The flesh of animals (including fishes and birds and snails) used as food
I am a vegetarian, so you may think I am biased in writing this section. When I started writing this book I promised myself I would not enforce my opinions on other people, and that part of being human is the ability to make up ones own mind about things based on the information we have available. So in that spirit, I will let you make up your own mind about whether to become a vegetarian! It is not for me to decide. I made a personal choice for me, that is all.
Speak to anyone about eating meat, and they will tell you: “Man is supposed to eat meat. Man is a hunter. We are meat eaters, no question about it.” Not because they investigated whether Man is indeed a meat eater, omnivore or vegetarian, but because, as children, their parents fed them meat and told them it was good for them. The children naturally trust their parents, and happily eat meat for the rest of their lives without giving it a second thought.
On the surface it does no harm does it? In fact the scientists have said that without eating meat, Man would never have evolved such a large and complex brain, which means that if my ancestors didn’t eat meat, I wouldn’t have had the brain capacity to be able to write this book! So perhaps in our evolution from tree dwelling apes living on vegetarian diets to an upright being with intelligence and tool making abilities, the consumption of meat, and the proteins derived from it, have been critical to our development.
But let’s forget evolution for a moment, as here we are in the present day, able to not only use complex tools, but able to design spacecraft to go to the moon. That certainly is a giant leap.
So maybe steak and chips is the only way to go if we want to progress even further. Perhaps eating more meat will help us become more compassionate human beings, perhaps we will become less violent, perhaps we will have empathy with others, perhaps we will even know what it is to truly love.
Eat more meat equals become better humans.
Because let’s face it, we’ve come a long way in the last two hundred years. Industrialisation, better medicine, better living standards, better science, more equality, less slavery, more money, and more comfort; but is that really because we ate meat?
We started on the long path to becoming homo sapiens several million years ago, but “civilisation” as we know it only started taking place about ten thousand years ago, with the domestication of animals for food, followed by the start of agriculture, and the building of the first cities.
Ancient civilisations developed medicine, culture, tools, roads, water supply systems, political and legal structures, philosophy, literature and mathematics over thousands of years and we have eventually arrived. Here. 2007.
Maybe we got here because we ate meat, maybe we got here on our own without eating meat; all I know is that we are now the most intelligent species on the planet, and with that, comes a lot of responsibility. Responsibility to ourselves, the species we share the planet with and the planet itself. We are now in the enviable position of having complete control over everything that exists here (including other humans). Life or Death. That is a lot of power to hold in such delicate hands, don’t you think? In fact, the power lies not within our hands, but within our minds.
We have the ability to destroy or create in seconds. A thought is generated, and that thought becomes action.
I see the rabbit, and in a millisecond my gun is raised, and I have the choice to pull the trigger and end its life or not.
But life wasn’t always as easy for the hunter. In the old days, it was an arduous task hunting down dangerous wild beasts. For a start, we had to chase them on foot, and we didn’t have guns, so we had to get close. Of course, all that’s changed now. Food is ready prepared for us, and sitting on the shelf, looking very un-animal like, ready to put into the frying pan to tenderise the meat and make it easily digestible for us. No more spearing the animal to death, then cutting off its skin and gutting it; someone else does that for us, and it’s that which I want to talk to you about today.
As we have discussed in other topics, the control we exert over all other living species is lacking in all things human. Love, Compassion and Empathy. We call ourselves animal lovers, but happily chomp away on their flesh; but for once, I want to give humans the benefit of the doubt here. We are all products of the past, of our parents and society, so maybe we have failed to make the connection between the “cute” animals we adore so much, and the fried chicken on our plate.
As children, and as adults, we enjoy watching animals in their natural habitat. Cows, deer, birds, dolphins, whales (if you’re lucky enough to see one), pigs, and chickens, amongst others, and we feel automatic empathy with an animal if we see it suffering (after being hit by a car for example). In fact, we can’t bear to see animals in pain, even if we are meat eaters.
Vegetarians haven’t got a monopoly on empathy you know! It’s a natural emotion that is within all of us, it just needs the right trigger to activate it. You may or may not think that animals have a consciousness, but they are definitely aware of themselves in their surroundings, even if they cannot question the nature of their own existence. One thing is also sure, they do feel pain, no doubt about that, and it is exactly that cry of pain that triggers our own emotional system to feel compassion and empathy for them.
Even humans who have detached themselves from feeling empathy for their victims (such as murderers) still feel it, it’s just suppressed. But there is always the possibility of an event or someone triggering it off again. It is the one thing that makes us truly human.
A gangster who cold bloodedly executes his enemies, is in a state of inconsolable grief when he hears his brother has been shot dead, even though he showed his victims no mercy. He can feel the pain his brother suffered at the time the bullet went in. He can share with him in his last breath, and in that moment, he feels empathy, and compassion, even though he has never experienced it before. Empathy and compassion are always there ready to be used, we just need to make the right connections in our brains to trigger them.
