Jarred Cinman
Jarred Cinman

The evil of meat

In a world buckling under economic recession, in a country of violence and crime and poverty, how can anyone find the time to care about the treatment of animals? The simple answer is: we have no choice. The very fabric of our humanity is being torn apart by the brutality and horrors being perpetrated, and no-one, I believe, wants that on their conscience.

If you are reading this and don’t know what I mean by “the treatment of animals” then feel ashamed. In the internet age, no-one can be excused their ignorance.

If you have some inkling of my meaning, and you still eat meat or use pharmaceutical products tested on animals, then take this moment to be filled with the horror of what you are condoning, of who your money is enriching.

I am no tie-dyed hippie. I tend to side with Cartman on that subject — hippies, new-agers, reiki masters, some of the biggest idiots the scarce oxygen supply on this earth is being wasted on. And it’s sad that the animal rights movement has been tainted as having anything to do with hippies and smoking dope. Like many other compassionate causes, it has been painted as anti-capitalist, bleeding heart naivete. Which is unfair and — if one were the cynical sort — appears to be a deliberate tactic on the part of those with the most to lose to discredit it.

Be under no illusion: the vast majority of meat you are eating, be it beef, veal, chicken or fish is produced in conditions that are so horrific they are hidden from the public. Organically fed doesn’t mean “treated well” either, so don’t try that line. And don’t also the try that line that chickens are stupid or fish don’t feel pain. In both cases there is clear evidence to the contrary. Human babies are pretty stupid too, but no-one is burning their fingernails off to stop them scratching each other.

Animal testing continues. The beauty products industry has done all the other animal testers a huge favour by turning the lack of animal testing into a marketing gimmick. Right now, in laboratories around the world, there are animals being electrocuted, burned, cut up and tortured in order to test household products and drugs. You might argue that if this leads to the development of a new cancer treatment it’s a necessary sacrifice. Even this is nonsense on further investigation (would you take a drug because it worked on a rat?) but leaving that aside, how about a new toothpaste? Would you knowingly allow a puppy to be confined to a tiny cage for months on end to develop a new way to clean your teeth?

It’s easy to argue that humans are omnivores and eating meat is natural. But what does “natural” mean? When was the last time you enjoyed the warm, tasty contents of a freshly slaughtered sheep ripped apart with your bare teeth? The reality is we don’t eat any “natural” meat products. We cook them, we spice them, we put them on bread and in pies. There is nothing “natural” about how we consume meat.

Neither is there anything natural about the drugs injected into animals to grow them larger, to make them produce eggs and milk more often, to make them reproduce. We are as far from the mythical hunter on the plains of Africa with his spear tracking an impala as we could possibly be. So far, in fact, that most people would shudder to see even that supposedly natural human event taking place. It’s brutal enough to watch a lion killing and eating a buck, so much so that many people flinch at the sight. Do you feel hungry when you see the blood and entrails strewn across the Bushveld?

We have evolved away from creatures that live in this way. We rely not on our muscles and teeth for food, but on our technology. We eat impala in fine restaurants, accompanied by fancy sounding French sauces. The argument for what is “natural” has long ceased to be meaningful.

There is no health benefit to eating meat: quite the contrary in fact. You can get proteins from grains and vegetables. Hindus have lived for thousands of years on a vegetarian diet just fine. And if you’re worried about taste, when was the last bland Indian meal you ate? Many of the ingredients that give your favourite meat or fish dishes their wonderful taste are plants anyway.

Even if you want to hold to the idea that eating meat is a fundamental human privilege, how can you accept the cruelty that goes into getting it to your table? The “Farmer Brown” ads we saw as kids misrepresent chicken farming in the way German paintings of Hitler misrepresented the death camps. All these pictures of smiling cows and happy pigs have infiltrated the media to the point that we cannot conceive of the truth. Children’s books still have quaint farmyards circa 1750 where the farmer wakes up at dawn to milk his beloved cows.

The meat companies and the testing laboratories go to insane lengths to ensure the true images don’t get out. The film Earthlings has done much to get the truth out there, but people shy away. Once these images are in your mind, it’s hard to get them out. So best to keep feasting on the meat and not think to hard about it.

