interpretative faculties of our advanced new cortex.

I would like to distinguish between such reflective and analytic constructions that are a part of psychological pain, and the emotional, instinctive, psychosomatic (bodily) sensation of psychological pain.

The erroneous conflating of these categories under the notion of “suffering’ has caused humans, I claim, to insist that psychological pain is a phenomenon which only pertains to people.

In other words, we were led to believe that since animals do not have reflexive abilities as we do, that they are incapable of identifying their own pain as anything more than momentary, or physical; that they have no emotions or feelings, since they do not reflect on them as we do, and that their pain cannot linger into the form of misery and suffering.

This is wrong both factually and logically.

Factually, various animals are known to exhibit emotions clearly and distinctively, in both behavior and actions. Ethology, the science of studying animal behavior reveals many examples of emotional expressiveness in many different organisms.

As observed by ethologists, animals have their own mechanisms for symbolizing.

Konrad Lorenz revealed how certain behaviors become engrained symbolicaly in a group of animals’ existence in a process which he referred to as a ‘ritualization’; a sort of primal patterned language.

Animals such as geese display mimicking or unique gestures to convey the notion of victory in combat, of laying eggs, of their place in a group’s hierarchy and other motions convey a sort of symbolic awareness. This awareness indicates the ability to indeed attach reflectivity to emotions, or at least to physical sensations, in a fashion that reminds us of our own sensibilities.

Even logically, believing that animals are incapable of suffering is a willful blindness to their basic animalistic nature.

The desire of a mother to nurture her newborn is innate, basic and required for her physical wellbeing based solely on bodily changes to her organismic functions during the time of carrying, from lactating to hormonal changes. Removing baby calves from their mothers in the dairy industry is an atrocious act of denying a living organism its basic bodily rights, similar to shutting his air tract.

Emotional suffering exists without reflective consciousness. It is in a lingering and persistence of felt pain, discomfort and unrest and the denial of any possibility for its release.

[Mark Twain. Source: peta.org.uk]

As I am writing this a strange notion makes itself possible.

I suspect that humans have felt that locking and torturing animals is somehow acceptable or tolerable because we are in some way testing animals to see if they will exhibit human like responses to their pain.

On a primordial level, we are expecting animals to “level up” and are waiting for them to be able to express themselves in a language that we understand.

This might also reflect a deeply rooted animosity we feel towards animals for their mirroring of our own inability to understand them.

Perhaps this is only felt by western and industrialized people nowadays, who have grown apart of the natural world to an extent of not even thinking about it as cohabitating the earth. Yet, on a fundamental level, we might feel it is justified to torture someone if they do not tell us (in our own language) to stop.

This might seem silly, but I feel that humans have been led to believe that language signifies our ability to know more than nature, and so animals who do not know our language have no ability to know what’s good for them. That is, just like we will engage in painful and unnatural actions, like surgery, vaccinations etc. to prevent pains, we have convinced ourselves that other organisms simply do not know better since they lack the language to say so.

In light of this, it is quite possible that we disregard animal psychological and emotional pain since, in our own human western culture, we try to deny misery and suffering ourselves.

We try to cure any bad emotions with pills and therapy sessions, believing bad feeling are an ailment.

Contrarily, we do not even know how to cure most chronic pains, and our elderly population is left to spend its last decades mostly in quiet agony, awaiting death.

The Denial of Suffering and of Animal Understanding

We have mostly excluded death from our vocabularies, along with old people. Denying animals of this right to be defended against suffering reflects greatly on humanity’s inability to deal with emotional pain.

We have come to believe that animals are incapable of emotional suffering, in a way, since we have grown to deny it of ourselves. And just like with testing pharmaceutical drugs on animals, we humans choose to project our fears on other organisms instead of facing them bravely.

The idea that animals are automatons, as was contended by Descartes, is a reflection of man’s aspiration to be above pain; of his belief of the possibility to become rid of suffering and in some way his desire to levitate above earthly misery.

There is no wonder, then, that the most poignant argument for animals being subservient to man’s whims is in the religious book of Genesis.

In early man’s attempts to explain his place in the universe he must have been devastated for not being able to comprehend the language of animals.

The story of the expulsion from paradise might be read as mankind’s inability to understand the language of animals, or more accurately man’s need to listen to his inner voice, or ego, and not to the talk of the animal world.

The snake starts as a compatriot of Adam and Eve, sharing a common tongue with them, yet after both proto-humans listen to the animal instead of God, they are punished. It is interesting that they are both punished explicitly with suffering and sensing misery, while the snake is only cursed to dwell in the dirt and be killed by humans by bashing its head.

And so, in Genesis 3:

16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

The idea that animals are not part of this sorrow and that this sensation is only applicable to our human conscious is deeply linked to the fear of animals turning from friends into strangers capable of killing.

[Jacopo da Ponte Bassano – Garden of Eden. 1573. Source: Wikipedia Commons]

This fear is depicted in the Garden of Eden story. It is a story explaining the loss of connection with the animal world and in so doing, the detachment from its many voices and the punishment of having to be subordinate and listen to an inner voice. This is a true expulsion from paradise.

To the religious, God governs animals as well and ordains them to live in subordination. However, and more surprisingly, the secular modern man and woman have grown to treat their ego, or mind as a similar type of Godlike voice, which is denied of animals and therefore sets them apart from humanity in a similar fashion.

In this estrangement from the natural world, few religious or secular sects have been able to reestablish the correspondence between man and animals. Of those who have maintained the connection I can think of the Pythagoreans in the classical world and of Jainism nowadays.  

The ability to sense psychological pain reveals that animals can be mentally and emotionally broken down. Taking away natural behaviors, like the feeding of babies, roaming freely outside, grazing and just being out in the sun are all forms of suffering that alas, even humans can understand.

Solutions – Legal, Educational

If the density of the nervous system is indeed the objective measure for pain, the ability to comprehend animal pain and compare it to our own perceived pain becomes feasible.

It is time to set the legal grounds for the assessment of animal suffering, relying on the rules we have already created specifically with humans in mind, and define them as governing animals of certain classifications. These are urgent and immediate actions we must take:

  1. We must introduce the universal scale for pain into our courts and legal system, and we must categorize different organism at various stages of neural development as a measure of susceptibility to pain. This measure would account for the age of the organism, from birth, to adulthood and onto old age. It will acknowledge animals as living beings who, through no fault of their own, are being used by humans.
  2. This categorization will have to enter drastic changes into the way we have grown accustomed to treating animals. Since dogs, for instance, display the same mental abilities of a two year old human child, they need to receive the same legal rights as does the human child. That means to immediately ban the eating of dogs in eastern countries like China and Korea; to ban the use of dogs as laboratory test subjects for the cosmetic industry or the pharmaceutical industry; to raise the punishment for dog murderers to a life sentence in prison; breeders, and people running “puppy mills” will be subjected to the strictest requirements, ending the use of breeding pets for profit.  With the heightened requirements for canine rehabilitation and nurture, local municipalities will be given grants by the government to spay and neuter strays to prevent an outgrowth of the dog population.
  3. Other animals will receive care and judicial protection based on their category for pain and suffering tolerance on the scale. Factories for raising farm animals for their meat would be mandated to meet the requirements for basic biologic necessities, or else terminated.

To some futuristically inclined researchers, my suggestion would seem to have come too late.

David Pearce, the advocate for trans-humanism, claims that we are close to developing the mental tools for being satisfied without any consumption of meat, or utilization of animals.

His notion of hedonism eliminating our need for meat consumption seems to me to be romanticizing technology.

As many futurists often forget, mankind normally does not keep up with the advancement of its technologies, and isn’t morally advanced enough to use them for the bettering of the planet.

More often than not, we use every new technology to amplify and enhance our most basic and primeval of traits.

The consumption of meat, I would assume, allows people to release the anger and frustration within them in the form of gnawing of flesh. I think a pill would not extinguish this desire, at least not in the foreseeable future. 

Beyond legislative changes, an educational change is desperately needed.

Yet this is not a curriculum change, or a shallow change to be incorporated in mere public schooling.

This must be a statewide legislative duty for parents, teachers and people who are responsible for the socialization of children, to show them around nature and introduce them to as many other animals as possible from an early age.

With the industrial revolution, something has been robbed of us which was our natural yearning and need for conviviality with our natural surroundings.

With our own surroundings becoming commodified, most western countries are in grave danger of becoming similar to Japan; a hyper technologic, bleak and alienated society with a currently negative birth rate and ever increasing death by suicide.

The torturing of animals is the forgetting of nature. It is mankind’s getting lost and stranded outside the basic elements of his creation, to an endless imaginative space within his own mind.

Ernest Becker has researched this vastness of imagination in his immortal book, The Denial of Death. He claimed that man’s ability for endlessness has deemed his plight in the world to be existentially impossible.

Man futilely tries to achieve endless greatness and merit in the world, while rejecting the limited and ending nature of both the world he inhabits and his own life.

Understanding our own mortality, through the connection with the natural world, I believe, will be the philosophical framework suitable for finally ending man’s use of animals and causing them suffering.

[George Bernard Shaw. Source: peta.org.uk]

Bibliography:

Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous. 1996 – in Amazon

Becker, Ernst. The Denial of Death. 1973 – in Amazon

The Bible, King James Version.

Online Sources:

The Nervous System :

Free Nerve Endings – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_nerve_ending

Parts of the Nervous System in Dogs – https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders-of-dogs/parts-of-the-nervous-system-in-dogs

Important Nerves in the Human Body and what they do – https://www.northeastspineandsports.com/important-nerves-in-the-body-and-what-they-do/

Nerves and Nerve Ending in the Skin of Tropical Cattle – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/76410/

List of Animals by Number of Neurons – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animals_by_number_of_neurons

Nervous System – http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Nervous_system

Nervous System (Organismal Biologu) – https://organismalbio.biosci.gatech.edu/chemical-and-electrical-signals/nervous-systems/

How are Brain Mass (and Neurons) distributed among Humans and the Major Farmed Land Mammals? – http://reflectivedisequilibrium.blogspot.com/2013/09/how-is-brain-mass-distributed-among.html

Nociceptor – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nociceptor

Henry Head – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Head

Santiago Ramon y Cajal – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santiago_Ram%C3%B3n_y_Cajal

Neuron Doctrine – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuron_doctrine

Pain and Suffering in Animals:

Dogs’ Intelligence On Par With Two-year-old Human, Canine Researcher Says – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090810025241.htm

Pain and Ethnicity – https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/pain-and-ethnicity/2013-05 

Cruelty to Animals – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruelty_to_animals

Pain in Animals – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain_in_animals  

Suffering – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffering

David Pearce (transhumanist) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Pearce_(transhumanist)

Eradication of Suffering – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eradication_of_suffering

Animal Emotions: Exploring Passionate Natures/ Marc Bekoff –

https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/50/10/861/233998

The Long Game: Reducing Meat Consumption by 2100 – https://faunalytics.org/the-long-game-reducing-meat-consumption-by-2100/

Will the Future forget about Meat? / Chris Taylor – https://mashable.com/feature/dear-22nd-century-future-food-meat/

 

Sounds Good: How Units of Speech Command our Subconscious

I’m watching this lovely lecture by American Social Psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt, about “The Three Terrible Ideas Weakening Gen Z and Damaging Universities and Democracies“.[1] At the 27:35 minute mark he discusses the idea of ‘Anti-Fragility’, suggested by essayist Nassim Taleb, which states that exposure to potentially harmful things can actually build resilience and strength for those exact things in the future. 

As an example, Haidt recounts a now somewhat known experiment held by international scientists that surveyed nut allergies worldwide. The study revealed how in Israel, because of early exposure to a highly popular local nut-based snack, peanut allergies are drastically lower in comparison to other countries in the world. Being an Israeli, and a person interested in words, I was waiting to see if a theory of mine would become evident in Haidt’s next choice of words. And sure enough, it was – as Haidt continued to dignify the snack by uttering its name, “Bamba”.

Now, nothing in the lecture itself or in Haidt’s premise necessitated saying the name of the snack. “Bamba” is not a name familiar to most people who listened to the lecture, and doubtful whether they would search for it in stores as the immunity builder of choice for their own children. Nevertheless, there it was; that name, “Bamba”, hanging in the air.

The reason why Haidt was suddenly compelled to say the product’s name, I would argue, is found is the power of certain phonetic sounds. These sounds cast such a spell over us that we subconsciously crave them, both hearing them and also uttering them ourselves. And in today’s market-like atmosphere, many of the beings filling up the public space – from the products we buy to the politicians that we elect – are there because we subconsciously prefer the way their name sounds to us. That is, we subconsciously feel that we either like or dislike certain things based solely on their names, which is predicated on the impacts that their sound imprint upon us.

The Power of Plosives

The Bilabial plosives, the consonants “p” “b” and “m”, are some of the earliest sounds that we make as babies. They are in our first mumbles and words, like “mamma”, “baba” etc. And indeed, the inspiration for the name “Bamba” was the combination of sounds that babies make when they first make sounds. Bilabial plosives are created by pressing both lips together and releasing air. I have found that people everywhere are drawn to utter “p”, “b” and “m” consonants and to repeat them as much as possible. Jonathan Haidt’s example is just one of many. Another prominent example is the recurring of the word “baby” in pop songs.

[source: fastcompany.com]

The word “baby” – itself loaded with bilabial plosives – is one of the most popular words in western culture, particularly in pop and rock songs. In this chart, recurring words were counted from “every song on Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 list since 1960”. The word “baby” repeatedly comes up in many similar word-recurrence-in-songs-projects as suspiciously popular, usually coming right after the most fundamental building blocks of the vocabulary, such as “I”, “You”, “The” and the likes. So are we obsessed with our children and like to sing about them? Obviously not. “Baby” has become synonymous with “loved one” and a term of affection for its being a perfect bilabial-plosive word.

Saying “b” and “p” repeatedly makes us mimic a certain facial expression. It requires us to pucker up, much like kissing a loved one, or even sucking. And why not – we are mammals and one of the first expressions our mouths take part in is the sucking of milk for the sake of feeding. Could it be that bilabial plosives are reminding us of their preceding function, of nourishing and being close to warmth and affection?

This would explain the recurrence of “b” and “p” sounds in words and name assigned both to loved ones and to food. At the top of this list of “60 romantic names for your sweetheart” we can see such terms as “Pookie”, “Pumpkin”, “Lamb Chop”, “Muffin”, “Precious”,  “Baby Doll”, “Sweetie Pie”, “Smootchie”, etc. It’s noticeable how terms for food intertwine here with the loving tags of endearment. The choice to assign bilabial consonant to words that signify things we love is not accidental, but was ingrained in our minds by cultural repetition as well as by our linking them to pleasurable gestures of eating, drinking and kissing. So “baby”, much like “Bamba” got to be this popular not just on by virtue of its content, or its taste, but also because saying it feels good. We will see how advertisers have learned this trick quite early on, and from them it had spread to other aspects of the public sphere, dictating much of our attitudes toward people and not just products or pop songs.

