“Cruelty to animals!” she said, quickly and dismissively. Her eyes looked for fellow ‘critics’ of Islam. She was talking about the way animals are butchered according to Islamic law. You see, as animals are not so much butchered, but really sacrificed in Islam, the process has to follow specific rules. The animals throat has to be cut and the name of God has to be spoken over it. It then bleeds out, facing Mecca. To her, that was animals cruelty.
Now, I’m not a vegetarian, much less a vegan, but I find this idea to be hypocritical. So, the animal dies more slowly, when you cut its throat? But it dies all the same, no matter if you shoot it in the head, gas it or electrocute it! The animal’s life is ended, there is no denying that. Does it really matter that much, how we killed it? If it suffered? And how do we know that the creature didn’t suffer when it was led into the slaughter-house, smelling the life blood of its cousins? Suffering is more than physical pain. Animals know fear, you don’t need much more to suffer.
Let’s not fool ourselves! Killing an animal, another living being, for food or any other reason, is to impose suffering onto that being. The ultimate kind! You need to believe yourself infinitely more valuable than the other creature to do that. And telling ourselves that it is okay that we killed it, because it didn’t suffer, is self-deluding. “So, if I threatened to kill you, but gave you the choice between shooting you point-blank or cutting your throat, making you bleed to death, you wouldn’t see the difference?”, a meat eater who opposes ritual slaughter might ask. My answer to this person would be: “I’d much prefer if you’d refrain from killing me at all!”
My point is that debating how to kill is somewhat non-sensical and too late in the debate. We should be asking: “Should we kill at all?/Do I want to continue to support the killing of animals?”. There are two answers to this question in my opinion. The first answer is: “Yes.” Then you should still acknowledge that you are striving from the suffering of other beings. They die and live in cages and chains so that you may live. That burger you’re eating would have chosen life over being massaged to death while listening to James Earl Jones reading “The Meaning of Moo”. And if you don’t get what I’m trying to say, because you don’t like James Earl Jones’s voice (You MONSTER!) and don’t find my made-up title of a self-help book for cows funny: The cow would prefer life over death, even if death was brought to it really pleasantly.
The other answer to the question of to kill or not to kill is: “No.” Then you will have to become a vegetarian. But once you’ve decided to become a part of this group of people, who are hated by so many people for absolutely no reason (beside, perhaps, a feeling of guilt and jealousy towards their resolve?), you’ll again have to stop fooling yourself. You can’t decide not to eat the meat, but wear the skin. Just not killing animals is also not enough, because that is not fully respecting the animals. You’ll have to disassociate yourself from animal suffering in every aspect. And that includes eating the food they produced for themselves or their young (i.e. honey and milk) and keeping them in confinement. I’m saying, if you really want to respect an animals right to live, you’ll have to go vegan. Which will make you even more hated, presumably because people don’t like it, when they can’t alone decide where to eat, but have to consider the needs of other people. (There is a problem I see with veganism, which is rooted in my theological views. I will address this in another post. But it doesn’t change the fact that veganism makes a lot of sense to me.)
Am I telling you to become a vegan? Not really. I am asking you to consider your ethical position towards what you eat. I am asking you to (re)assess your views on non-human life and it’s rights.
If you decide to eat meat, don’t hide behind the ethical treatment of these creatures. You don’t believe that they have a right to live. There is no respectful disrespecting. Please don’t go around judging other people’s eating and slaughtering habits! And, if you really want to stay on this track: Islamic and Jewish slaughter in their reference to God acknowledge that they are taking a life, every time they slaughter an animal. Christianity has no ritual for this. And there certainly is no contemplation in an industrial slaughterhouse. I answer the first question I put into your mouth with another one: “Would you rather die respected by your killers or flung around like a soulless thing?” (And I stand by my first answer.)
If you decide not to eat meat: Good for you! But remember that in our culture this is not an easy decision to make, so don’t be preachy or condescending towards those who do (still?) eat meat /and use animal products. (Basically, be like me, loving to his inferiors, humble and never ever preachy!) Nobody wants to hear “I could never eat something that has feelings!”, because it is a) condescending and b) not thought through. You have no idea what kind of problems you might encounter in your life. Not eating meat, not living off the work of animals is a privilege not everybody has. But if you are reading this, you probably do!
Oh, and I’m not judging you. Two reasons for that: a) I’m not God. b) I had a turkey sandwich for lunch.