Defending the kingdom | Issue 24

Defending the kingdom | Issue 24

Commercial irony

My friend posted a video of a group of girls torturing some birds in a local park. She was outraged by this act. Fair enough. Nonetheless, for me, the incident highlighted the idea that if one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be cruelty, but when a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the abhorrent mistreatment is excused or explained away by the business concerned and condoned by consumers who ignore or accept it as a price worth paying for the sake of a cheap feed.

Species are now going extinct exponentially faster than ever before, dying out at the frightening speed of 1,000 times the natural rate. Hundreds of species are being wiped out every year because of the actions of us humans. If any other organism caused this, a biologist would consider them a virus. However we exempt ourselves from such criticism by believing our assumed position at the top of the evolutionary chain grants us unique privileges and prestige that justify any actions we take.

Our current political and economic orthodoxies make us view the world in terms of growth and exploitation and how best we can maximise advantage for ourselves. This conceited and corrupt outlook damages our precious earth and validates our using animals for personal gain regardless of the consequences for them.

As justification, people cling to classic threadbare reasoning and defence e.g. “eating meat is natural,” “it’s the circle of life,” “they aren’t as smart as us,” “we need it for our protein,” “the world’s population needs to be fed.” There are myriad flaws within these arguments but essentially, now, in 2014, the moral and environmental consequences of eating meat are too dangerous and destructive to ignore any longer. The great writer (and vegetarian) Isaac Bashevis Singer said “in their behaviour towards creatures all men are Nazis. The smugness with which man does as he pleases with other species exemplifies the most extreme racist theories, the principle that might is right.” Our fraudulent idea that because animals are different they are therefore inferior shares the moral corruption of obnoxious racists who degrade their victims by first calling them vermin or cockroaches. The factory farm and the abattoir are the animal kingdoms prison and death camp.

I admit that sometimes even I, who feel very strongly about animal rights, find myself wanting to bite into a steak or eat a Sunday roast but in the end I force myself to make the connection that every mouthful would have involved another sentient creature having lived and died hideously. We share this earth with other varied, beautiful and invaluable lives. I will not fuel my sense of self-importance by condoning cruelty and slaughter for the sake of my diet or satisfaction.
This article first appeared in Issue 24, 2014.
Posted 3:00pm Sunday 21st September 2014 by Freya Sawbridge.