Nothing wrong with Diphthong

Before venturing to see how the bilabial plosives – the “p”, “b” and “m” – rule our psyches, it would be beneficial to look at another more subtle set of sounds that sway our opinion. These are the diphthongs, or “double-sounds”. Whereas the bilabial plosives are consonants, Diphthongs are the appearance of two vowel sounds within the same syllable. The word “no” has us sounding both an “O” sound and a “u” sound consecutively. The words “make” has a diphthong of the sound “A” and “I” consecutively.  The reason that diphthongs are important, I would argue, is that they can create the impression of something exciting and even astonishing taking place. They are repeatedly used in advertising to create the sense of awe, making us unconsciously succumb to them as indeed carrying such meaning.

A disclaimer is needed here – I work in marketing, writing on weekdays for a local internet website where much of job involves copywriting for products. The work process allows me to test various phrases and word choices for their attractiveness and rates of motivating people to actual purchases (what is known as Click Through Rate – or CTR). After a year and a half of this I have come up with an idea of some words that appeal to people everlastingly. I am obviously not the first to notice this, as much of the advertising industry is aware of the power of phrases and words for increasing sales. David Ogilvy, who was known as the “father of advertising” has famously come up with a list of 20 most influential words that have the power to convert readers and listeners and get them on board buying a product. It was in my own copywriting and surveying some of the classic “great words” on such advertising lists, that I have noticed the recurrence of diphthongs. Here is Ogilvy’s list of words:

Ogilvy’s 20 most influential words. [source: slideshare.net]

Many of the words on this list contain diphthongs. Their effect, I believe, is causing us to open our mouths for longer periods of time in order to express the doubly voweled syllable. This creates an expression of amazement, which has us mimicking the sense that the words want to convey – like “wow”, “amazing” and “sensational”, which all have diphthongs.  Such words can be used, and at times are used, to manipulate and sway our opinions.  So while bilabial plosives are endearing and create intimacy, diphthongs are a source for astounding, creating the “wow” factor.

After first noticing this, I started discovering the recurrence of these chosen sounds more and more, and to discover their effects in my own copywriting efforts. I found that I have motivated people more than ever before to engage with the content I was creating, and indeed to buy more of my company’s products. It became apparent to me that the subliminal power of sounds is potent and real.

The Study and Manipulation of Sound

The linguistic approach that attempts to speculate and define the effects of different sounds is called “Sound Symbolism”.  Several researchers have given their insights as to how various utterances create certain feelings and thoughts. They often describe these feelings on spectrums, such as “bright to dark”, or “happy to sad”. The underlying idea in Sound Symbolism, that certain sounds carry meaning in and of themselves regardless of the context of the word, is problematic and refutable. Nevertheless, many scholars who promulgated it, such as Otto Jespersen, have made clear achievements in categorizing the way in which we habitually classify similar meanings for words by their similar sound.

In the advertising world, the rise of the Madison Avenue marketers and their research and focus groups led to some discoveries in regards to particular words and sounds that trigger particular responses from listeners. They managed to survey hundreds and thousands of people in order to learn which words were considered “fortunate” or “unfortunate” in terms of their connotations and sounds.[2] Motivated by money and by idea that everything can be monetized, the advertising world soon lent its many conclusions about preferable sounding words to the sphere of politics. The desire to control the public using the right words has turned on the power hungry to believing, and perhaps rightly so, that they could manufacture consent. This is what Vance Packard termed “The Engineered Yes”.

While it comes as no surprise that politicians try their best in utilizing clever slogans and phrases for their own benefits, the impact of sound symbolism on the fate of elections seems to be at play beyond the control of consultants and statesmen. It is still very much rampant, especially in the outcome of recent elections throughout parts of the world. I would argue that the repeated electing of my homeland Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, AKA “Bibi” for his 5th term is paved by the power of his plosive nickname. In Israel, speaking about a particular political party dropped to a minimum in recent years, with most conversations gravitating around this one name. While his political terms are characterized mostly by inaction, the name has been mentioned so much by itself to almost suggest that the person behind the name was in fact responsible for most things happening within the country.   

Around the world, other names can be presented as evidence. Giuseppe Piero Grillo, AKA “Beppe”, the Italian comedian turned politician is another candidate for plosive advancement. And in the US, one needs to look only a little far back to be reminded of another single word president that took the reins much due to his name and not his actions. This fact was spotted by the writers of the John Oliver show “Last Week Tonight”, who recognized the “magical word” that diverted people’s attention from the nature of the man carrying it.

Spot the diphthongs in this slogan. [source: freep.net]

The danger in using and overusing words is the habits which they create. We use language to communicate, and thus assume that is a tool for our expression. Yet more often than we care to think, the language we take part in is already chosen for us. The impact of specific sounds can get us to feel an inner connection. It is easy to shrug off the risks of advertising, since like language, it is also around all the time. Yet we now live in a time of unprecedented sensory stimulation – with information constantly chucked at us from every venue. This causes us to desensitize and to sift through the info at the greatest speeds. We create hasty judgments just to clear up the mental space to allow more information to reach us.

In such a world, where perhaps advertisements have already habituated western man, we often choose what sounds good to us. We see our political candidates as if they were products on a long supermarket shelf of ideas and preferences. We decide to buy into their promises based on a glimpse at their shiny package, their snippets of a few seconds broadcasted on the daily news – their jingle no doubt – and their brand name. If reality becomes commercialized and commodified, it is then a good idea to learn the various manipulations of the marketing world to see how we become duped. Sounds are a key player in habituating our ears to buy into dishonesties and to become consenting. Becoming aware of how susceptible we are to sounds is a good way to reclaim our individuality and realize what we truly believe and think, without the solicitations of sound.


[1] Those ideas are, to restate Haidt: 1. What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; 2. Always trust your feelings; 3. Life is a battle between evil people and good people.

[2]  See Packard, Vance. The Hidden Persuaders, 1957.

How Digital Media has changed how we Think, Operate and Behave

To say that people are occupied with their digital technology devices nowadays is almost redundant. One only needs to walk about in a big city and see how leering into cellphones has become a human reflex. What was not too long ago spoken about in terms of escapism is now a common and acceptable mode of behavior. The reasons for the meteoric rise in smartphone use are also fairly obvious, being a one-stop-shop for much of our informational and communicational needs, enough to outweigh its escapist proclivities. I wish to claim that much of the social disconnect that we experience nowadays can be explained by the rapid entrance of the new information media into our lives. That is, while we might believe that we are in charge of our thoughts and behavior, that we can choose how to examine things in front of us; our use of media ends up dictating our scope of perception, our expectations from reality, from ourselves and from others, and creates our cultures in its likeness.

Marshall McLuhan famously coined the phrase ‘the medium is the message’ to encapsulate a natural law – that the means and structures through which we perceive reality impact that reality itself. This idea has predated McLuhan and appeared in many incarnations and not limited to any genres, from Emmanuelle Kant to Chuck Palahniuk. As obvious as this notion may appear, it is a profoundly useful tool for analyzing the changing world. By regarding the digital technologies in our disposal today – like computers and smartphones – not merely as instruments for executing our wishes, we might see them alternately as mechanisms that also require from us a particular set of actions and engagements, we could see how ultimately they cause us to operate in recurring ways, forming new habits, behaviors and modes of thought. By examining some of the habits we have developed in dealing with digital technology, it is possible to explain and predict many urging issues unfolding in the world today.

