Monday, 20 July 2009

No, I Don't Eat Raw Meat Pt 2 - Animal Rights Guilt-Mongering

This article is hard-hitting. It's not written for the majority of you, but for those eating meat, whether cooked or raw.

When we eat meat, we eat death.

Eating meat is eating death and suffering. We pick fruit - the tree continues to grow. And the seeds inside the picked fruit can grow, and, if we were living naturally, we would expel these seeds out of our bottoms into the earth, to create more life.

But when we use an animal's flesh for food, it can live no longer, nor can any part of it reproduce. It has no life in it; we eat its corpse.

Everyone who eats meat, whether they kill the animals themselves or have others do it for them, is directly responsible for terrible suffering.

Dr Jane Goodall (chimp researcher): 'Thousands of people who say they 'love' animals sit down once or twice a day to enjoy the flesh of creatures who have been utterly deprived of everything that could make their lives worth living and who have endured the awful suffering and the terror of the abattoirs.'

I won't go into the details of the living conditions some farm animals endure, as I suspect many meat-eaters reading this blog will be buying meat from suppliers who reassure that the animals have led 'happy lives'. So let's think about that...what's being proposed here is that it's OK to kill them way before the end of their natural lives and eat them. It's a bit like saying, 'oh, we're human being-lovers. Yes, we do eat humans (occasionally), but we're careful to look for humans that have been raised on organic food, been given lots of space to roam around in, and have led happy lives.'

And no matter how 'humanely' the animals have been raised, their killing is another matter. When they're no longer any good for producing eggs and milk, or, in the case of males, are no longer needed as studs, they're transported to the slaughterhouse, where their lives are ended - brutally and bloodily. It's been said that if slaughterhouses had walls no one would eat meat, and the occupation of 'slaughterhouse worker' has one of the highest turnover rates. Slaughterhouse workers routinely witness the strangling, beating, scalding and skinning of live, fully conscious animals.

If you are a meat-eater, imagine a scenario where you, or a parent perhaps, are transported to a slaughterhouse where you then suffer in the way the animals suffer. Even if you've told yourself that none of what I've just said is true (please see the film 'Earthlings') and you have some idea that it's just a 'stun-gun', and it's all 'painless' really, imagine yourself being transported, then killed 'humanely', to satisfy people who've told themselves they're caring people because they've thought carefully about different ways of killing. Use your powers of imagination. Empathise.

Some who eat meat do believe that it's important for us to understand how meat gets to our plates. And TV cook programmes have courted some controversy for showing this. But, have they? Have any of them showed slaughterhouses in action? Or animals' throats being slit before the 9 pm 'watershed'? But 'chickens strangled'? Yep, they reckon audiences will stomach that, blood! And of course we're told the chickens have led happy lives... So that's OK then. A turning point for me came after a foray back into meat-eating, when I watched a programme that showed a chicken flapping its wings so furiously as it was being strangled, fighting so hard to hang on to life - it desperately wanted to live! But, no, it was killed to persuade some moron who lived on burgers ('I don't eat vegetables.') to switch to 'organically-fed' chickens.

So, if you've given up 'red meat', but think chicken's acceptable, imagine the smallest, most defenceless, innocent person you know being strangled. If you are feeling upset or annoyed at that suggestion, ask yourself why that is.

Did any UK readers see that programme in which the foul-mouthed TV chef showed off his 'survival' skills by shooting a stag? That stag was a beautiful creature - the epitome of health and strength (which I suppose is why it was deemed worthy of execution) - achieved by living a life for many years totally in accordance with nature. The chef shot this defenceless creature, burned its body with fire, and ate the flesh - committing that act of atrocity for just a few minutes of taste sensation, only to expel it from his bottom later (couple of days later, probably). What a clever fellow.

