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..
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:
- That people have been eating animals all over the world for many years.
- 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:
- Buy from a small, local farms, which guarantee their animals a place to range free, and live a life closest to its natural habitat.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.