Digital technology is at its peak of accessibility nowadays. Personal computers and handheld mobile devices with an internet connection, or smartphones, are passing the tipping point in which over 50% of the world population has one, and is thus considered a ‘user’ (and in the top 10 developed countries in the world, that percentage reaches around 73% of the total population). With such dramatic numbers it is apparent that digital technology is causing a revolution of histories scale, with what seems like an unstoppable trajectory of expansion. Several thinkers expressed their predictions for the course that this revolution will take or, more accurately, how it will end, with a spectrum of conflicting ideas. The ecophilosopher and primitivist John Zerzan sees technology as a whole as a the abandoning and forgoing of nature, and sees digital technology as a culmination of humans becoming alienated and robotic; whereas science fiction author Bruce Sterling regards the digital revolution as a passing fad, much like the nuclear age craze of the 40’s and 50’s in the USA, which he suggests will pass with a silent hum by the 2030’s.

Even though this tidal wave of digital technology invites predictions of how societies and individuals will appear in the future, looking far ahead is unnecessary. The impact of over 20 years of internet access and of smartphone usage is apparent right now, in much of the western world today.

Did we choose to use computers and smartphones or did they choose us? Throughout history, other media have come into existence based on the requirements of their time, culture and history. The literary novel has changed its form over the years and around the world in both length and subject matter, based on how much free time people had for enjoying  a leisurely read.  Nevertheless, it is possible to identify a cultural preference to use certain media instead of others. The rise of the internet managed to abolish much of printed journalism, just as the popularity of smartphones eroded the photography business. The more optimized and effortless our actions thanks to a particular medium, the better chance that medium has of lasting. And so, the most optimal systems of delivering and receiving information, that is also most suitable to our times right now is the smartphone. These transformations and metamorphoses of one media to another have often led to different cultural behaviors. The pace of living, the way we perceive the world and our expectations of ourselves and other people, are very much constructed by the channels through which we accept reality.

It would be helpful at this point to examine some of the recurring actions we are required to make in the routine use of a smartphone. These are all standard processes we accept as part of the operating rituals of digital technology, yet they have no parallel in the real, non-virtual life. We can try and extrapolate how each action becomes over time an actual habit, and how it is finally translated into to new forms of human behavior.

The Operating System makes the Real world Virtual

Most people over 18 in the west have already been shaped by digital operating systems even before the arrival of the smartphone, due to previously using a personal computer. The most popular operating system in the world, Microsoft’s ‘Windows’, has conditioned users to its mode of operating. A product of 80’s American corporate mentality, Microsoft Windows is riddled with metaphors and concepts[a]  from the business world of an office. It has ‘files’ and ‘folders’, it has indeed and ‘Office’ brand for its top programs, it is built on the hierarchical language of DOS operating system, in which you give ‘commands’ and the computer carries out the tasks. 

While the language attempts to portray ‘Windows’ as a physical place of work, the actions it allows users to make are still performed in virtual space, and so none of its executions has any repercussions or gravity in the physical, real world. The recycle bin can make anything you previously saw or heard on the computer vanish with a click. Despite the fact that new information is still needed to overwrite the “deleted” data in order for the actual deletion to be performed, the message of this medium is that you can make your unwanted things and trash disappear in an instance; and the message, as said before, is reinforced through countless performances, through muscle memory, into a habit of thinking and behavior in the real world.

We still use personal computers, and so the underlying assumption that we can perform those actions in reality still lingers very much in the minds of the current generation. It is worth mentioning that computer use is on the decline, with most youth in the west nowadays preferring consoles and video games to the PC. Therefore, the engraining of ideas and behavior that is illustrated here applies mostly to those people 20-60 year old, and might indeed perish when they are no longer alive.

The Digital Rhythm and Responsibility

While they are often lauded for their fastness, their quick processing and speedy reaction time, digital media – when compared to speed of human capabilities – only fulfills the promise of being fast paced on some occasions. Computing powers of calculation now dwarf most of human ability, as is evident in performing basic and elaborate mathematical calculation that are unsurpassable by even those humans who have dedicated their lives for its mastery, as in the games of chess and ‘go’. On the other hand, operations which require more dexterity, flexibility, reasoning and even what to humans is considered basic communication skills, are a thing which as of yet, no digital system was able to approach. Computers take time to load, to connect, they require electricity, batteries, they are replaceable and, most noticeably, they tend to malfunction.

Examples of these can be found abundantly, and are epitomized at every locale where digital machines carry a sticker displaying the human contact’s number to call if it breaks down. In our case of personal use, computers and smartphones both engage many systems which appear as innovative yet mimic human capabilities with slower results. These include printing, since the operations needed to print a page – from connecting the cables, clicking files and commands, loading paper, etc., are much more elaborate and time consuming than handwriting onto a piece of paper. Handwriting, being more tactile than typing on a keyboard or pressing on a touch screen, is also disappearing thanks to the use of the computer and phone. While this might be environmentally healthier, the relocation of the written word to an exclusively virtual space marshals the vanishing of its reverence and gravity. In explaining why he prefers to write his jokes not using a computer writing software but with a pen on a yellow legal pad, Jerry Seinfeld mentioned the stress induced by the ever-present, ever-blinking line at the end of your digital word processing sentence. Adding to the diminishing gravity of the written word is the digital media’s ability to update and change their texts at any time. The words in a printed book acquire their significance from their being unchangeable, and being so, they have real consequence.

As opposed to that, today with the decline of printed journalism and books, their online digital versions are easily changeable and updated, with the headlines of every major news organization alternating more rapidly than ever, even for the same article. Given this ability to correct and edit on the go, true consequence is gone. Newspapers in the digital age, perhaps without our noticing, have lost their status as moral compasses, of being reliable and responsible. With responsibility gone, cynicism and despair take hold, as is very much apparent in today’s world of journalistic coverage. As will be discussed soon, the current climate of ‘fake news’, much like ‘reality TV’, resulted from the internet’s placing higher merit on changeability than on consequence and research.

Here too, it is interesting to notice the language used for renaming and altering perceived reality within the digital medium that is the internet, and to observe how it is then passed on to venues in physical life. When changing a digitized piece of text, the most common terms are “edit”, “update” and “refresh”. These words seem to refer to a text as a part of a series of appearances, each rejuvenating and giving it renewed life. This change of pace has indeed created an impossibility for news coverage to continue in any other structure but the 24 hour news cycle. But while the new corporations have all the machinery to observe and report (a word originally meaning “account told, rumor“) things that are happening in real time, they are also driven to display those concurrent happenings in real time, lacking the breadth of vision and the distance needed to process and investigate deeper into the worth of a story. Much of the extreme outrage characterizing western culture nowadays (and the emergence of ‘fake outrage’) is a byproduct and incarnation of the 24 hour news cycle. With news corporations playing by the digital media’s pace, they have become a reactionary medium, offering on-the-spot commentary to the events they are witnessing; whereas given more time, they could have stopped and investigated deeper.

Uniformity of Information and Tribal Mentality

The standardization and uniformity of written texts predates the modern era, and can be traced to the invention of the Guttenberg printing press in 1440. Before that, texts were hand copied so that different versions of the same texts would be varied with many nuances and idiosyncrasies. Since Guttenberg, uniformity has become a standard in the reproduction of visual and auditory works of art. Uniformity is an artificial manmade construct, which does not occur in nature, much like right angles, yet years of industrialization and automation have instilled its image in our cultural psyche. But where previous media and technology outpoured “forgivable” uniform creations such as cars, clothes, machinery, etc., the internet risks promising the standardization of information itself.

The internet works much like a telephone conversation. It connects between one side and another side for the exchange of information. This can be symmetrical, as in a chat, or one sided, as in browsing through webpages. Nevertheless, the internet is often portrayed as an “information superhighway”, or more colloquial is the term “world wide web”. Again, much like the computer’s operating system, metaphors of place and space appear. We start browsing on our “home” page, move to different “sites” send emails to “addresses” and webpages are assigned a “domain”. Along with the web metaphor, the internet is often conceptualized as a huge network, an equivalent to a big city, a massive library, or the universe. All these are ways or trying to order the very much unstructured nature of the internet.

