Morality vs Nature: Vegans and Vegetarians
I have been having trouble lately with the idea of being vegan and vegetarianism. They both use similar arguments in their defense, some that lessen the integrity of the other arguments in their arsenal. Other ‘controversial’ issues I can usually come up with a sound answer for, an opinion of my own, but though I have several times thought out my answer, often a new rebuttal is given to me to make me reconsider.
I came to the conclusion last time I thought it over that it was natural to eat meat — part of the natural order of things. I decided that it was as unjust for me to eat meat as it was for a lion. Our bodies were made to enjoy meat, just as they were made to enjoy vegetables. I decided I did not support cruelty in farming animals — I believe that any prey should live a nice life before it is eaten. In that respect farm animals ought to live an easier life than wild ones — wild animals are always on the run from their predators, and farm animals should be protected, fed well and sheltered well. But I also believe that some animals are predators and some are prey, and there is nothing wrong with that. In that respect, a happily farmed animal certainly lives more peacefully than its wild counterpart. Wild animals are almost guaranteed a ‘violent’ death at the hands of their predators. Farm animals ought to be killed as peacefully as possible. Some argue that is not possible; that factory farm animals know they’re going to die and they can hear their friends dying at the slaughterhouse. The process is meant to be painless, but has been shown not to be, due to incompetence. A factory farm is not a terrible place by design; it is the carelessness of the people who run it that makes it that way.
Some vegans/vegetarians argue that you cannot be compassionate about animals and also want to eat them; I disagree. I love strawberries, for instance, and would be sad if they ever went extinct. They are living beings, too, yet I still eat them and so do vegans and vegetarians. Just because from the outside they are as inanimate and ‘lifeless’ as dirt, does not mean they did not live. It does not mean that they do not die for our pleasure. And therein is one of the arguments that lessens the integrity of another. Some claim a respect and love of living things as their reason, yet still eat plants. Vegans claim compassion, yet I have seen those of them that would argue that even a lovingly raised family-farm cow is being treated poorly if it is milked, that a chicken raised to lay eggs suffers, no matter how lovingly a family takes care of her. Is that so? No human can say; no animal can tell us. I do not think a kindly raised animal suffers from this. It is the reason they are raised to begin with. The ideal is that they are protected, fed and sheltered; they live a life of peace, and in return they give us food, whether it is eggs, milk, or meat. In the old days, it was certainly a better promise for an animal than it is today. Cows grazed on green pastures; pigs had large pens to roam about in and mud to play in; chickens also had large pens, room to roam. Today they are drugged into quick growth and quick death, held in tiny pens with no room to move, and given as little food as possible — which is very little, with the help of drugs.
I will continue with the conflicting arguments presented. Two arguments are used by both: that it is cruel, and that killing living beings for food is selfish. I concede that it can be cruel, but would you think that a very nicely family-farmed raised animal who is milked or has eggs taken from them is being raised cruelly? The Facebook comments section of pro-vegan pro-vegetarian posts might not be the best place to find answers, but according to them the answer is yes, they would. But they would expect humans to take care of animals without anything in return but the existence of said animals.
And there is another argument; that to support the millions of animals that are eaten, we use too many resources. Ideally to them, it is better that these animals never exist in the first place, or that these millions of animals are no longer eaten and are instead taken care of, and only taken care of. They certainly would not support the theoretical idea of, for instance and ignoring the morality of forcing others to act the way you want through law, meat-eating being banned and the majority of currently living animals being slaughtered. They would want humans to cover the costs of their existence without any profit. Even with dogs and cats, there are millions of them lying unwanted in pounds across the country and the world. Dogs and cats have been friends of humanity for centuries. Chickens and pigs might be integrated as pets, but cows would not be. Our ‘alliance’ with our pets goes both ways. We will take care of them and love them, and in return they will stay with us and love us back. We care for them in return for their companionship. A regular person cannot take care of a cow — cannot afford one, just as a regular person cannot afford to take care of a horse. There are far fewer horses in the world than cows. At the moment, rescued cows live on conservations (that’s not the right word for it but something like that.) Vegans and vegetarians would ask that humanity take care of all livestock for all eternity, with nothing in return. Realistically, this will never happen considering how many there are. Even other endangered species live in the wild; it is humans killing them that make them endangered, not their less intelligent predators. Livestock are domesticated animals; they cannot live without support. Expecting that support without a price is unrealistic. If that is wrong, however, I could see myself at least supporting the end of farming animals, if not eating them.
