Would You Eat That? Inviting Your Pet to Dinner Takes on a Whole New Meaning

by ahayw1 on February 17, 2014 - 10:25pm

It has always baffled me that Americans are able to claim to be animal rights activists while simultaneously sitting down to a nice steak dinner. It seems to me that “ignorance is bliss” should be a slogan printed on every neatly packaged corpse able to be purchased in a super market. Namit Arora, author of “On Eating Animals”, brings up an interesting point: why are we okay with eating some animals, such as chickens, pigs, and cows, but are outraged at the idea of eating “cute” animals such as cats and dogs (p. 28)? It cannot be the animal itself, because pigs are known to be great companions and it’s rumored that dogs are quite tasty. Arora posits that perhaps our ignorance to the cruelty of animals in these factory farms contributes to our ability to debase these creatures as living, sentient beings who are capable of thinking and feeling. Even within the factories, the few people who actually engage in the act of killing the animals are instructed to refer to cows as “beef” (Arora, p. 30). Psychologically, this is supposed to make the employees see the animals as a mean to our end. The author indicated in the end that Americans have two options in order to cleanse their moral pallets: 1. Admit that what is going on in the factory farms is inhumane and revert back to more ethical tactics of raising cows for slaughter, or 2. Stand behind what we do, but open it up to the public and stop hiding our practices behind closed doors. This would include allowing children inside in order to make an informed choice for themselves.

                As you might already be able to tell, I agree with Arora. I think it’s a great point that Americans seem to put certain animal lives ahead of others. It could very well be that we simply do not understand the full extent of the mistreatment happening in the factory farms, but I think it is more than that. I think we are under the impression that these animals are inferior to humans intellectually, and therefore their only purpose is to become sustenance for our superior bodies. If this were the case, should it not logically follow that we should send our intellectually disabled humans off to slaughter as well? Obviously this is not an option, but for what reason? Is it because they are our fellow human beings? If so, where do we draw the line on what is edible and what is worthy of life? None of these answers seem to have a clear answer, so that brings us back to pure ignorance. I cannot count how many times I have heard someone say “I don’t want to know what’s in it, I just want it to taste good.” This is a clear representation of our disassociation from the animals we consume on a daily basis. Another example brought up in the article above was that, when an animal escapes from a slaughterhouse, the humans around it seem to develop a sense of camaraderie with the escaped animal and riot when it is captured or killed. It seems sardonic that they wouldn’t (and still don’t) bat and eye to the millions of other cows suffering the same fate. 

Comments

Ignorance is bliss seems to be the theme associated with modern agriculture these days. However, nothing is bliss for those who are ignored. Eating animals is supporting an extremely cruel and morally wrong industry. Eating animals is not only bad for our health, but it is also bad for the environment. There is something for everyone to get behind. I feel that if humans are perfectly capable of living a "meatless life," why don't we? If we have the option to stop causing and inflicting extreme harm to animals, why don't we? We are the most intelligent beings on this planet. We know right from wrong and value good morals in our society. Paul McCartney said it best: "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian." Factory farming is bad for our health, our environment, and our morals. Why do we support it?

Thank you for your reply. That is one of my favorite quotes! I wish I didn't have to compress these views into such a short post, otherwise I would have gone into more depth about the disassociation people have with eating meat and thinking of them as animals. I did a presentation on a topic similar to this in my ethics class and showed a slide with a picture of a pork roast on it (whole pig, skinned and ready to be consumed). No one was affected by it. On the next slide, I showed the exact same picture, only with a dog instead of a pig and the entire class was outraged and condemned me for showing them pictures of cruelty like that. It really makes me wonder where this justification comes from, because there just doesn't seem to be an answer for it.

It seems that this article raises absolutely wonderful points. I feel as though (like every social issue) there are several dimensions to this equation. As someone who is allergic to Beef and Pork, I am always bombarded with questions of how I "get protein" or people feel "sorry" for me because I cannot eat what most see as the ONLY and "BEST WAY" of obtaining protein. Of course, this is not the case. I am an extremely healthy individual (probably more healthy than most in some cases) because I eat a various of assortments of vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein. I get my protein from sushi, tofu, beans (which are delicious and packed full of protein), and other protein and edible arrangements. Now, it is always been a question to me of why people are so fascinated and sorry for me because I cannot consume a bovine or a pig. The questions that have been posed is wonderful. It is true. We are creatures that learn from the environment around us, so "meat" is also seen as a rather gender and social status type of paradigm as those who are wealthy (enough) can go to the supermarket and buy meat. This paradigm of "meat" can also be seen as an overtly "masculine" tasks as the "men" are the hunters and bring the "meat home." I have seen where eating red meat has been a point in someone's masculine identity, and I find that to be interesting in itself. Because human beings have the ability to make connections and logical assumptions and gather information, and we assume that other creatures cannot, or at least not in the same way is a reason why human beings believe that humans are "better" and "stronger", which one can argue and state that a lot of the other animals have a better structure to their lives. Example, ants are one of the best architectures of natures and society builder. Bees are the same way, they work together, until the task is completed. This topic in itself is interesting and people will not stop eating beef or pork or chicken overnight, but at least education can make some people acknowledge that there are healthy benefits for different dietary needs.