A violent warlord, who brutally tortured and killed his own people, could never do the same to someone he loved, like his mother or his wife. Why? Because he feels compassion for them, and compassion is the one emotion that stops humans killing. So, we have seen that humans can experience compassion, albeit selectively, but it’s a start!
Let me ask you a question. When you go to the butcher or the supermarket to buy your meat, what do you feel when you pick up a chicken breast, sirloin steak or a fillet of fish? Do you feel empathy with that cling wrapped package? Of course you don’t, that would be as foolish as feeling empathy with a loaf of bread, because there is no connection between what the eye sees and the origin of the product.
Mince is just mince, and a chicken leg is just a chicken leg. We do not think of these as animals. These packages are not pigs, nor cattle, nor chickens. The animals have been reduced to pieces, or ground up so we may enjoy chicken curry, spaghetti bolognese, chicken drumsticks or hamburgers amongst others.
To give you a better example; I recently showed a documentary to some close friends which showed graphic images of animals being tortured, tormented, and brutally killed, and each one of my friends (non-vegetarians) said: “I can’t watch this any more, it’s horrific.” Some refused to watch saying: “I’m very sensitive, I love animals, I can’t watch it, it would make me cry,” but all of them said they would continue to eat meat, because “humans are meat eaters,” or “I love meat too much to give it up, but I do eat a lot of vegetables.”
Evidence once again of the lack of connection between the living animal and the end product on the plate.
If you have a pet dog or cat, would you like to see it caged with thousands of other dogs and cats, with no space to move, let alone run and play in the wild where they belong? Imagine watching its fur being brutally skinned off while it was still alive, or seeing its throat slit, and having its trachea pulled out, hung upside down, and left to bleed to death, still screaming in agony?
Let’s put it another way.
Would you like to see your son, daughter, wife or your parents, being forced to live in disgusting conditions where disease is rife, in huge factories, and caged? Where they are branded with red hot steel or have a plastic tag put through their ear, or a chain through their nose; where the workers not only kill, but torture your family to death, and leave them sliced open and bleeding, writhing on the floor trying to gasp fresh air while they slowly choke on their own blood?
Do you agree with the death penalty for murder of other human beings? Well the way animals are treated is much, much, much, more brutal than any execution, and at least these condemned murderers had a chance to live out their life before they made the mistake of killing someone. These animals have no such choice; they are created to be killed.
This is different. This is no accident. This is deliberate. This is cruelty and murder above anything humans are capable of doing to each other.
Think about this. If one man sends six million people to their death in the gas chamber, he is considered inhuman, a monster; but if a man kills sixty million chickens a year, he is considered a successful businessman! Tell me, where is the difference?
You will probably say that we are the supreme predator, we are meat eaters! But what a weak supreme predator we are; not like the lion, who chases after his prey when he is hungry. We have no need to chase prey now. We can grow them in factories and fields, keep them controlled until they are fat enough to kill, then lead them to their death.
We are not like the lion any more. We kill animals; not because we are hungry, but because we are powerful; because we have electric cattle prods, guns, chains and machines, and we want to eat meat, so we do. Not because we have to, but because we are superior. And superior beings get to do what they like, isn’t that right?
- One of greater rank or station or quality
Why do you think we are superior to every other species on the planet? Is it that we are the most intelligent? Or is it because we have invented guns and other devices to kill at will, from a safe distance? We are certainly not superior because we are the strongest physically. Imagine a hungry lion coming into the city, and fighting it hand to hand. Would we win? No, of course not. A lion is designed to eat meat; he has evolved that way, and uses his physical strength and teeth to overcome his prey. We had to invent weapons to overcome the lion and other large species.
Would you be able to wrestle a cow to death? Or a deer? Or would you be able to catch sheep whilst running after them? No, our human bodies are not fast enough, agile enough, nor strong enough for that. We would find it difficult to kill a beast with our bare hands, so we have used our newly developed intelligence to control them. Have you ever wondered why most animals are not actually scared of us in the wild? It is because we are not their natural predator. Animals are not scared of us because we are not on their blueprint of predators. Their brains are hard wired to experience fear when specific species are near, but we are not one of those specific species and we use this to our advantage.
You see, animals have no concept of what an abattoir, electric spike, bolt gun, or what a de-beaking machine is. They have no concept of tail and ear clippers, cages, chains, or knives. These are not in the natural world. These are man-made objects which are at odds with the natural cycle of life and death in the wild. These are tools we use to be superior.
Nature is finally balanced between the carnivores and vegetarians. Too many vegetarians and the natural resources become depleted. Too many meat eaters and the diversity of species becomes reduced. Nature has been balancing the books on the planet for over four billion years, and then we come along, newly evolved with our big brains, ready to raise the planet to the ground. Surely some mistake in evolution?
