One of the first things we Canadians notice when we visit a place like Spain is that they seem to love dead animals. They hang them up in the windows, they lay them out whole on beds of ice, once I even saw a sow’s head wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigarette placed on the counter at a butcher shop. We in Canada don’t tend to display the carcasses of the animals we love to eat. In spain it’s common to see pigs heads, lamb’s heads, fish heads, rabbits, fish squid, octopus, and many other animals or parts of animals. It is impossible not to be confronted with the life of the creature you’re about to eat.
You see I think Canadians are engaged in an inner struggle. We love animals. We think cows have pretty eyes. We don’t want to slaughter animals. But we love steak and burgers and pork ribs and pea-meal bacon. That’s why we have to call cow beef and pig pork or ham. We all know where it comes from but we’d rather it just arrive in a styrofoam tray all pink and fresh looking. This inner turmoil manifests in a few obvious contradictions.
For example: lots of people who think they believe in animal rights are against hunting. In many cases hunting permits are issued where a population of, say, deer is negatively effecting the local ecology and must be culled. Then a skilled hunter kills the animal quickly and painlessly, butchers it, and saves the meat, hide and antlers. Alternately, cows are raised in mass farms, pumped full of hormones, fed crap food (if you’re lucky they can get out and graze a little), and killed by electrocution, gassing, or gunshot. In my mind, people who care about animals at all should be promoting hunting as an alternative to mass-produced meat wherever possible. Most importantly, hunters cannot be accused of being naive to the plight of the animals they slay. I have much more respect for hunters than I do a person who can only scarf down their big-mac if they don’t have to look a cow in the eye. I think that if you wouldn’t kill it, you shouldn’t eat it.
I see another annoying contradiction in the imagined differences that people see between different animals. It’s thoroughly studied and often pointed out but people still like to think that it’s wrong to kill or eat cats and dogs but it’s okay to kill cows and pigs. There was recently a subway. Many studies put the intelligence of pigs far above that of cats or dogs. Some researchers who studied dolphin cognition believe that dolphins are smart enough that they qualify as non-human-people and deserve all the rights afforded to humans. The point is that every person needs to consider by what criteria we are deciding when it’s okay to kill things. If it’s intelligence, then we should certainly not eat pigs and most of the animals that we do eat are up for debate. A while back, Toronto was in an uproar over a guy who killed a litter of baby raccoons with a spade. How many of them do you think were vegans? Most people, when you push them, love the animals that they have become attached to emotionally and eat the animals that they have not, even if they posses the intelligence and sentience of a small child.
Here is one argument that people make for eating cows and pigs and not dogs and cats. None of those animals are natural creations. We designed them for our purposes. Cows and pigs were selectively bred from wild animals to be more docile and to yield more meat. Similarly, cats and dogs were selectively bred for the various unique traits that we see in different breeds. Some might say that because we created cows and pigs for our purposes, we can use them for our purposes. There is no way to treat an unnatural creature naturally. Likewise, we created dogs to be companions and trophies. Thus we have a right to keep them that way. It’s a little like the christian argument in defense of old testament genocide which states that God created humanity so he has the right to do with us what he likes. I will not say what’s right or wrong, but if you feel this way about your bacon then come right out and say it. I think it’s a repulsive idea personally.
Other naysayers say that nature is a cruel and horrible place where animals are killed painfully and viscously all the time. To corral, feed, humanely slaughter, and eat animals, then, is giving them a good life. Well, would you like to be kept in a pen, fed, and killed painlessly to save you from all that is scary and horrible in the world? Of course not.
I have no interest in telling people what is right and wrong. I don’t have any idea myself. What bothers me is not people who have well thought out beliefs and feelings about animal rights but rather the people whose thoughts and statements are so hypocritical that they’ve either not thought about it or are deeply in denial. If you think eating dogs or horse or pigeon is wrong but you love bacon, you really need to think about more than just which is cuter. ‘Cause piglets are adorable!
Whatever you do, don’t be naive. Face the world with eyes wide open.
In the comments below, tell me how you justify eating meat or, if you don’t, why not.