Tolstoy said “as long as there are slaughterhouses, there will remain battlefields”. Violence toward fellow humans is horrible enough, but violence against creatures who cannot defend themselves and cannot have done us any wrong is not only cruelty, it’s evil.

Do yourself a favour, if not a kindness:
Watch Earthlings online: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6361872964130308142#
Support the Naked Yoga project: http://www.nakedyoga.co.za

Becoming a vegetarian is not simply a health choice, and it’s not a diet for hippies. It’s a way to keep your humanity, our humanity, in tact.

DISCLOSURE: I am personally involved in the Naked Yoga project, and in campaigning for animal rights.

  • Clean Air

    @Aragorn Eloff

    I am a beef and mutton farmers son turned vegetarian.

    The world is not perfect. I keep a couple of chickens and ducks myself for pets, and buy free range eggs, no matter what the slide shows say.

    Although I am vegetarian if meat eaters who don’t know I’m vegetarian ask me what the best meat is to eat I tell them organic.

    One has to be ready to make a transition in your life, what I think is important is people need to know the truth as opposed to society’s myths spread by industry spin doctors, i.e. ‘vegan mothers cannot breast feed’ and other drivel, so they can make informed choices when they are ready.

  • http://www.vegansociety.co.za Aragorn Eloff – SA Vegan Society

    @Clean Air: The world is not perfect, but surely the point is to try make it better, not perpetuate an existing state of affairs through recourse to ‘just so’ stories?

    When you say “some animals eat their own kind, some humans slaughter animals. I don’t believe you will ever change that.” you might as well be saying, “some animals rape their young. Some humans rape their young. I don’t believe you will ever change that.”

    Here is part of your argument against Jackyl: “I used to be a meat eater. I am now vegetarian, and if vegans carry on the way you do I won’t be going there.”

    Let’s reword it subtly and see if Jackyl is as doctrinaire as you feel: “I used to exploit people of other races as slaves and sex objects. Now I just exploit them as slaves. If abolitionists carry on the way you do, I won’t be going there.”

    Jackyl is just asking, as am I with my reference to humanemyth.org, for some logical consistency in how your ethics manifest in your lifestyle. I posted a link earlier to a very fair discussion on the vegansociety.co.za website about veganism vs. vegetarianism; perhaps you would benefit from it? You appear to be well versed in the benefits of a meat-free diet, so why not go that one step further instead of hiding behind the mask of blanket acceptance of things that, like slavery, are not rightly acceptable.

  • http://www.vegansociety.co.za Aragorn Eloff – SA Vegan Society

    @Clean Air: I do agree, by the way, that people need to be informed about the implications of their lifestyles and about positive alternatives. Most vegans share this pragmatic approach. That’s why there are so many exceptional vegan outreach sites online, like, for example, http://www.veganoutreach.org

    I also know that people need to be ready to make transitions in their lives; however, that doesn’t mean you can’t help them become ready 😉

  • Jackyl

    @Clean Air
    Some vegans are gentle and loving and others prefer to cut the crap … please excuse me if I don’t gently tell others to stop eating sentient beings :)

    The only difference organic dairy makes is the one to your conscience, animals still end up in the same boat. And humane slaughter is a silly and thoughtless concept (I see you didn’t answer my question). Fact. Is there any way I could say that so that it wouldn’t offend?

    If you’re thinking of becoming vegan but are put off by vegans carrying on ‘like I do’ then you really aren’t that committed in the first place hey? Why let an angry little vegan like me stop you!

  • http://evylmusings.blogspot.com EvylShnukums

    My 2c: I can’t help noticing that the same arguments *for* meat always crop up, none of which as far as I can see are based on facts so much as oft-repeated truisms. However, people better equipped than I have already responded to most of them. Moreover, the compelling economic and environmental arguments have also been touched upon, so I will simply ask this: If you see someone intentionally hurting a woman or a child, will you intervene? I imagine most people would intervene. If the person is not hurting a human but a dog or a cat, what then? I think most people would still try to do something. Now, how about a farm animal? What makes them less sentient or capable of pain and suffering?

    I stopped eating meat nearly 11 years ago because I didn’t want animals to have to die for me. Then, in last year, I finally realised that it was essentially meaningless, because all roads for farm animals lead to the slaughterhouse. Even the “organic” and “free range” cows and hens, once they have stopped producing, are killed. I do not expect that the world at large will give up meat. I don’t wish to impose anything on anyone (of course a meat diet imposes on animals but that’s another discussion altogether). But I do hope that people will think about what is on their plate, and what it took to get there.