Ah, but of course he should have 'thanked' the stag. This is an idea that has really taken hold with the 'spiritual', 'compassionate' people recently, and even popped up in the film 'Avatar' with it's depiction of a people living (it claimed) in perfect harmony with nature. If we 'thank' the animal for 'giving up its life for us', it's all OK - we're good people. It's amazing what things we human beings will come up with to justify our worst acts. Those who think that 'thanking' makes it all better conveniently forget that we thank those who generously give (of their own volition) things to us. Stealing, murdering then 'thanking'?!?

Fish...for many years pre-raw I'd managed to persuade myself that eating fish wasn't so bad...and indeed perhaps their physiologies are such that they don't feel pain in the way other creatures do. Whatever, it seems reasonable to suggest that they might suffer greatly from the experience of what is essentially suffocation. Check out Joe Goldfarb's thought-provoking account of his enlightenment following the eating of a salmon.

Man has no natural instinct to eat flesh.

'Give a lion-cub a rabbit and an apple. He'll eat the rabbit and play with the apple. Give a small child a rabbit and an apple. He'll eat the apple and play with the rabbit.' (Harvey Diamond, 'Fit for Life'.)

At our most pure, when we are little children, we have no natural instinct to eat flesh. We eat flesh and come to like the taste of it through socialisation based on depravity.

My cat, as early as I can remember, would 'rattle' his teeth if he saw a bird through the window. There's no such reaction from a toddler when he sees a hen. But he will pick at your freshly-shelled peas or cut cucumber.

Carnivores, when hungry, will look for movement, rustlings, scratchings - they will instinctively be drawn to hunt, to pounce, to kill animal life. We have no such instincts.

Older readers will remember a time when it was normal for children to 'play out', unsupervised. What attracted us for food? The rustle of a mouse? A lamb in a field? Or blackberries, or perhaps the sight of ripe plums overhanging a wall?

Aesthetically, we are attracted to colourful, vibrant fruit and vegetables, not bloody dead animals.

Meat-eaters will do anything not to be reminded of what they're actually eating.

When I tell 'cooked' meat-eating people I'm a raw foodist, they'll often say 'you don't eat raw meat, do you?', with a grimace. That's because the thought of eating raw meat is repugnant to most people. That is, except a very small group of raw foodists who have pushed aside their natural revulsion, and made themselves eat it.

One of the reasons man cooks flesh is to try to disguise it. The realisation of what people are truly doing when they eat meat makes them feel uncomfortable. (There's a reason for that!).

When it's made into cuts and cooked, it doesn't look too much like an animal any more. True, we sometimes see pigs on spits. Many people do find those disturbing, but will shut out impulses of horror, anaesthetising themselves sufficiently to have a pork sandwich or whatever. They'll carve off the belly or haunch, but few will carve into the face (which might result in those inconvenient feelings of 'what on earth am I doing??' popping up and bothering them.)

The word 'meat', thousands of years ago, was often, if not always, used generically for 'food'. It's only relatively recently that it's become a euphemism for flesh. We'll call a lettuce a lettuce, a fruit a fruit, but I've noticed that meat-eaters can get very hot under the collar if we use the word for what is actually being eaten. Again, it's because they don't wish to be reminded of what they are doing. Imagine the parental 'outrage' if a primary school teacher used the word 'flesh' instead of the non-offensive 'meat' in a lesson on nutrition - forbid the thought!

TV programme-makers have been criticised for showing slaughtering of animals because, uh-oh, children might see. It would be upsetting for children to see animals murdered. But, it's because children have been shielded from the reality of knowing what's behind the 'meat' they've been persuaded is good for them, because they have been encouraged by their parents not to emphathise, not to develop compassion to other creatures, that most people do grow up as meat-eaters. As my friend John Coleman said recently ' must ask what is human 'nature'? Are we not entitled to suggest that compassion for other species is part of our 'nature', that is, suppressed by cultural programming?'

Even when meat is eaten raw, it's generally eaten in a way that doesn't remind the eater too much of the animal. It's drained of blood. Animals aren't fussy about blood in their meat, but again, humans...don't like to see all that blood, bile and general mess...we must ask ourselves why. I suggest because it is unnatural for us to eat dead animals.

'Venison' (deer) will be thinly sliced, perhaps 'smoked'. A section of a cow's leg will be made into 'mince'. Liver may be finely sliced, perhaps adorned. Fruit-eaters will happily pluck a fruit from a tree, but a raw meat-eater generally won't pluck a liver from a corpse and bite into it. (Of course, there will be a few individuals in the world who will no doubt do this, but don't tell me it's 'natural'.)

Whether raw or cooked, cut into little 'cutlets', wrapped in plastic, sliced, minced...flesh will be dressed up in any way possible that helps people remain unconscious of the fact that they are eating an animal, who lived, breathed and experienced pain and suffering in just the way we do.

'Let's not think about that, darling, shall we?'

Human beings have free will...we can CHOOSE.

I'm going to start here with a premise borne from observation.

Human beings are not like 'all other animals'.

Animals have not been given free will. They just 'do' as they're made. For some reason (and I think the reasons have filled a billion or so books, so...won't go into those here), we're a different sort of creature from 'all other animals'.

Amongst the differences are: we can reflect, we can empathise, we can choose.

Not only in diet, but in a multiplicity of ways is there proof that humans can choose their behaviours. 'Animal instincts' are often used as an excuse - when we've behaved in a base way, when we've 'missed the mark', when we don't want to take responsibility for actions and want to persuade people that we 'didn't have a choice.'

I remember restaurant critic A A Gill mocking vegetarians once. He said that they don't smile much, as if they did, and looked in the mirror, they might see their canines, which would remind them that they are meat-eaters. Chortle, chortle. Regardless of the fact that one pointy tooth each side does not give us the faintest resemblance to meat-eating animals - derr - the very fact that we have a varied selection of teeth is evidence not that we should be eating meat, but that, sure, we can choose whether or not to. And that's the point!

We have been given teeth, and a digestive system, that can cope with all sorts of food - animal or plant - but note I use the word 'cope' and not 'thrive'. We have choices.

We are surrounded by examples in the animal world. Who knows - perhaps that's why they're there (with apologies to some vegans, who would see this as an unacceptably humancentric view of the world!). We see that some creatures, such as the horse, the stag, the ox, the gorilla, can be strong and healthy on plant foods, causing no suffering to other creatures. We see that other animals, such as the lion and tiger, are strong and healthy on animal foods, causing much suffering to the creatures they catch. So, here we have a conundrum. If we, as human beings, are in the fortunate position of being able to eat anything we like...

...which animals do we choose to copy?

Human beings have EMPATHY.

With free will comes responsibility. Why, because we've been given/evolved/whatever a number of gifts that appear to be unique to human beings.

We have awareness and empathy. We know the suffering that animals endure through our choices, whether we try to push that beneath our consciousness, and/or whether we try to disguise the horror of what we're doing (as described). The brain I've been given tells me that my cat has no empathy with the mouse he rips apart, alive, while it's screaming, but that, certainly as adults, adults who have developed consciousness, we most certainly would have doing similar.

We can feel the suffering of others. We can imagine. And, yet, most of us go right ahead and continue to inflict the most dreadful suffering.

We not only know the suffering we are inflicting through eating meat, but we have also been given brains and communication skills to accumulate knowledge sufficient to tell us that, whatever we think about the various health arguments, meat-eating is, at least, unnecessary.
And, as I mentioned in Part 1, the only society that is relevant to us is the one we are living in - it is pointless to dream up 'what if' scenarios that might or might not apply to others living in different places, but sure as hell don't apply to us.

Certainly, in this century, we have full awareness in a way that few had in former times.

Children copy the behaviours of whatever is looking after them. They are constrained in their choices to a great extent, and don't have full consciousness and empathy with other beings in the way an adult does. As we grow, we develop these human qualities, which enable us to make conscious, informed choices in ways that we couldn't as children. We also receive lots of new information that enables us to revise the maps of the world that our parents gave us.

99.9% of us are not facing situations in which we have a choice whether to die of starvation or kill an animal.

So, faced with all this awareness, the human quality of empathy, the information at our disposal, and the societies in which we have the good fortune to live...

what do we do?

Most people still go right ahead and kill animals! (Or have others kill them for them.) Why? For a few minutes of tastebud titillation.

When people eat meat, they push out of their minds feelings of compassion, of empathy, of emotion. These are human qualities, and, if allowed to rise to the surface, would...make meat-eating obviously... less enjoyable. The few who do kill animals themselves for meat are proud of the fact they do this. Although it's certainly true that they are not hypocritical in the way 99% of meat-eaters are, I ask how they can kill without 'pushing out of their minds', removing from their conscious minds, any identification with the creature, any compassion..Is the pushing out of their minds those human qualities something to be proud of?

Scientists believe that we all started out in warm climates where plenty of plant food grows, then moved outwards (were the Inuit forced to travel to and settle in lands where there was no, or little, plant food for them?) For people who are the ancestors of those who chose to travel to barren lands, and are living on a high-meat diet, they will be suppressing some of their humanity to enable them to do so without it bothering them. To some extent their choices are constrained - it is harder for them. But, interestingly, some who are not remotely in such a situation will refer to such as justification for their own flesh-eating.

The eating of meat, however it is killed, must always to some extent be an unconscious act. How can it be otherwise?

It's interesting to see some of those pro meat-eating actually dismiss the strongest arguments of all against meat-eating as being 'emotional'! The more we refuse to let emotions affect our thinking, the more inhuman we become.

There are some who'll say, 'sure, eating meat may be wrong, but what about plants? They feel pain!'. This is one of the sillier arguments for continuing to eat animals, so I'll deal with it briefly. Studies have shown that plants may well 'react' to adverse circumstances, but our brains and senses can tell us they don't suffer in the way we know animals clearly do when de-beaked, strangled, hung upside down and throats slit. There are others who will point out that animals may have suffered in the production of plant foods - for example, bonemeal may be used in fertilizers. Well, sure, if so, those are issues we have to tackle as well - they're not a reason not to bother doing something that really is relatively easy for most of us to do - stop eating animals.

Slightly more plausible is the argument that says 'well, vegans are eating tiny insects on their unwashed organic lettuce'. Well, sure...and maybe that's not good (which is where fruit scores - relatively easy to avoid doing this) , but firstly it's not (generally) intentional, and secondly there are grounds for hoping that the physiology of an insect might mean that it doesn't experience pain in quite the way, or to the same degree, that we do. Of course we don't actually know, but...that's the point. Why use something that we can't be sure about, to justify the intentional killing of creatures that our intelligence tells us definitely suffer as we would if someone transported us away to be killed?


The world's major religions/philosophies believe that in some way we will experience the consequences of our actions - perhaps in this life (for example, through physical suffering), in the next life, or via a combination of the two. For example, Buddhism teaches that all of our actions, including our choice of food, have karmic consequences and that by involving oneself in the cycle of inflicting injury, pain and death, one must in the future experience in equal measure the suffering caused. Millions of Hindus, Buddhists and Jains all over the world choose not to eat meat for moral reasons, as do millions following other religions. The Essene Gospel of Peace says that if we do eat meat 'their death shall be your death' (and, no, I'm not quite sure what is meant here, but it echoes Buddhist teachings.)

Even those who don't believe there's anything after death, and all that religious stuff is hogwash, why increase the chances of your suffering physically in this life through consuming the flesh of murdered animals (see Pt 1). And, even if you believe that is all 'vegetarian propaganda', why most definitely contribute towards the suffering of animals as described in this Part?

Finally, if I've come over holier-than-thou, believe me, I'm very far from that. I have myself eaten fish for many years prior to raw, and even went back to meat-eating for one year as an adult. If there is any anger (well, emotion at least!) in this article, it's as much directed to my own hypocrisy, the intellectualisations I've used to make myself better - the little stories I've told myself in the past to justify my actions, as well as to the society that taught and encouraged me to think (or, more accurately, 'not think') unconsciously. I've also contributed towards the killing of animals in other ways for poor reasons (if ever there are 'good reasons', apart from genuine self-defence). I hope that with this article I can in a small way take one step towards recompense for this.

