Saturday, December 04, 2004

Violence and Vegetarianism

Yesterday, my wife bought a microwave bacon cooking pan. This morning, the smell of bacon filled the house. When I came down to the kitchen, she said, "It's the best $4.95 I've spent!" I turned towards the sink and counted to 10.

I am a vegetarian; a lacto-ovo vegetarian, to be more precise. I eat milk and egg products, but I do not eat flesh or anything that requires the animal to be killed to produce it. I don't eat beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, or insects (though I do kill mosquitoes).

I do not require that people around me be vegetarians, though if I am cooking for others, they will be eating a vegetarian meal. I required that my children eat follow my vegetarian diet until they were 16, at which point, they were responsible for choosing what they ate.

So why was I so angry this morning that I had to work hard to hold my temper? I've been thinking about it for an hour, now, and I have become aware of several simmering emotions:

I do not believe it is right to kill animals so that I can eat them.
I have believed this since I was 18 when, because of a number of events, I asked myself why I wasn't a vegetarian:

- I remember reading a science fiction story about a spaceship that came to Earth and picked up humans, only to eat them. I hoped that if an intelligent species from another planet were to come to Earth, they would ask me if I wanted to live (and respected my wish) before they decided to kill me and eat me.

- I saw a documentary on how cows are slaughtered. The look of confusion and terror (anthropomorphisms, I know) on the cows' faces as they were herded towards a trap door chute. Falling through the door, the cow's rear leg was grabbed and held by a clasp. As the cow fell through the roof if the slaughterhouse, the clasped leg caused the cow to flip upside down. Within seconds, the waiting butcher slit the cow's throat. Hanging upside down, the cow was left to bleed to death as it was moved down the assembly-line to the next station. In the space of only a few seconds, a living being was converted to a production-line commodity.

I asked myself how I could eat cows that were killed without respect for their lives. I decided that I would not eat anything that I though was self-aware. I would ask myselft the question, "If I could communicate with this animal, would this animal say it is all right for me to kill and eat it?". If I had any doubts about the animal's preference, then I would respect the possibility that the animal might choose to live.

Many people who eat meat do not know from whence it came.

Compare your reactions to these statements:

- I eat chicken breasts, but I don't like seeing whole chickens hanging in the window.
- I eat meat, but I don't like seeing the tongues or brains.
- I eat beef, but I don't think it is right to eat veal.
- I eat hamburgers, but I won't eat steak.
- I don't eat fish because it comes with a head and eyes, but I eat salmon steak.

To help us make decisions about how to spend our money, marketing and advertising try to keep us from thinking about unpleasant or distasteful consequences of our choices. But ignoring them does not mean they do not happen. If one is not willing to accept the way in which meat is produced, then one should not clense one's conscience by handing over money in echange for meat.

How we treat each other is reflected in the way we treat all living things.

I do not agree with those that claim that because we are humans, we are entitled to eat animals. I hope the aliens find these same folks when they land on Earth and claim the same right to eat them!

Even if you do eat meat, at least be aware of the violence done on your behalf and for your pleasure. If you eat meat, you are responsible for the forced death of the animal. The animal is dead and you are not, because you are stronger and you forced your will on the weaker species.

The use of force to impose will is prevalent in nature. It is the law of the jungle, the order of the animal kingdom, it is might making right. Is that how we want to treat each other

December 4, 2004