  • Clean Air

    @Jackyl and Aragorn Eloff

    What I think you need to realise is a moral crusade for animal rights has only limited appeal.

    If you want to go around “cutting the crap” and asking people where there ethical consistency is you get their backs up. No wonder you piss meat eaters off.

    Make your ethical case and leave it at that, don’t beat it to death like some right wing religous preacher.

    I was not comitted to veganism, but was prepared to listen until you wagged your “morally superior” finger at me, now I can sympathise with the meat eaters when you confront them.

    If you want to convince people you need to be more warm and cuddly, not percieved as eccentric, radical or fundamentalist.

    You will catch more flies with honey than vinigar.

    You need to broaden the appeal of your arguments, health benefits of veganism, environmental benefits, economic benefits – lower grocery bills, humanitarian benefits (feed the masses) – i.e. feed more people on a vegan diet than a meaty one, keep direct accusations about peoples ethical consistency out of it.

    Ten bullet points on the benefits of veganism.

    Good luck and chow for now.

  • Jackyl

    Clean Air … Hopefully in the future you’ll meet some warm and cuddly vegans who’ll gently guide you towards an ethically consistent lifetyle. I’m sure in the meantime all the ‘organic’ dairy cows and ‘humanely’ slaughtered pigs will give you a big fat high five for actively encouraging their demise.

    There, now I’ve beaten it to death like some right wing religious preacher. Sorry, I couldn’t resist :)

  • http://gormendizer.co.za Johan Swarts

    Here’s what I learned from vegans.

    Its bad and evilz to killz little kittenz, cowz and chickenz, but perfectly acceptable to step on ants and murder cockroaches.

    Because kittenz are furry.

    Srsly.

  • http://www.vegansociety.co.za Aragorn Eloff – SA Vegan Society

    @Clean Air: Thanks for Marketing 101…However, the success of the specific styles of advocacy vegans in SA have chosen to employ speaks for itself:

    – For instance, have a look in the major supermarkets and see how many products now have a ‘Vegan’ logo on them. Do you think this is a random phenomenon? No. It’s because so many more South Africans have become vegan in the last three years!

    – Or consider that the amount of media space (radio, TV, web and print) dedicated to veganism has grown so rapidly in the same period that there was even an hour long discussion on 702 the other day focusing solely the difference between vegetarianism and veganism. Must be osmosis, hmmm?

    – Or, how about if I told you that since this discussion started, the rate of subscriptions to our website has tripled, as it does every time there’s a vegan discussion on a local forum nowadays. Ineffective? Too zealous? Sure…you keep believing that.

    Vegans don’t use honey and don’t catch flies. We do have very broad, inclusive arguments that reflect on politics, human rights, etc. and we employ these whenever relevant, as we in fact have in the 100 odd posts above!

    Given all this, your reaction looks like nothing more than defensive maneuvering…because, if this weren’t the case, you’d have responded in kind (via logical discussion) to the points we raised about tasty ‘ethical’ cheese and eggs, instead of shooting the messenger 😉

  • Clean Air

    After saying goodbye, just another post that really appeals to my emotional intellectual spiritual makeup on the ‘no meat’ thingy:

    The ground breaking film “Killing Fields, the battle to feed factory farms” investigates the impacts of growing soy in South America to feed factory farms in Europe, and can be downloaded in 12 different languages from http://www.feedingfactoryfarms.org

    Soy, grown mostly to feed chickens, cows and pigs in Europe, now covers nearly 11 million hectares in South America – an area equivalent to all the arable farmland in Germany. The film shows that to make way for soy plantations, thousands of people are being forced from their land and with it, losing their ability to grow their own food. Indigenous people are being evicted and forests are being cleared.

    Many of the soybeans are genetically modified by the multi-national Monsanto and massively increase the use of pesticides � poisoning rural communities, water sources and the natural environment.

    If the EU is serious about addressing climate change, the global loss of biodiversity, human rights, and the food crisis it must urgently reduce its dependence on imports of soy.