I'm a slow learner. It's taken quite a lot for me to see, to really see. There are some who see from birth. But stopping eating meat is always a good choice, whether we make it at 19 or 90.

The best reasons for not killing animals then feasting on their flesh?

Because we don't have to.

Because we have a choice.

Because we are human beings.


Sunday 26th July
Raw Food Picnic in the Park
(organised by Gina 'The Raw Greek' Panayi)
2 pm - 7 pm
FREE (take your own food, utensils etc.)
Kensington Gardens, London W. The picnic will take place between the Physical Energy Statue (in the middle of the park) and the round pond.
Please let know if you can come so that she can contact you if any changes (eg bad weather).

I'll be there, and looking forward to meeting any of you who can make it.

Saturday 1st August
80/10/10 Summer Gathering
(organised by Dr Doug Graham)
9 am - 5 pm
Storrington Village Hall, 59 West St, Storrington, Sussex
More details under 'Events' at www.foodnsport .com

Can't make this one due to a clash, but have been to previous events, and would recommend it. Great opportunity to ask Doug all those questions you've been saving up, and for making raw friends.


Marie said...

Wow Debbie - I am so glad you wrote this. This is, in my opinion, perfectly put. I don't think anyone could argue with you on this.

For me, I never really concerned myself with the ethics of my diet. 811 happened as a result of my pursuit of health. I also think I was avoiding the ethics because I knew I would slip something about it in arguments with others on my dietary choices and when it comes to that people tend to box you into a category to not be taken seriously.

But lately I have been interested in this aspect and this article was a great starting point.

Thank you!

Kelly :)

Marie said...

Wow Debbie - I am so glad you wrote this. This is, in my opinion, perfectly put. I don't think anyone could argue with you on this.

For me, I never really concerned myself with the ethics of my diet. 811 happened as a result of my pursuit of health. I also think I was avoiding the ethics because I knew I would slip something about it in arguments with others on my dietary choices and when it comes to that people tend to box you into a category to not be taken seriously.

But lately I have been interested in this aspect and this article was a great starting point.

Thank you!

Kelly :)

Debbie Took said...

Many thanks for the feedback, Kelly.

Anonymous said...

I fell in love and married an avid hunter. I actually believe there is a lack of empathy. It is very difficult for my husband to respect living beings. Having been in the military, he also believes that humans are also expendable. When you can't put yourself in the shoes of another suffering how can you understand pain? Is there a remedy for such emotional detachment? Let me know! Elizabeth

Debbie Took said...

Elizabeth, I understand. Yes, it's lack of empathy - a suppressing of those things that are uniquely human. But - my husband thinks and acts in those ways sometimes as well, and society encourages this by persuading men that they are being 'masculine' when they act in that way, that being 'emotional' is feminine. Some men have, thankfully, freed themselves of those bonds, but older men in particular are still very subject to them. If it's any comfort, my husband goes fishing! He throws them back (or so he tells me) but it's still not good...:-)

Sharon said...

Debbie, thank you for saying the truth. When we eat meat (flesh), we are really taking pain and suffering of the animal into our bodies.

When I was 16 I was a vegetarian for 5 years. The only exception was fish. I did eat fish.

Now I am 55 and again a vegetarian. This time, no meat, not even fish.

The difference is an article I saw that said that the commercial egg producing industry routinely kills all male baby chicks by throwing them into a meat grinder ALIVE!

I watched one video and then another until I could no longer lie to myself. I had to make a stand.

So hear I am. A vegetarian and quite possibly a future vegan.

Thank you for taking a stand against cruelty.

Debbie Took said...

Sharon, thank you so much for posting this.

I've been hearing more and more recently from raw foodists who have decided to include raw egg in their diets, and I really wonder whether they have thought about what happens to the male chicks, as of course many of them will be killed - somehow.

I realise the article you say might be an old one, but if you do have a link for it, do post it here.