We charge through life without a care in the world. Killing, clearing, chopping, and digging up the planet, like some naughty child in a playground. Happy to label ourselves “the supreme predator.” Predator, yes. Intelligent, no.
We have no idea about nature. We study it, dissect it, control it, and exploit it, but we are thousands, if not millions of years away from ever understanding how to live in harmony with it, or realising that we are just a small part of nature not above it.
I wonder if you have ever watched an animal being lead to its death? You can see the terror in their eyes, but you can also see that they just can’t understand what’s going on. Look into their eyes. See the fear. See the trust they had in humans, betrayed. See a living creature being sliced open while it is still alive. For what? A chicken curry, a big mac, or a kebab? So we can say “Mmmmm, that’s so tasty,” eat half of it and casually toss the animal into a bin?
Imagine if that was a human, what would you feel then?
To have so little disregard for any life makes me so sad. We all say we love our pets and animals, but please try to make the connection between them and eating meat. Just imagine now, your pet whom you love, being stamped on, beaten with a hammer, or sliced open whilst alive, just so people can enjoy a dog burger, a dog curry, or a dog kebab. If we do not have empathy for the other species who live along side us on this planet, how are we to ever expect to have empathy for our own species?
If you continue to eat meat, you may as well have put the knife in the animal and watched it bleed to death yourself. You are responsible for its death.
Although the abattoirs may be out of sight in your comfortable home, the abattoir is with you every stage of the cooking process to cook your beautiful “meat.” When you make the connection between the fillet steak on your plate and the animal that unwittingly gave up its short life, sliced open at the throat and left to bleed to death whilst still conscious, you may just realise that we have no more right to determine the fate of an animal, than we have the right to determine the fate of other human beings. We all live side by side here, and if we want to retain the title of “most intelligent species on the planet” we had better start behaving like it.
I gave up eating all living things about eight years ago, and since that time, without exception, in every country I have visited in the world, people have looked at me strangely when I tell them I don’t eat meat. “Why don’t you eat meat?” “It’s Natural;” “We are the supreme predator;” “I can’t believe you are a vegetarian.”
“Men shouldn’t be vegetarians,” they say. It’s almost as if they feel threatened by me choosing not to eat animal flesh, as if somehow it compromises my masculinity and theirs. “Man is a hunter, he is a meat eater, we have always been meat eaters,” they say. But if you knew anything about the history of Man, you would know that Man was first a vegetarian and we do not have the necessary biology to eat raw meat like a lion does.
We have to process it artificially to make it edible, then we have to cook it to make sure there is no bacteria still alive. If we were a natural meat eater we wouldn’t have to do all that. You don’t see a lion carving up his steak first then casually grilling it over a fire. The lion eats everything, one bite at a time. That’s a natural meat eater.
So why do we continue to angrily defend our “right” to eat meat? Maybe because it isn’t natural, but like so many things we humans do, is something we “want” to do, because we can. People who have criticized me for not eating meat always want to know the real reason I gave it up, and they feel quietly satisfied if I tell them it was for health reasons only. If I say that I disagree with our dominance and lack of empathy of other species that creates a huge argument and discussion which starts with “Man is a meat eater…”
Let’s move away from empathy, compassion, and argument for a moment, and let’s talk about our parents. If our parents hadn’t given us meat when we were young, and if we didn’t see other children eating it, do you think you would still be “natural” meat eaters? If your parents were vegetarian and your friends were vegetarian, do you think it would ever cross your mind that you fancied some deep fried chicken nuggets or fish fingers? Is it not wholly possible that the reason we are meat eaters is in fact a result of conditioning?
“Eat your meat! You’ll grow up to be a strong boy!”
If I have managed to survive very nicely whilst being a vegetarian (who eats no dairy or eggs also), and continue to enjoy eating thai, italian, indian, mexican, and french cuisine without one animal nor my taste buds suffering, is it not reasonable to suppose that I actually didn’t need it in the first place? I am healthy, I am not malnourished, and in fact I feel pretty good!
The problem lies in our arguments for eating meat, in that they are not made with an inquiring mind to find out the truth. The arguments we make are pure conditioning, pure past; a memory of what was told to us by our parents, teachers, and society. If we are to progress as a species we need to inquire into the nature of all things, not blindly accept what others have told us and fight anyone who challenges that thought with automatic responses.
It is not enough just to say something is so to make it so. Do not use other people’s arguments. If you want to make a case for eating meat, then inquire into with your own mind, but until someone can convince me that being vegetarian is not only bad for my health, and has not enabled me to be a more compassionate human being, not only to the animals, but also to my fellow humans, then I will get back to enjoying my vegetarian thai curry thanks.
by alan macmillan orr
‘the natural mind – waking up’