“You have just dined… and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
“It’s a lifestyle choice”. That’s a common claim of friends and family when our discussion turns to our varying decisions on whether or not to eat animals and their secretions. For ethical reasons, I’m a vegan. Because I’m doing my best to live a life of non-violence, and because I wish to ease others’ suffering whenever possible, I don’t consume anything that’s derived from an animal source. I understand that the production of animals for food entails a tremendous amount of pain and suffering. Regardless of claims to the contrary, there’s nothing “humane” about it, and however peacefully a farmed animal spends his life, he does not go willingly to slaughter, gladly laying down his life for the pleasure of humans’ palates. Animals who are slaughtered for food die a violent, painful death. I don’t want to be a party to that in any way. I consider this to be less of a lifestyle choice and more of a categorical imperative (def: a moral obligation or command that is unconditionally and universally binding).
I use the term “benign lifestyle choice” to refer to those differences we have among each other which reflect personal preferences, but which do not cause harm to another. I have friends who prefer snowboarding, while I prefer skiing. Some friends would choose to vacation in the desert, while others choose the mountains, and still others choose tropical locales. Some are baseball fans, others football fanatics. These are benign lifestyle choices, some of which I have in common with my friends and family, and others, of course, on which we differ. By and large, there’s an acceptance and tolerance of these differences, and we appreciate and respect each other’s prerogative to live our lives the way we want. Even differences in the often touchy realm of political or religious orientation are tolerated, and occasionally provide material for interesting, spirited debate, and even good-natured ribbing. But when it comes to harming another for the sake of pleasure, as in the case of eating animals, I cannot condone it as a “benign lifestyle choice”.
I doubt many people would want to be friends with a mass murderer, or a child abuser, or a rapist, or a bully toward the weak and vulnerable. Certainly, no one would actually consider the practice of hurting and killing others to be a benign lifestyle choice. Yet the same people who decry those crimes of violence are those who, on a daily basis, are accomplices to those very acts. Sure, they don’t commit the acts themselves, but instead, pay others to do so, then reap the benefits in the form of food they find tasty. Without getting blood on their hands, or even having to witness the violence, they relish the neatly packaged results, consuming the flesh of murdered innocents with abandon.
But the crimes of violence I refer to are only “crimes” in certain instances. The various brutalities routinely inflicted upon farmed animals would be considered felony animal abuse if the victims were our dogs or cats. But in the world of industrial animal agriculture, the mutilations, intense confinement, deprivation of food, water, and medical care, and many other forms of physical and psychological torture, are not considered crimes, but “standard practice”. My own friends and family, whom I dearly love, and who think of themselves as compassionate animal-lovers, are undeniably in reality, party to some of the most heinous cruelty imaginable. Though they vocally object to animal abuse, they support it through their “lifestyle choice” to eat animals. By maintaining relationships with them, I’ve effectively aligned myself with supporters of mass murder, child abuse, rape, and bullying. How do I reckon with that fact? How can I respect someone who’s a willing accomplice to the mass murder of innocent victims — victims I dedicate my life to helping?
Watch for my next post!
Till then, you can learn some of the terms used to describe the common practices involved in mass production of animals for food: Farm Animal Cruelty Glossary
And for irrefutable evidence of regularly occurring abuses in animal agriculture, check out some of the acclaimed investigative work by Mercy For Animals: