When we say, ‘Everything eats and is eaten,’ we are also implying a conclusion which is something like, “Therefore eating animals is justified because it’s natural.” But there are many common, natural behaviors we see in both domestic animals and wildlife that we would find immoral and offensive to engage in ourselves based on modern societal standards. We would never attempt to justify them by citing how other species regularly engage in them. The fact that males of various species often sexually force themselves on females who clearly seek to escape such assaults is one example. We don’t point to this biologically natural behavior in other species as a moral defense for rape in our own kind. And yet, when it is convenient for our argument, some use this exact logic when they suggest that eating animals is okay because “Everything eats and is eaten” or “animals eat other animals so why shouldn’t we?”
“Everything eats and is eaten” is also just an inaccurate statement. Yes “everyone eats” but not everyone eats other sentient beings. In fact, only about 10 percent of all animals are actually carnivorous, and many of these are scavengers, which feed on decomposing corpses. Then there are parasites and other non sentient life forms that feed on decaying animal and plant matter. Does the fact that parasites eat decaying animals mean we should eat road kill too?
The worst suggestion in “Everyone eats and is eaten” is that we are somehow biologically “predetermined” to eat animals and therefore abandon any moral consideration for our actions. It suggests we should ignore two important factors which determine the morality of any action: necessity and intention. The fact is true carnivores kill and eat animals out of a necessity to survive while we consume animals unnecessarily. We have the power to choose to inflict suffering and death or spare both. When we knowingly choose to inflict suffering on someone for the pleasure we derive from it, this is not just unnecessary; it reveals maligned intention.
Some of these very same “excusitarians” identify as “animal lovers.” They would witness an individual animal being harmed in a public space and condemn it and may even act to stop the abuser, but when we pay others to systematically harm other animals on a mass scale and confined to windowless slaughterhouses, it suddenly becomes grounds for celebrating and fetishizing the taste of their body parts.
“Everything eats and is eaten” conflates human omnivores with the likes of obligate carnivores or even obligate omnivores who kill and eat other wild, free-roaming animals out of necessity while we go about artificially breeding raising and killing herbivorous animals trapped in confinement who we have intentionally bred to be submissive and defenseless against us. In short, we’ve created a rigged game stacked against the victims in which we claim a hollow victory.