The Internet from Above [source: intenet-map.net]

Where the internet reveals its underpinnings as being a cluster of callers on a circuit board is in the chat rooms and online message boards which allow anyone with a modem to sound their voice.  As expected, such sites are notorious for the impossibility of creating anything similar to a real life conversation. The sensation of such forums is of a rabble of people attempting to talk over one another since that’s the only way they could get a word in.

Sounds familiar?

If you managed to identify moments like these in real life, you’re not alone.  In the last decades, groups of people all around the world have been expressing themselves increasingly vocally, with a significant rise in protests all over the globe. The Financial Times ran an article which describes 2020 as “The Year of Protests”, and have asked whether these gatherings are so popularized that they have become less effective

 While one could say that it is not just the discordant nature of the internet that leads to more violent communication patterns but the information itself that is becoming more available and horrific, I wish to claim that the internet has shaped our very perception of information and knowledge, making us expect a uniformity of thought on a grander scale than ever. The expectation of uniform, identical information has become so prevalent, that its clashing with the many voiced world leads to violence, intolerant behaviors.

With the powerful ability to instantaneously receive information and answers to questions, we have become, in a significantly short time, willfully dependent on the internet and on smartphones as its most accessible vehicle. The ability to reach to our phones and find seemingly inexhaustible responses to our needs has created a sort of reflex reaction. You do not need to stop and count the times you have reached for your phone to search for something you don’t know, but simply look around and see that it is already ubiquitous in our culture. The internet does the same thing for emotional distress, of course, offering optimized communication that serves as an instant fix, but it is extremely dangerous when information itself becomes fixated and perceived as uniform – which is what our new reflex of quick-answers has brought about. In other words, we have grown accustomed to thinking that the internet has all the right answers.

Given the fact the internet is carried by binary media, most of us have unknowingly became habituated to seeing it as a life calculator, demanding of it answers for what is true or false, right or wrong. And this habit, especially at the hands of young people who grew up using the internet, is an instrument of uniformity. It abounds with informational sites for life answers, from Wikipedia to Quora, from Snopes to FactCheck. The irony is that these websites, originating out of a desire for critical thinking, ultimately contribute to the abolition of human questioning. The internet, in other words, started as a promise for polyphony of opinions and cultures and ultimately makes us crave absoluteness.

And this absoluteness is already experienced in many countries today. For a generation of well-off people all around the world, and particularly in the rich western countries, growing up with the internet has bred people’s expectation of the world to appear a certain way and not the other. Going through a generational clash as did countless other groups in history, many western youth today present the novelty of not being able to understand or deal with the existence of opposing opinions. This is often touted as part of their being the ‘snowflake’ generation, yet I think saying they are spoiled misses the mark – their inability to understand, I believe, is based in their view that no person who was exposed to the same information could reach different conclusions. That is, the free information found online has caused them to assume that the truth itself is uniform, and anyone who disagrees with their perception must have an ulterior motive.

For what these websites create is the assumption that it is natural to have all the information at the palm of your hands at all times, and that everybody else is supposed to have it as well. Such expectations induce stress and generate a shock – realizing that copious amounts of information do not make people likeminded or uniform in their thinking – signals that we do not have a single answer for most of the prevalent questions in life.

This behavior is not endemic to the snowflake generation, to social justice warriors, Gen Z, or any other name by which to call new groups of young people. It has invaded most of our cultures. In many western societies who are smartphone ridden, straying from cultural norms has begun to be seen as more grotesque and downright impossible, than ever before. We begin expecting each other to become in sync with our own mentality, as if in perfect unison. This explains the phenomenon known as ‘cancel culture’ (another computerized phrase thrown into real life). We opt to do away and discard anything that strays from the norm. The dangers of this computerization of the living world only start with the social deterioration we are witnessing the last years, but might end in a collective schizophrenia, a war waged for the sake of purging unwanted (natural) elements that do not exist in the binary realm.

Commodification and Comfort

There are plenty of other changes that the new media has imposed upon the smartphone carrying man and woman. It is possible to talk about how the quickness and uniformity of typing has led to a similar expectation of human communication, in conversation. I would venture into claiming that the pace of a talk show or a TV sitcom – that is, eliciting a laugh every 5 seconds or so – has transfigured from the appearance of the typed word, and since it bled into our lives. Moreover, the web’s ability to display only visual and auditory information has caused a stifling in activities based on the other sensory perceptions, with the exclusion of beautiful food, since it is possible to display it in visual form and elicit a taste-bud reaction. On the contrary, there is no trend of taking pictures of wines, perfumes or bubble baths. Time will tell whether the collective peak in the usage of exclusively visual and auditory devices will cause a development in the neuronal clusters in the brain in charge of those parts. With young children playing more hand-eye coordination games on console devices, I believe this will be the case.

Add to these the option to scroll endlessly and swiftly through more and more information and you will understand how impatient and demanding of new stimuli the internet prompts us to be. As an inverse of this, we are now driven to shallower thinking, with much less stamina for judging and analyzing the information given us. In a way, we become more accepting, yet unquestioning, similar to robots on a convey belt of images and sounds, and expect ourselves and other to behave in much the same manner. This is but another way in which the operating mechanism which we use begins creating us in its form – we become the things that we own. And so, robots operating robots is a bleak image for our society, which might have appeared exaggerated if it were not for the way in which the new media objectifies and commodifies our reality – and eventually, ourselves.

Becoming robotic is not only a hyperbole but in fact a point worth stopping to think about. Since using smartphones stifles our habit of deep and clear reflection, we eventually lose our ability to asses our own inner feelings. It is easy to notice how today, from a young age, this is already taking place. When cellular phones only started becoming popular, debates have arisen about whether or not children should be given them, and at what age should we start giving kids access to a smartphone and to the internet. In the second decade of the 21st century, such debates seem out of touch with reality, and parents are using the pacifying capabilities of smartphones on children from as early as toddlerhood. The irony behind such acts is that it is impossible to dismiss them as merely bad parenting; since pacifying is something all smartphone users take part in, whether they can admit to it or not.

From the comforts of having all the information we need at hand, to the seeming proximity we get to our loved ones, the smartphone is today’s quickest route to short term happiness. It has the ability to supply endless neurochemical stimulants and relaxants. From watching pictures that create the sensation of enjoyment, such as nice food, recognizable people and beautiful places; to receiving approval and even constant complements in the form of social media clicks, reactions and comments – the smartphone, with all its many helpful features, is put to use principally as a form of self-medication. By being continuously comforted, we begin expecting this state in real life as well as online, with our pacifiers firmly in hand.

Social media offers the drug of companionship, of amity and of approval. It has already changed much of the way we interact with one another in real life, I will claim, and is the foremost instrument for our increasingly commodified view of reality. By placing the carrot of social acceptance and companionship in front of our faces, social media has done away with much of the mechanism and structures created naturally for people to gravitate towards one another in real life. And while it may be true that entire social constructs such as etiquette, courtship, even hobbies and friendship can be seen in fact as byproducts of desiring the same neurochemical pleasure that social media provides in its instant version – they are not interchangeable since each of them offers different types of experience, namely a subjective and an objective experience.

As a binary medium, displaying visual and auditory information, the internaet offers an exclusively objective experience, by which I mean that turns our perception of anything put inside it into an object. For example, watching images of our friends on Facebook, no matter how dear they are to our hearts or even if we closely remember them from a meeting in the near past, is still placed within a square frame, among an endless scroll of other bits of information, related or unrelated, being held or placed on a desk, being able to click, and mostly static – with the ability to manipulate. All these are attributes of frozen and unchanging objects. The mere appearance of anything within a medium makes it objectified. Whereas seeing our friends in person provides a constant change, an unexpectedness as well as many more parameters for sensing, like smell, touch etc., all of which are attributes of subjective existence. And so the more time we spend replacing real life, subjective information, with media-ted, objectified information, we begin losing the ability to subjectify – that is, to relate to others, to sense the world around us as alive and having an individual existence – and begin commodifying our surroundings as if they were a part of an endless scroll, there for our instant gratification.

