Imagine aliens visit our planet and decide to stay. They are bigger, stronger, smarter and faster than we are in every way. If they aren’t naturally more advanced, their technology is. The aliens can live without doing harm to us, but they can choose to do great harm. There is no way for us to protect ourselves from them, let alone over-power them. All we can hope for is their mercy.
On Mother’s Day, we honor mothers, motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. Attachment Theory, a theory of child development, recognizes the importance of the relationship between a child and her primary caregiver. John Bowlby, affectionately referred to as the father of Attachment Theory, developed this theory by studying evolutionary biology and ethology, in addition to psychology. In fact, it was Lorenz’s imprinting study with geese that showed that attachment behavior is innate and important for survival.
I meet a lot of people that are very close to being vegan (or at least that’s what they tell me). And I know many people as well that consider themselves mostly vegan in terms of their diet. It’s always very encouraging and commendable to see people standing up for what they believe in, even when the status quo isn’t on our team yet. Nonetheless, I find myself often asking, what keeps them from making the small leap to becoming a proud, confident and out vegan rather than one shyly hovering on the threshold?
While some might resign to the popular notion that eating animals is a personal choice, Jenny chooses not to internalize her beliefs and instead seeks to make it a highly visible part of her identity. She wants to have a positive impact so posts regularly on Facebook and invites discussions with family, friends and acquaintances.
The recent horsemeat scandal, in which consumers discovered that the meat they had eaten was from horses rather than cows, has caused nothing short of an international outcry. The unwitting horsemeat consumers (as well as the general public) had a powerful, visceral reaction to the idea of eating the flesh of a different species than the one they had believed would be in their food, and this collective reaction was one of disgust and moral offence.
“I watched this video with growing anxiety as I saw what I already knew to be true but had never seen. Thanks to you and Animal Place, I am ready to be freed from the last bondage of consuming animal products. I’ve thrown away the eggs and cheese in my refrigerator without a moment of regret. My quest now will be to become educated about a vegan diet. I have shared the video Turlock on Facebook and email. I am so grateful. This is the push I needed, painful tho it was.”
It’s easy to be outraged at these slaughterers. It’s harder to understand, however, why they do what they do. It’s not because they are bad people. One of the most difficult aspects in covering the human-animal relationship is that so often very good people do terrible things and have no idea that they are complicit in structured evil. It is thus all the more critical that advocates work to identify and communicate the psychological and rhetorical strategies that prevent a more authentic assessment of what it means to kill an animal that you do not have to kill.
Last month, an employee at a slaughterhouse in Fresno, California walked into work, pulled out a gun, and shot four people, two of them execution style, before attempting to take his own life. Coworkers, many of whom described the suspect as “nice” and “respectful,” claimed to be puzzled by this outburst. The president of Valley Protein, the abattoir where the shooting happened, declared the incident to be a “random act.”
A recent survey conducted by the Neighbors Opposed to Backyard Slaughter found that a majority of Oakland, California residents living in the areas with the highest number of livestock animals opposed the practice of keeping and slaughtering animals in backyards residences. The survey was conducted in Oakland districts one and three. A majority of those surveyed oppose backyard slaughter (52% in district one and 55% in district three).
In my quest to understand and deconstruct the argument that meat eating is a personal choice, I have identified here five main reasons why it is illogical and ethically problematic to justify meat eating on the basis of “personal choice” for some, just as being vegan or vegetarian is a personal choice for others. And I explain here why eating animals is far from “personal;” it also contradicts the spirit and meaning of choice itself. In reality, the choice to eat meat negates the very meaning of choice because the animal that had to be killed to procure the meat had no choice in the matter at all.
Last week I sat in a brew pub and spoke with a 55-year-old cyclist who was really into fitness. He looked good for his age. When he learned I was a vegan for three years now, he explained to me that he had tried to be a vegetarian for a while and then described the many obstacles that made him defect.
Lo said that at the time, a staff member from a slaughterhouse had gone to his farm to single out a few hogs, prompting the terrified animals to start wailing. “Except for one piglet, which abruptly quieted down when I took it in my hands and then it looked me right in the eyes, as if saying: ‘How could you do this to me?’ That look in its eyes shattered me and kept me awake all night,” Lo said.
One of the highlights from the almost 2-hour long Australian debate about meat eating called Should Animals Be Left Off the Menu came from an unidentified young man in the audience who made a profound statement about the pyschological motivations behind why we eat animals. Following is a transcript of his statement:
The world is red in tooth and claw, it is said. Animals kill and eat each other as a matter of course. It’s as natural as breathing, sleeping, and breeding. But yet … What this elision obscures is the self evident truth that humans are the only species with the potential to conceptualize and consciously apply basic moral principles to the chaos of biological life.
“The strongest animals on earth are plant eaters. Every creature we’ve enlisted to do the work we couldn’t handle — the horse, donkey, elephant, camel, water buffalo, ox, yak — is an herbivore… whose huge muscles were built from plant protein, and whose strong bones got that way, and stayed that way, from grazing on grass and eating other vegetables.” – Victoria Moran