They both claim to value the lives of farmed animals and that there should be less of them. They claim killing is unjust because it is cruel, but it does not have to be. Death itself is not cruel. It is a fact of life. They seem to think that it would be better not to exist than to live any sort of existence as a farmed animal. I believe it is possible for an animal to grow up happily alongside its mother for as long as possible, to be well fed and sheltered, and then to be painlessly killed without any of it being immoral. The morality of it is questioned because it is done by people, and not by nature. Wild animals are forced to fight for survival every day of their lives. The wild is not the Circle of Life as sung about in the Lion King. In the real world, Mufasa and his pride eat the rhinos and gazelle and other animals in their ‘kingdom’. Gazelle and wildebeest do not consider lions their royal family, to be adored — they are feared.
Animals are not burdened by great forethought. Though they are affected by their past, they live in the present, be it good or bad. A lovingly raised animal is healthy and happy, and I daresay as an animal myself that I would prefer a quick, painless death at the end of a happy, carefree existence than I would a life of struggling to live and an end consisting of being chewed to death by the sharp teeth of a predator.
At its core, I fundamentally disagree that to kill something is to be cruel to it. Cruelty is when you inflict pain on someone or something. To kill something is to end its life. Even a plant can feel itself be eaten, yet nobody protests the eating of plants, as then there would be nothing they could eat. Death is not cruel to the dead, it is cruel to the living.
Oh! So killing someone is okay, you say? Because vegans and vegetarians consider animals their equals. Killing prey is okay, yes, if done as painlessly as possible and especially if there is no other way to eat meat. Less intelligent predators do not trouble themselves about how much agony their prey suffers as they die, but we have the minds to do that. We do not need a consciousness to end; we need the meat and flesh it is housed in. We do not need the life of a plant; we need the leaves of it, the stem, etc. That is why I do support culture meat, meat grown from meat cells, and would also support vegetables grown from leaf/vegetable cells. These processes being developed mean that we can have organic substance to eat without ending or creating a life to do it. And that is the real truth. Vegans and vegetarians say that to eat meat is to be cruel. And anyone with an imagination can understand that it does not have to be.
Another fundamental conclusion I have come to is this: often, compassionate causes attack fundamental human nature. Biologically we enjoy meat. We love meat! A boy or girl growing up being told that meat is cursed and that it is disgusting will very likely find it so, but that is psychological conditioning, and the same could be done with vegetables. Compassion itself is ‘selfish’ in nature. We are kind to others, I hope, because we enjoy making others happy and we wish to live in a world where people are kind. We are kind to animals such as dogs and cats so that they will be our friends, or kind in return. We take care of livestock so that it will give us eggs/milk/meat. The golden rule, essentially, is what guides us; be good to others that they will be good to you. But there are countries where dogs and cats are eaten just as our livestock are. In some countries, cats and dogs are not pets, but rodents — not generally eaten, not generally liked.
But meat is meat, and humans are born to love it. Some may say we are better off without, because we usually have too much, and damages one’s health — but too much of anything damages one’s health. Some say meat is like a drug, but you could say the same of sunlight — far more people enjoy sunny days than rainy ones, and many get skin cancer. It does not mean a person should avoid the sun at all costs.
Think of what your true goal is. It is not that people should eat vegetables, or that people should not eat/drink milk, eggs, animal products including meat, obviously. It is not that people should treat animals ‘kindly’ or ‘as equals’ as being kind and treating animals as equals can have many interpretations. There are self-proclaimed vegetarians that eat meat, but think of themselves as such because they only eat certain types of meat! I would say that providing for an animal for its whole life, giving it a nice home and nice food and nice shelter, and eating it in return/getting eggs/milk is a fair bargain, and if the animal isn’t unhappy how can you say it doesn’t agree?
The goal is not that people should not be cruel.
The goal is that humans should no longer kill for their meat.
The goal is that humans should not interfere with an animal’s life except to take care of it and love it.
Why do we interfere now, other than to take care and love? We do it for food. Unlike smoking, food is actually essential to humans! People do not love being told they are evil for loving yummy food. Just as those who want to convince the overweight to lose weight should focus on ways to make them biologically want to eat less (how many people in the world are obese , know the health risks and feel guilty and miserable about being obese…and do nothing whatsoever, because the biological urge to eat is so strong?) So vegans and vegetarians should find a way to make meat, milk and eggs without a living being ever being involved. Make people aware of the current experiments going on to make animal products minus the animals. Show them that endorsing this means a future where they can eat meat without hurting any living creature. Be pragmatic. Remember, eating meat and eating vegetable stuff is not the problem. Hurting/killing living things is. You may find that the stick works better alongside the carrot, not better without it.