The Great Objectification – The Flattening of Reality

The continuing of all this has already led, in my opinion, to the further demolishing of such social constructs as friendship, marriage and the family. With the almost metaphysical law that what we create and repeat will make us in its own image, the internet’s constant informational flow would seem to be turning us users into information seeking and delivering automatons. E. M. Forster’s 1909 short science fiction story The Machine Stops depicts a future where humans are living solitary lives in pods which supply them with endless communication with other people around the world. They spend their time either creating or listening and seeing others giving lectures on various topics. Forster’s famous saying “always connect” predates the experiential tug of war currently taking place between the objectified and the subjective dimensions of real life. While the internet’s virtual nature has no bearing on real life, the expectations and behavior we have repeatedly come to employ while using it are sticking out into subjective, lived experiences, and dismantling much of the communication and perceptions involved with everyday social life.

As with the rise of ‘Cancel Culture’, many subcultures and movements in today’s society are displaying the push and pull of the internet onto our real experiences. No longer are the old considered as wise for their experience, since experience is knowledge found in subjective information. For well over a generation now, western culture is profoundly children-centric, placing higher values on youthfulness and its characteristics, like swiftness of action, dexterity and freshness. Yet a bigger change that the internet has brought forth is in its striving for collective, group mentality.

Being submerged under a constant flow of superfluous data and information that the internet provides, it is practically impossible for anyone to sift through it all and evaluate which bit is correct and which is false. Our latent desire to keep scrolling for more stimuli while being able to handle new information in extremely high dosages has led to an inevitable decontextualizing- a flattening of our valuation systems. This flattening which enabled the optimizing our reaction speed, has  led to the reactionary and inflammatory nature apparent in message boards, forums and Facebook comments– with numerous funny laws appearing to explain the failings of its communication framework – most of which originating, to my estimation, from the habit formed online to expect absolute information, in a clear binary yes-no fashion. A mere disagreement online is immediately cast as an argument with two distinct sides. The fault is in the medium itself and I our expectations of it. Yet arguing online is benign compared to taking this flattened perception of reality into the streets.

The inability to analyze information in its context is a growing problem of character, leading many younger people to crises of personality in numbers far exceeding anything in past years. The inability to detach from objectified, media-ted information, has desensitized a great number of people and brought upon a rift in their ability to identify their own personal, subjective sensations. Many today are stripped of having a real sense of inner monologue and moral compass, and with such existential insecurity bubbling, have made their most basic affiliations a safe haven and meaning. Tribal mentality is a new name for such classic phenomena as blind patriotism, nationalism or chauvinism – it is the weak individual’s falling back on a certainty; the confused psyche’s escape towards things that it cannot change, like its country of birth or its race or gender, and tapping into it as a source for safety and strength, often in a violent and overcompensating manner. While there is much to say about the psychological changes brought upon by the internet, the point combining most of its various expressions all is an insecurity and new forms of doubting reality – all of which create frightful and often vicious individuals, willing to use drastic measures to latch on to their identity.

The End of Subjectivity as we know it?

Observing current daily life through common media channels, a sense of immanent finality is inescapably present. It appears as if culture has run its course and new technology and its promises for a better tomorrow is only making things worse, commodifying the world and ourselves while turning the planet into a wasteland. The present-day intoxication from internet technology, social media and the uninterrupted flow of information, are changing our behavior and views of reality right now. It is all the more tempting to predict how our psyches and societies will change on account of the internet and digital media, since such prophecies are another form of escapism and desire to correct the wrongs perceived at the present time. Instead of predictions, I would like to consider the one thing that is changing due to our new capabilities of simulating reality, which is our subjectivity.

As stated, the internet has the ability to objectify our perception of the world – to dilute real happenings from any context, to extract the human element out of them, to make the world appear to us as binary, with the only things possible for consideration are those quantifiable and calculable. In gradually stopping to turn to our inner voice for answers and comfort, we are losing touch with its existence. The term “gut feeling” is very fitting for describing that subjective sense of inner knowing, a trustworthy way that is closest to us.

The French sociologist and philosopher of culture Jean Baudriard observed mankind’s growing ability to signify reality, and saw our times as being post-modern in the sense that the relation between our instruments and tools for signifying reality and that reality itself, are becoming indistinguishable. For such a world, in which we cannot tell apart the real from the signified, Baudriard coined the term “Simulacra” as a simulation and mimicking of reality that has become identified with the thing it is mimicking. This is apparent in our current culture in its most recent embodiment in the rise of Deep fake technology, which is a video and audio representation so similar to reality that it is difficult for us to identify it as being computer generated. The rise of “fakeness” as a term to describe the simulating nature of the internet is to me a sign of the medium’s deteriorating power of representation. We distrust only what we can sense is not true to begin with, and while the technology is getting better at copying reality, it is ironically seen by us as chiefly an act of fakery. I see this as a sign of something unchanging, a subjective element in mankind, which puts the new digital media in a perspective of human evolution since the rise of symbolization.

The ability to create a symbol, and thus, to simulate reality, has been around for millennia. As a unique, thinking species, ours is the ability to symbolize and to mimic. It is quite possible therefore, to see in the many inventions of humanity through the ages a mere copying of nature, from language to the computer, from the wheel to the internet. There is an almost biological predisposition for people to copy themselves into things they create. This recreation of ourselves is repetitively done perhaps for the sake of expanding our infinity-reaching minds out of our limited corporeal bodies, in Ernest Beker’s terms -much like winning an award or securing everlasting fame. The creation of digital media and of the internet is our most recent attempt in simulating reality, in encapsulating every piece of the landscape in a single objective framework. Yet, as all reality is subjectively experienced, it is relentlessly changing, and so in itself is endless and infinite like our imaginative minds. It is my subjective feeling that in the future additional attempts will be made to capture as much of reality as possible, and in so doing various new technologies will be utilized, yet these would also diminish when reaching the point of obvious mimicking, when they – like DeepFake technology, reveal their intentions of simulating the actual surroundings.

This does not diminish the already devastating impact of the digital media on the current pace of living. The 24 hour news channels have created a heightened sense of stress that is enough to cause anyone relying on it as a source for news to become morbidly frightful and enraged; the smartphone and GPS navigation have annihilated our former ability for orientation and memory; and with every new popular app, a previous human capability is extinguished. Yet all of these are still tools, and require us to use them, to operate them, and to turn them on. Although we have become a generation that would rather record reality and comment on it than create it or experience it, a backlash is immerging with the same protests discussed before signaling a change in moods. The global pandemic has reminded many of the reasons they crave being outside, breathing fresh air and engaging physically with other people. Although Forster’s portrayal of the future as a being willingly cooped in a room for one is becoming a vivid concern, virtual existence has not won yet in the fight over human consciousness.


[a] The idea that metaphors and figurative language are revealing of how we perceive our concepts, was suggested by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their 1980’s book, Metaphors We Live by. It is a vital source for understanding how we create meaning by building our concepts of the world with metaphoric language.

Eating Animals and our Dishonest Discourse

In recent years, the question of eating animals has been stirring intense debates. Conversations about consuming meat usually end in a disgruntled clash between two sides – namely vegans and meat eaters. While both parties in this argument display their stand adamantly, I argue that dishonesty and self-deception is behind each of their arguments and that much like animals, the real arguments are left unheard..