    A comprehensive briefing on the use of soy can be downloaded from http://www.foeeurope.org/soy

    Just so you know why you should not be eating genetically modified (GM) soya visit:

    The Health Risks of GM Foods: Summary and Debate:
    http://www.seedsofdeception.com/Public/GeneticRoulette/HealthRisksofGMFoodsSummaryDebate/index.cfm

  • http://gormendizer.co.za Johan Swarts

    @Aragorn – The increased amount of vegan stock in supermarkets aren’t there because they care about your cause. Its there because they want your money. It doesn’t mean the vegan cause has merits. argument #FAIL

    Citing the amount of space committed to the vegan cause is a bit fallacious. Lots of space and time are being committed towards Julius Malema. Does that mean he’s important? argument #FAIL

    Regarding the subscriptions on your website – how many are there? A few hundred? Maybe a few thousand? To what did that triple – a few hundred or a few thousand more? Have you seen South Africa’s latest population growth figures? Also, what does the amount of subscriptions have to do with the truthfulness of your cause? argument #FAIL

    Why on earth wold a vegan argument reflect on politics and human rights if its about animals? argument #FAIL

  • Erik

    I think emphasizing a vegan diet, rather than a mere vegetarian one is better. A vegetarian diet doesn’t do much, actually. I was a vegetarian for years and still ate unhealthy and used animal products constantly. A vegan diet is the proper one.

  • Clean Air

    @Jackyl & Aragorn

    Sorry if I was teaching grandma how to suck eggs re: marketing 101. :-) And apologies if my logic is not up to scratch either.

    This ethically consistent lifestyle has got me thinking though.

    I was wondering, global warming is going to cause great suffering and death to sentient beings, (humans, animals, aquatic life etc). I trust vegans don’t contribute to it by driving petrol cars, this would compromise their consistent ethics would it not?

    No electricity from coal fired power stations, CO2 emissions, or nuclear power stations due to uranium mining and radiation from nuke power stations harm humans and animals in the vicinty?

    No agricultural veggies, fruit or grains from farmers who use pesticides that accidentally kill frogs, birds etc.

    Agriculural runoff has done massive harm to aquatic life in the Hartebeespoort dam.

    Even if you eat organically certified veggies, nuts, fruit etc. organic pesticides kill insects, they are just less harmful to the environment.

    Do you guys keep dogs and cats that eat meat from slaughtered animals? How many ex race horses have they eaten in tinned pet food?

    @Johan Swarts – I don’t think accidentally stepping on an ant is a valid argument, however I would like to ask the vegans whether they use household pesticides?

    Do vegans wear jewlry from mines that contaminate rivers killing fish?

    Where is the this ethically consistent line drawn suit you?

    Ideally we should be living in a cave in the Himalays, living on prana – energised air.

  • http://www.vegansociety.co.za Aragorn Eloff – SA Vegan Society

    @Johan: “The increased amount of vegan stock in supermarkets aren’t (sic) there because they care about your cause. Its there because they want your money.”

    You make my point for me. We’re increasingly catered for as a target market, which almost certainly means there are more of us.

    “Citing the amount of space committed to the vegan cause is a bit fallacious. Lots of space and time are being committed towards Julius Malema.”

    I’m simply noting a strong correlation and potential causation, post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy in mind. You misconstrue me – I’m not arguing in this specific post for the *importance* of veganism, but rather simply pointing out an increase in interest.

    “Regarding the subscriptions on your website – how many are there? A few hundred? Maybe a few thousand? …Have you seen South Africa’s latest population growth figures? Also, what does the amount of subscriptions have to do with the truthfulness of your cause?”

    For someone who seems so keen to point out flaws in argumentation style, you’re guilty of some pretty alarming abuses of logic! *I’m not making a truth claim*, simply pointing out a trend. Fail indeed….

    “Why on earth wold a vegan argument reflect on politics and human rights if its about animals?”

    Your ignorance is underscored by this last statement. Read a bit about what you’re in ostensible opposition to, lest you continue to embarrass yourself more 😉

    Oh, and yes, kittens are furry. Well done.

  • http://www.vegansociety.co.za Aragorn Eloff – SA Vegan Society

    @Clean Air: Your argument is a common one: vegans are still complicit in *some* cruelty / emissions / whatever, therefore it’s all equivalent.

    Apart from the fact that this is obviously false (sneezing on a child and giving them flu is not the same as maliciously injecting the HIV virus into someone) it’s also ironic: you yourself have elected to pursue a vegetarian diet, therefore you already know that it’s not about being perfect, but about doing the *best* you can reasonably be expected to if you share the same basic ethical perspective (not causing unnecessary harm, not destroying the environment any more than necessity dictates, etc.)

    Very simply, if you share our views (and you do – see your earlier posts ;-), then veganism is the least you can do.

    PS: And yes, most vegans care very much about environmental impact from driving cars, using dirty power, etc. We’re not idiots 😉

  • http://gormendizer.co.za Johan Swarts

    What baffles me about vegan ethics is how animals are considered as beings with certain rights – which I am sure isn’t such a far fetched argument. When the fact of evolution and the theory of natural selection is considered, it does make sense to a certain degrees with certain animals. Chimps, for example.

    But I digress. What baffles me, is that it suits vegans just fine to antropomorphise animals so as to sympathise with them, but as soon as two of these antropomorphised animals brutally maul each other, that’s considered as natural.

    If vegan ethics are taken to its full extent, then ideally Lions, crocodiles, hippos et al should be reprimanded, tried i na court of law and punished for killing deer, wildebeest, humans and other living animals with vegan “rights”.

    As @Clean Air, I too would like to know where the line is drawn. One can’t just willy nilly draw a line and move it for another argument, which seems to be what vegan “ethics” do.

  • Jackyl

    @Johan … all you did there was attack everything Aragorn said – what is your point? If there was one I don’t get it. Fail!

  • http://www.vegansociety.co.za Aragorn Eloff – SA Vegan Society

    @Johan: Your premise is incorrect – vegans do not anthropomorphise animals, they merely observe certain similarities that seem to imply that non-human animals possess various capacities (capacity to suffer, subjectivity and preference, for example) that would/should afford them ethical consideration.

    To argue that this is anthropomorphisation is similar to saying that stating that animals have legs and humans also have legs is an anthropomorphising observation…which clearly it’s not.

    We would not pass judgement, by the way, on an animal that exhibits behaviour that would be morally offensive were it repeated by an adult human. This is because the non-human animal likely lacks the capacity to reflect on the implications of its actions, just like an infact (to dramatically oversimplify what is in fact a rather nuanced position) pressing a big red button that releases toxic gas into a crowded room lacks the capacity to read the ‘Warning: toxic gas’ sign above the button.

    As for the implication that ‘vegan ethics’ are somehow inconsistent or applied willy nilly, I would appreciate a single example of where this is the case. Until such is supplied (I’m not holding my breath), I regard the following as true: veganism is the only lifestyle compatible with a *consistently applied* moral consideration of the basic rights of non-human animals, as justified by indisputable scientific facts about the nature of their bodies and minds.

  • mallencolly

    @ Johan Swarts

    re anthropomorphise

    Vegans do not anthropomorphise animals. Anthropomorphise is an outdated and incorrect way of thinking about animals. It comes from a time before we were able to determine what the physiological causes of certain emotions etc are. As you would expect, animals arent as different to us as our ancestors believed.

    “If vegan ethics are taken to its full extent, then ideally Lions, crocodiles, hippos et al should be reprimanded, tried i na court of law and punished for killing deer, wildebeest, humans and other living animals with vegan “rights”. ”

    And if we took your point to its logical end, in that trial there would have to be someone that could speak lion , crocodile or hippo in oder for them to have a fair trial. We could also allow them to contribute to the continuing debates around justice by means of a democratic vote. Both impossible and silly, isnt it?

    Alternatively, you could see the difference between ‘rights’ as determined by the society in which you live and those (really) inalienable rights like the right to life, the right to clean air, the right to fresh water. You could also acknowledge that ethics/justice considers culpability and whether the accused could reasonably be expected to understand that what they did was wrong. There is no way that you can apply human justice to Animals but you can easily apply human ethics to your own behaviour.

  • Clean Air

    @Aragorn Eloff

    I have enjoyed debating with you. You have not convinced me to go vegan yet.

    A few weeks ago I had a letter published in a newspaper promoting ‘World go vegan week’ even though I am not one, I was then taken aback after my ‘good deed’ that I should have my ethical consistency questioned, and have quite an angry young vegan (Jackyl) on my case.

    I believe you can only really use the ethical consistency argument if no finger can be pointed at vegans. Promote their ethical ways yes, but be cautious about calling others ethically inconsistent. In this imperfect world there is always wiggle room for someone to find some cruelty vegans cause.

    Secondly, I was sincere when I suggested my marketing 101 ideas. I have always found it easier to wins an argument with people like our fellow debater Johan Swarts (above) by speaking of vegetarianism in terms of economic, health, environmetal benefits and feeding the starving, than on the basis of cruelty, ethics etc.

    I will be rooting for you during “World Go Vegan Week”.

    PS. I live on a smallholding and use flystrips to catch flies. :-) 😉

  • http://www.vegansociety.co.za Aragorn Eloff – SA Vegan Society

    @Clean Air: Thanks – you’ve been one of the more lucid commenters and I’ve enjoyed listening to your reasonably expressed views :-)

    Here is my sole point of disagreement: vegans act consistently when cruelty is located and it is upon this consistency of action based on ethics that I base my argument. For example, if it is discovered that the shoelaces I use are somehow related to the exploitation of animals then my vegan principles impel me to actively seek alternatives. What you seem to advocate, in place of this, is to shrug off such new discoveries with, ‘ah well, nobody is perfect.’

    You’re right, nobody is perfect, but we are all afforded countless opportunities to move towards or away from our ideals through our decisions and actions. If we are moving towards them, it’s likely that few people will mind much about whether or not we have to use flystrips 😉

    I agree with your marketing 101 approach as a way to engage people in a discussion around veganism, environmentalism, social justice, etc. but would add the provisio that it is reliant upon context: if somebody has already started arguing the ethics (as has happened here), it’s usually necessary (and, fortunately, rather easy) to engage them on that level.

    Thanks again for your temperance and for your ongoing commitment to the important issues we’re discussing :-)

  • Clean Air

    @Johan Swarts

    Humans and animals differ. Animals act according to instinct, humans have a conscience and can make logical and/or ethical choices etc.

    I beleive it is wrong to stop carnivores eating meat, God never intended it that way. To stop them would be contrary to Natural Law. On the other hand God made humans in a higher form, His own image dare I say.

    Humans can choose to eat meat, go vegetarian, go vegan. If animals are given a choice they eat what God ‘designed’ them to eat. Cows are naturally herbivores, baboons omnivores, and lions carnivores. Make a cow eat her own kind and mad cow disease is a possibility, force a lion to eat pasture and it dies of hunger.

    As humans, it depends on what spins your wheels, sometimes its ethics, sometimes health, sometimes environment, sometimes peer pressure (braai vleis, rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolet) etc.

  • Jackyl

    @Clean Air … I challenged you because you buy free range eggs and promote organic dairy and humane slaughter – I believe you’re more dangerous to the cause than a meat eater. Sorry if I came off as angry – I was simply being straight forward *shrug*.

  • Clean Air

    @Jackyl

    Yup I am probably more dangerous to the vegan cause than meat eaters. Like a double agent. :-(

  • Jackyl

    @Clean Air … Ha ha. Not for too long I suspect. You’re insightful and thoughtful and clearly intelligent … I can tell that you’re a future vegan :)

  • Clean Air

    @Jackyl

    O you charmer. Lets see?

  • M

    Fantastic and insightful article, thanks Jarred.
    The tasteless and derogatory comments made by many of the meat-eaters is a true reflection of their cruel, selfish and heartless nature. And thereby they discredit only themselves, because it gives a clear picture of what goes on inside their hearts and minds. They will pursue their selfish habits and lifestyles no matter what the cost, and I can’t help but feel sorry for them. I have long ago made peace with the fact that for as long as I stand up for animal rights I will be exposed to the hateful remarks and attitudes of people like them. My comfort is that at least I have a clear conscience, and despite their attittudes and influences I have managed to stay true to myself and my beliefs.

  • Skriver

    Did you get my comment?- Cannot agree more. Re planned sacrifices of cows at all stadia next year. This requires world wide protests. Got an enquiry by a German newspaper in Berlin. Like to communicate with you, please. Michael

  • http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=93567167725 Gaby Guillotine

    NICE ONE.

    I really loved this article

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