I have recently been involved in an argument with veg*ns (vegetarians and vegans) over at a blog [which will remain unnamed, see my update]. This blog, which is ironically one of my favourites, mocks quisling imagery oriented towards meat-eating and meat production (such as BBQ teams, butcher shops, that sort of thing).
I think it’s great, but unfortunately the owner and readers are rather vicious extremists who believe that I must be an unfeeling, uncaring monster because I eat meat despite knowing the suffering the meat industry causes on animals. Having had previous experience with veg*n rhetoric, I was not surprised by the personal nature of their attacks, nor on their illogic, but I believe that some points I made there need to be understood by my readers so that they may address veg*n and “animal rights” rhetoric in its proper context…
1. The fact that all life is equal does not mean that we should value cow lives intrinsically. There is a vast difference between basic biological facts about life/pain/suffering and the values we hold, something which veg*ns do not seem to understand this at all. Despite the fact that all human beings have the same basic biology, we still hold wildly differing values. If that strong similarity does not logically oblige us to hold other human life as intrinsically valuable, then how can the weaker similarity of “feeling pain” oblige us to hold the life of cows as an intrinsic value? The only intrinsic value that any organism can possess logically is the value of its own life, because it is a prerequisite to all other values.
This may seem needlessly complicated, so let me state it as clearly as possible: the fact that cows and humans both feel pain doesn’t mean that you, the individual valuer, should value cows on an equal standpoint as humans. Which leads us to the next point…
2. An individual can value the reduction of suffering and also value meat-eating. I value the reduction of suffering in all animals, including humans. I value the reduction of suffering of farm animals. But I also value eating meat, and to me the value of eating meat is more important than the value of reducing suffering for cows or chickens.
Is this callous of me? Unlike veg*ns, I am not emotionalist enough to change my life habits because I feel bad for cows or chickens. That doesn’t make me an emotionless automaton: I still feel bad for cows or chickens, but I am merely more of a realist about it. And that’s not a bad thing. If a person’s life habits were solely dictated by what makes him feel bad or guilty, no one would have any pleasure in life. If our lives were geared towards eliminating suffering, then we would have no more values of our own. Which leads me to the last point..
3. The exploitation of suffering is universal: veg*ns do not have any higher ground on that issue. Everyone, without exception, benefits from the exploitation or delegation of suffering, not just meat-eaters. We all benefit from the exploitation of children in third-world “countries” in lower prices- and yes, even those who do not buy products made in third-world countries benefit from the competitive aspect, so “I just don’t buy those” is not an answer. We all benefit from the exploitation of the suffering of animals in medical experiments for the drugs and treatments that we rely on today (how would you like to live in a world where insulin, polio vaccines, modern anesthetics and antibiotics were never invented? Everyone benefits from this exploitation.
The fact is that society itself is based on the delegation of suffering, and I’m not just talking about government. Any organized function of protection or defense necessarily implies that we, the population as a whole, are delegating people to put themselves into situations that entail bodily harm, instead of doing everything ourselves as we used to. While it is true that this situation is not the same as killing cows because cows obviously do not choose to be slaughtered, this fact is mitigated by the fact that getting a job as a policeman is far from slaughter. Many people are ready to take a deadly risk to fulfill their own values, and if cows were sentient, they might take the same sort of gamble. Whatever hypothesis we concoct here, the point is that we make other people suffer for us, just like we make cows and chickens suffer for us. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Unfortunately, despite their natural association with the compassionate side, Anarchists must be aware of the issues surrounding veg*n and “animal rights” rhetoric, because it plays right in the hands of the State’s desire to always legislate more and more areas of society. There is nothing that veg*n fanatics would like more than to ban slaughtering practices, and therefore commercial meat-eating. And when meat-eating will be outlawed, only outlaws will eat meat. ;)
UPDATE: for you veg*n whackjobs who want to talk about what an attention whore I am and how hypocrite I am, go over there. I was doing this entry as a way to publicize one of my favourite blogs and write about veg*n rhetoric, but the owner was apparently talking shit about me behind my back all this time, so he can go fuck himself.