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It is easy to see why the question of eating animals, since its surfacing, has remained in the focus of both public and private discourse in recent years. Eating animal meat relates to our most basic of functions, that of nourishing and surviving.

While debates surrounding the eating of animals appear more omnipresent and fervent today than ever before, a sort of stalemate seems to have been reached. Whether on the media, or in conversation with friends or co-workers, speaking about consuming meat will most likely end up in a clash of ideas between a vegan and a carnivore diet. A sense of unbridgeable doom will hover over the topic, causing people to try and avoid it entirely.

Yet the real problem is not with the topic – it is with the fact that both “sides” are engaged in a dishonest conversation, both to their audience and to themselves.


1. The Arguments are Dishonest

Whenever eating animals is discussed, one is almost guaranteed to hear any of the following lines of thought:

  • Man was/wasn’t meant to eat animals
  • Eating animals is healthy/unhealthy
  • Growing and slaughtering animals is good/ bad for the economy
  • People have/haven’t been eating animals for years
  • Killing animals is moral/immoral
  • Man has/hasn’t the right to kill animals

These claims might wear the guise of scientific research, they may involve reliance on experience or, more often than not, on hearsay and speculation. But the truth is, they are all irrelevant.

The desire to be absolutely right leads the proponents of veganism-carnivorism to seek and employ hard “proof” from the realms of science, medicine and history.

Eating animal products might be associated, rightly, with bad heart condition and early deaths in humans, while a shortage of vitamin B12 will be, rightly, linked to a vegan diet; the animal slaughtering industry is responsible for much of the deforestation, polluting and ruining of the earth’s resources, while eating animals has been found in most cultures ,around the world for thousands of years; man’s stomach and teeth, as well as his evolutionary connection with primates place him closer to herbivores than carnivores, although his ability to heat his food and to successfully consume more species than any other natural predator sets him apart from most other animals.

With each side continuously finding more research, case studies and natural observations to serve as evidence for their particular belief, debates remain conflicting and very much stalemated.

The desire to find “proof” from the hard sciences in order to reveal whether the eating of meat to be ultimately wrong or right, natural or unnatural – is in itself an act of self-deception.

The reason why so many speakers find themselves divided into only two camps, is that the majority of people do not dare utter any complex or unresolved feelings in regards to eating living creatures.

(The term *living creatures* is of itself complex and needs further explication. Is the killing of shellfish similar to slaughtering pigs, for example? Does picking plants and vegetables constitute as killing? For the sake of basing a standard for consideration, I will later write on this with a focus on what constitutes as “suffering”, suggesting that it’s possible to define and classify suffering based on nerve complexity in living organisms. For the ideas presented in this paper, I will suffice with referring to living things as a generalization).

Since, what can any person say when they obviously feel emphatically sad to see the torture and mutilation of helpless beings– when in fact that person’s cravings necessitate this evil? The eating of animals almost demands that we admit to a guilt which for many is too much to handle.

In dealing with this guilt, most people choose from only two options: either becoming a carnivore, thus opting to remain voluntarily ignorant and cruel, in order to justify the craving for eating animals; or becoming a vegan, and thus opting to be intentionally aware, though grief-stricken and burdened, abstaining from animal products entirely in order to justify a moral choice.

Despite the both being viable paths on their own right, each choice is an extremity, and its proponents consider it the only possible path – indeed, as an ideal.

In the attempt to rid ourselves of the guilt of eating animals, these two arguments have by now become a fixed framework for thinking, manipulating opinions and swaying the topic into something it is not, only to vindicate people’s coping mechanism.

Our guilt for torturing animals for their meat is very much covered up by the arguments of both carnivores and vegans.

Whether meat is healthy or unhealthy, historically proven or not, economically sound or not – are all but justifications to rid ourselves of guilt.

We do not surface this guilt in conversation since we know that dealing with it demands not knowing what to do or think; it also opens up the possibility of feeling we are wrong, and need to change or lives and ourselves.

Guilt is hard to accept, and both carnivores and vegans often utilize their chosen path to deflect and push guilt away from them as much as possible.

The debate is dishonest first and foremost because of guilt.

Sadly, in the process of choosing between these extreme options, any uncertain, reserved or questioning opinions become lost.

Any idea straying from this binary pairing of veganism-carnivorism is made to almost appear irrelevant. And thus, the way to a deceitful portrayal is paved.

Unfortunately for the creatures who suffer the most, this fake argument winds up helping those who have built an industry on their torture and who need it for their gain.

2. Moving beyond the Deceit

The underlying tone behind every argument surrounding the eating of animals is guilt, on both sides.

The real conflict, with which every emphatic human is cursed, is that eating animal meat feels good and natural, yet the killing of animals is done so brutally in inhumanely that it enrages us and makes us distraught. and confused.

Most people cannot stay in such a state of inner conflict for long. It drives us to choose one path that pacifies us, maintains our sense of self, as well as our sense of self-righteousness.

To be able to subsist and eat, we indeed need to justify our way of “solving” this matter, at least to ourselves.

This is why, whenever people discuss eating meat, an underlying tone will be a mutual recognition that a process of justification has taken place and an acknowledgement that the other party has made up their mind completely and without a doubt.

Such resolution is indeed required by our psychological need to be intact. Most people would not dare say “I don’t know”, or “I haven’t made up my mind yet” regarding the food that they eat – what we consume must be 100 percent approved, both mentally and physically, before we are able to intake it.

Can we acknowledge our guilt and move further in our understanding?

If we cease rationalizing the deeply intimate topic of eating animals and instead consider how we feel about it, people from all views will generally agree on these two basic assumptions:

  1. That people have been eating animals all over the world for many years.
  2. That treating animals like inanimate objects is monstrous and unjustified.

Every argument on the matter should start with an agreement on these two things, in order to allow for a productive exchange.

Agreeing on these two maxims throws all irrelevant justifications out the window.

It shows that no matter what science has to say about humans “being meant” to eat animals or not – the fact of the matter is that is happens nonetheless.

Agreeing on these two maxims also opens the door to recognize all things which hinders a sincere conversation about eating meat.

It abolishes the guilt that is in the way of discussion and sheds light on the single factor which is behind our dishonest discourse about eating animals – the factor creating our sense of guilt in the first place.

The thing hindering the genuine debate surrounding eating animals, the one in charge of our current dishonest discourse around it, is a relatively new mode of raising and producing animal meat – the modern factory farming system.

In a fantastic reversal of natural order, we in the west have come to accept and to justify a system so inhuman and astray from the natural order as the mass slaughter factory system.

While most people agree on the cruelty and alienation from nature that is factory farming of animals, when questioning this system the same people will be quick to absolve it and offer even more rationalizations for its existence.

With guilt successfully encountered, another powerful objection to our discourse over eating animals starts to reveal itself. This time it is fear.

Our acceptance of such a system, agreed by most to be cruel and alienated from nature – reveals an even more uncomfortable truth for most of us – a hidden servitude lying underneath the perceived freedom granted to us by the Capitalist mode.

The real reason why we are left to debate over lies is the fear that we cannot do anything about the “system” of mass scale slaughter because we depend on it completely for our own survival.

The industrial farming mechanism confronts us with our deepest feeling of powerlessness.

That is the fact that western man and woman have grown completely and utterly dependent on outer sources for their food – that we are, in fact enslaved to those corporations that slaughter and torture animals to deliver it to them.

3. Them and Us – Fear and Industrial Capitalism

This, in fact is the lie of industrial capitalism.

We in the last generations in the west have grown to accept the mode of food production by inhuman means as a necessary law of nature.

Perhaps to our amazement, the mass slaughtering factories has only been in existence for no more than 100 years.

