“We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err.”
– Henry Beston
Is it time to stop eating animals? Is meat really necessary in a world where so many other options exist? Is the practice of eating meat something that is outdated, old fashioned and perhaps a little bit primitive? In this post I want to share some thoughts I have been having lately about eating meat and whether or not it is time we evolved.
A new angle to look at
The quote at the start of this post is from a book called The Outermost House by Henry Beston. Henry was a nature writer who produced this masterpiece while living in solitude on Cape Cod. There on the windy beach he found a new appreciation for the natural world and, in my opinion, wrote one of the most inspiring and opinion-shifting passages about our relationship with animals. Here is the full quote:
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
What I love about this quote is that it very subtly challenges our ideas about animals by arguing that they are not below us but are in fact other nationalities existing within our own. This concept is an interesting one because it brings up new ideas about eating meat. The documentary Earthlings explains this further by asking us why we consider racism and sexism to be negative traits but species-ism to be perfectly okay. On a logical front it doesn’t seem to make sense because discrimination against animals has the exact same patterns, motives and behaviors as the characteristics that we, as a society, most abhor.
Is it time we evolved?
The world “evolve” keeps coming in to my mind when I think about eating meat because it seems as though the more reading I do about meat the less I feel drawn to it. As you probably know by now I am an aspiring vegetarian. I still eat meat once a week but for the most part I avoid it. Inwardly it feels as if I am evolving a little bit from who I used to be – an overweight meat lover who stayed comfortable in the thought that the killing was out of sight and out of mind. But in a world where we are now all so conscious about global warming, disease and ethics I feel as though meat eating just doesn’t fit anymore. Some questions I have been asking myself lately:
- Is it healthy?
After reading a few studies about the fact that vegetarians live longer and are less likely to develop cancer or heart disease I started to wonder whether meat was as healthy as we had always been told. Sure, meat has proteins and lots of vitamins but so do the variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and other foods that are available. And these don’t seem to come with the health consequences.
- Is it ethical?
Growing up I was always told that killing animals, hurting things, etc. were unacceptable but the idea of meat eating was never challenged. This is probably because my parents wanted me to have meat while I was growing and developing but now that I am on my own I wonder whether it is time to challenge the status quo. I would never kill an animal so why do I consider it okay to have someone else do it for me?
- Is it logical to ignore an animal’s suffering?
I have a cat and a dog and I love them like children. They have mood swings, get happy when I come home and cry out when they get hurt. I do not believe that their emotional responses are as developed as a human being’s is but I am 100% certain that they posses them. They are not like plants or rocks. They have a very active and emotional brain. And, from what I have been told, pigs are a lot smarter than dogs. They run away when they see the knife coming. So how can I justify eating pork and bacon when it comes from an animal that thinks and feels with greater capacity than my cat and dog?
- Is it socially responsible?
Scientists have stated that the meat industry does more damage to the environment than any other industry or problem. Cattle emit enormous amounts of methane gas, they have to be fed and fattened up and that food needs to be grown and manufactured. Then we slaughter the cow and refrigerate it, truck it around the country or fly it overseas. The sheer amount of energy and pollution that goes into making one steak is staggering. And in a world where hunger and food prices are becoming a serious problem (never mind the global warming) it seems as though meat has become socially irresponsible.
These are the thoughts I have been having lately about meat eating. I am going to try and reduce the amount of meat I eat because I feel like it is something that I need to be doing. I do like the taste of meat and I understand why we eat it. But, it feels like it is time to perhaps move on.
What do you think?
What are your thoughts on the idea of evolving away from eating meat? Do you think it is something that has potential or do you think that meat should always be a part of our society and culture? If you can’t stand the idea of giving up meat, even though you might concede there are downfalls, why do you think that is? I would be really interested to hear all of your ideas on this topic as it is something that I have been quite interested in for a while now.