Your title is very intriguing. I was instantly curious in that I have 4-dogs and I was not sure where you were going with the text. With that, I tend to agree with most of the points that you have stated. I believe society have become very hypocritical. I love animals, but I have no problem eating a hamburger, bbq chicken, or bacon at breakfast. With that said, there are certain things that I will never eat, (such as veal) because I know firsthand the way the animals are treated. It is cruel and inhumane. I grew up on a small dairy farm. From the time, I was old enough to walk and help, I was in the barn with my parents. By the age of 6 or 7, I was helping milk the cows and I even got to help with the birth of a calf whose mother was having a hard time. I was witness to the cows being loaded into the butcher’s cattle truck, and eventually my father took me to the butchers to watch the process from beginning to end. To me the eating of animals is a part of everyday life. The exception is that I respect the animals that I eat. You may see this as hypocritical, but I was raised to respect the animals, because they provided us with everything that we have. My sister and I looked at the new calves and baby pigs as our pets. We gave them names, but we knew they were there for a purpose. I even had a pet banni chicken. The only reason my father never killed her, is because she produced eggs and baby chickens as if it was her job. I think that the author is spot on when she states that the people who butcher look at the cows as beef, it depersonalized it. We do not go into a burger joint and ask for a piece of cow. Humans depersonalize things in order to meet their wants and needs. I also agree with the authors 2 points. I think that factory farms are despicable, but opening the already closed doors I do not think will change many things. People have an idea of what goes on. There are documentaries and no one cares. If it does not directly affect people today, they are not going to change their habits, such as you referred to about people developing a sense of camaraderie and then rioting.

As I was reading your post, I found myself nodding in agreement many times. I have always found it crazy and also infuriating that people can treat dogs like children and claim that they really love animals, but then cook up a burger or throw chicken on the grill for dinner. They’re animals too and they are intelligent, sentient beings. I’ve never understood how people can eat animals in general, but it especially blows my mind when people eat animals that can be considered pets. It makes me sick to know that there are people who actually eat rabbits, and the process of breeding rabbits for meat is horrible, but people don’t talk about that, they just say it tastes good. I have a pet rabbit (who is actually snuggled up on my lap as I write this) and I could never imagine him as anything other than a pet and a friend. I agree with your point that people view animals as inferior, and the article I wrote about actually discusses this in detail. There was one aspect of the article you discussed that I didn’t quite agree with. The article said that there were two ways to basically justify eating meat, and I don’t agree with that. Another option exists: Don’t eat meat. I definitely think it is an important step to move away from factory farm produced meat and move toward more “humanely” raised animals, although is there really a humane way to kill a living creature? This is an important step toward creating a better life, one of which my brother has finally decided to take after watching a video exposing factory farming practices (after continuous efforts from my sister and myself to get him to cut out meat). However, I don’t think that simply purchasing local meat is the answer. I myself am a vegan and am perfectly capable of providing my body with all the nutrients it needs to thrive. I do not need meat as a means of survival, and neither do others, so why are we murdering innocent animals in the first place?

Hi,

To address the point you didn't quite agree with, I am not a meat eater, and agree that the best answer is to completely cut it out of our diets. However, big change takes time. It would be less of a shock to our culture to slowly move away from something that has been happening for hundreds and hundreds of years. To force a meatless diet on someone cold turkey (excuse my completely intentional pun), would only create animosity and resentment towards the diet. In my opinion, it would be better to educate people and let them come to their own conclusions in their own time. Not to mention the economic shock of all of a sudden having one less food group to make a profit from. I don't think these are good reasons, necessarily, but they are practical.

It’s interesting that you bring the contrast of intellectually disabled human and animals considered as less intelligent. I think the issue raised here is: Can we measure intelligence? There are multiple hypothetical ways of measuring intelligence, but none of them can be absolute in my opinion. Even more, if we consider a dog more intelligent than a cow, which would explain our cultural belief in eating beef but not dogs, does it mean we attribute a higher right of living to dogs? I think this would be a major issue if our society considered that smarter humans are superior to less smart humans, since even then, intelligence would be a totally subjective property.
However, I think the perspective of eating animals is more of a subjective, emotional and ethical debate rather than based solely on ignorance. Since the most common pets, that is dogs, cats, etc. usually have an emotional love connection to humans, I believe they are seen more as living beings rather than just animals. This relation brings them closer to humans than animals. In most cultures cannibalism is regarded as disgusting since it can be related to eating someone you know. It is therefore easier to identify eating pets to eating humans than to identify other animals as such.
For more information on the ethics of eating pets, I would invite you to read the following article by Kathleen Taylor, “Why we don’t eat dogs”.
Here is a link to the article:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/apr/06/disgust-mora...
As for myself, I think there is indeed disgust involved in eating pets, but I believe it relies more on social appearances than the act itself. But, what would someone do in a life threatening hunger situation?