In its short existence, the slaughter-industry has managed to convince so many of us that there was never another way of getting food, or any other artifacts of consumption. And the biggest lie of all is that we believe it.

Before its arrival, and in fact still found to this day in many non-industrial cultures throughout the world, people either took care of the animals which they later ate, or they hunted them.

Our discourse over factory-farming animals is subdued and relegated to veganism versus eating meat because it is a way of deceiving ourselves into thinking that we have many options, that we are in fact in control over our diets, and that we are enjoying the fruits of industrial progress.

The reality is that we have no control over the food that we consume .It is made with our complete ignorance of it, and thus our inability to decide what we intake puts us at the mercy of growers ad food corporations.

We in the western world are, in fact, in servitude to our masters the food suppliers, and they have the power to starve us when they please. A powerful and rich western man is more enslaved in terms of food than the lowliest farmer family growing its own food.

Western people’s fear and inability to face their servitude to the big companies is not subjected only to food, of course, but is echoed throughout all places where mass production has conquered.

Ever since the mass-scale mode of industrial manufacturing began making a lot of money for a handful of people, we have been driven to distance ourselves not only from our food, but from every artifact that we consume and use.

The furniture we buy now is made on an assembly line and mostly last only several years before it breaks down – causing enormous and unnecessary destruction of the planet’s natural resources; as happens with the disposable electronics we buy and the minerals and metals being quarried and mined for their operation.   

The artistry and craftsmanship of the past has all but vanished to make way for uniform, bland, uninspired things with which we now surround ourselves, only to replace at each opportunity. While the artisan’s chair might be looked at again and again and reveal ideas, spark the imagination and become infused with memories, the assembly line chair carries no meaning, and is nothing but utilitarian.  

No more artistry, no more memories, no more man. We become functionary.

Life in an industrial environment becomes less worth living – it is less filled with things that we like. In such a surrounding, happiness becomes momentary and fleeting.

Back to animals – hunting was the longest one would be involved and occupied with getting food.

A process of hunting in many tribal cultures is a ritual experience in which one envelops themselves in wild nature, to become more and more attentive to the ways of the animals.

The actual kill carries with it the immediate sensation of guilt accompanied with relief, which are the reasons for carrying out absolving prayers and rituals to the soul of that animal which you will consume.

These make you one with the slayed animal (notice the relation between “consume” and consummate”) and able to live off of them.

The meat of a wild animal being hunted would last you for months of sustenance, and its preparation also a process taking a long time.

All of these are things that keep you connected with the memory and the living world, to the cycle of taking-a-life-eating-remembering-dying-being-eaten, that eventually gives meaning to consuming animals.

Both the artist and the hunter can put themselves in touch with the things they consume, and thus enjoy meaning in what they bring inside their existence.

Most of us living in the modern west have distanced ourselves so completely from what we consume that we have denied ourselves the joy of understanding, the meaning behind seeing it and producing it ourselves.

We have become what we eat – a joyless being, moving from one meal to another, surrounded by things that have no personal meaning to us, that we did not create or take part in.

4. What the Machine Eats – Our willful Enslavement

The desire to be right and keep your ego intact isn’t just caused by the guilt of killing animals. It is brought on by the feeling of helplessness at the face of the big industrialist machine – the corporatized and alienated world of money in which we now live.

Many of us take it as a given that nothing can be done to change big companies and corporations, since they control the means of production. With western man and woman not knowing how to raise animals or grow their food, they are utterly dependent upon outside companies for their survival. With this kind of slavery, it almost makes sense to choose the biggest and, in fact most distant of food manufacturers, in order to detach oneself from acknowledging this servitude.

The feelings of guilt and ineffectiveness lie at the heart of our discussion of eating meat. That is, people living in cultures that cultivate their own food and raise their animals do not question the validity of their actions. They are close to their origins of sustenance and can account for how their food is made. We in the industrialized west are left in the dark, alienated and remote from the things that we intake and make part of ourselves. We are thus driven to rationalize and make excuses, scientific as they may be, whose purposes are to justify that predicament which we know in our heart makes us so miserable.  

The big companies, of course, know that this is guilt and are happy to exploit it. Corporations that profit off animal torture tend to display the argument in the media as having only two sides: a vegan option on the one side -appearing too hard and fanatical for most people – and a carnivorous one, socially and commercially justified, on the other.

If you look at how the subject has been brought up in the media, it is almost always portraying veganism as a sole counter stance to factory harvesting of animals. Most times the same media outlets are sponsored by one or more big dairy or meat companies that profit from the animal imprisonment.

The reason that we feel so powerless facing the big companies is that we have enslaved all of our social systems, as ourselves, to the power of its capital.

Legal systems in most western societies are basing their rulings concerning animals on utilitarian – meaning how much money they generate – reasons. Animal abusers are sentences to miniscule punishments since we allow larger corporations to do so on a regular basis. Instead, as every human being is naturally inclined to think and feel, animals should be treated as sentient, feeling beings with a capacity for suffering and joy – much like small children, in their defenselessness against humans.

In very much the same way, the political sphere, the public sphere and any type of discourse we allow to reach a mass audience is still very much in denial or silent (meaning – dishonest) about animal suffering. This is a moment in time in which people have the obligation to demand what they know is right, and act upon it.

In fact, what the large corporations are afraid of, as is any politician, lawmaker and public figures, are large groups of people making similar actions. Affecting how much money goes into the industry has a domino effect that affects all other walks of life concerning animals and ourselves.

Since it is money that affects how society treats animals, we can and should take action by pulling our money from torture companies and placing it where we can get our food and allow animals the dignity and safety they deserve from us.

The industrial farm system is appalling yet despite its machinations there are effective ways to make it stop. It is sustained by the money poured into it – as is anything in the capitalist sphere – it needs capital in order to grow. Spending our money somewhere else is the best way to have a saying where big companies are involved.

5. Stopping the Machine – Ways of Action

Here are a few possible solutions that would change the course of industrial farming within several years.

In order to prevent animal torture, one can:

  1. Buy from a small, local farms, which guarantee their animals a place to range free, and live a life closest to its natural habitat.
  2. Learn how to cultivate and grow food and raise animals by yourself. Raising a small number of animals in the space and conditions they require for a good life is a way of eliminating the power of grow farms and reconnecting with how mankind consumed meat through most of history.
  3. If there is plentiful free range animals where you live with a legal option to do so, hunting is one way of not taking part in industrial farming. It also acknowledges animals as free to roam and is the least wasteful of all manners of attaining animals for eating.
  4. Cutting down in any shape possible – with so many other plant based sources of nourishment today, eating less animal meat, let alone animals from industry farms, is better for them with its side effects being a boost to your health.
  5. Stopping eating meat. The choice that many people are already taking these days, severely hurting the slaughter industry and raising the numbers of plant-based options by thousands of percents.

This change should also generate the creation of an agreement system, in which small growers and sellers of food realize that any attempt to monopolize by returning to mass slaughtering will lead to people stop buying from them and to discontinue their business.

The social and financial “side effects” of these actions are enormous, including helping local businesses and destroying mass-scale slaughter companies. It is a way of bringing about ecological recuperation and even assisting in ending hunger, by taking the power away from food monopolies and cartels.

Health benefits will undoubtedly rise as well. With the torturing of animals stopping, the auxiliary industries which sustain imprisoned animals with their drugs will cease to gain money, which will benefit the health of humans consuming animal meat.

The biggest effects of this change would be in our regaining our own humanity, as well as our connection with our natural surroundings. We will no longer be quibbling over justifying the eating of animals but will be taking command of our actions.

We will finally be able to look at ourselves, and at the animals around us, as deserving a decent life together.