To pretend to speak about environmentalism without
positing and acting upon our commitment to humanity's ethical
obligations, would be akin to whining during World War II about an
"environmentally suspect Third Reich," without any mention, or effort to
save, the victims of the Holocaust. To gloss over the greatest tragedy
ever perpetrated by one species in the biological history of Earth,
namely, mankind's arrogant and unchallenged obliteration of most other
life forms - meat eating being the most sustained, calculating,
widespread, and heartless form of such violence - strikes this reader as
monstrously ignorant, and self-serving.
Ignorance masks its intolerance, self-interest, and
callousness with the tired logic of abusive millennia; a logic now
appropriated by those among you who would dare to call yourselves
There can be no environmental consciousness, no lasting
solution to the ecological mayhem all around us, without an ethical core
There is no disputing the fact that species are
vanishing at an incalculable rate; that animals universally are under
siege, the human motives for such carnage too numerous to diagnose.
Given what we know about the declining numbers of most animal species,
how can any thinking, feeling person subscribe to meat eating?
It all boils down to greed, stupidity, and laziness on
the part of those of you who would argue that meat eating and
environmentalism are compatible impulses. They are not. Meat eating is a
function of the taste buds, which can be controlled. Evolution does not
condemn us. Our choices condemn us. There is no residual biology in our
gut that compels us to kill the neighborhood grocer for our meal, any
more than it demands the slaughter of the innocent. Meat is not an
addicting chemical. We have the power to rise above it, even if a few
other species do not. But keep in mind that 98% of all energy transfer
on Earth comes about as the result of herbivorous appetites, not meat
Once you are truly aware of this, you will remain aware,
because it has become your self-awareness, your ethical uniqueness in a
world of tumultuous change. You do not forget how to ride a bicycle. You
do not forget that the destruction of the rain forest, the coral reefs
and estuaries, the bat, is a calamity; or that nuclear war is the end.
To argue that bunches of cauliflower are just as
helpless and sensitive to pain as a turkey may or may not be true.
There's no question that every living organism feels pain. But the
argument - with all of its yet to be learned revelations - has been
perverted by those who would use it to invalidate all distinctions
between plants and animals, so as to justify the killing of EVERYTHING!
If we are to survive, we must minimize violence: taking concerted steps,
day by day, like alcoholics on the mend, to reverse the murderer in man.
There is no other way.
Meat eaters do not acknowledge that murderer in man,
this planetary calamity, because no law exists, no legislative or
juridical opinion has ever been set down in this country that would
tamper with their daily bullying of animals, or prejudice those men
against killing for their dinner. America - and most cultures - look
with pride to the hunter, exult in his efficiency and resourcefulness.
Goaded by popular opinion, uncurtailed in his bloodlust, the meat eater
had every bulwark, the sheer magnitude of other meat eaters, to support
him; to go on and on defending the butchery, in blissful ignorance of
the billions of animals who suffer and perish continually, every second
of every day and night. Those men, and women, and young persons who kill
are the most inhuman of all animals. To suggest that because other
animals kill, humans can do so with a free conscience is to deny the
magical purpose and raison d'Ítre of conscience in the first place. We
are shepherds, we know better; some would even argue that we are the
front-runners of animal evolution. If that is true, then we are
responsible for setting a pattern on Earth that is tempered and wise and
gentle. Meat eating is utterly unrestrained; an ecological, medical, and
spiritual disaster for everyone. It was in recognition of this once too
obvious credo, that the Bible clearly stated, "Thou Shalt Not Kill."
Period. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Meat eating is about killing animals, not simply eating
meat; killing in proportions that no one can begin to gauge or
comprehend. The killing of docile innocent animals whose throats are
sliced open in matter-of-fact assembly lines, while their bodies dangle
and writhe from steel snares and claws, and the weight of their
terrified lungs and hearts asphyxiate them, as the butchers, swaying to
the heavy metal melodies of their headsets, slice and pulverize and
gore, puncture and boil them alive, often missing with their hatchets
and hacksaws before finally doing in the animals with lumberjack
hydroclippers of every size and shape and razor sharpness. The
unimaginable conditions, the putrid lakes of deep and despondent blood,
wasted life, mountains of hideous pain and wretched brutality, disappear
at the air-conditioned grocery stores and hygienically preserved meat
counters; and vanish within the elegant bottles and fancy containers. So
that America, the beleaguered, prides itself on environmental protocols,
and Earth Days and ecological hand-wringing, and scientific bandstanding,
while suffering souls all around us are cast cruelly to an oblivion that
makes Hell seem more agreeable.
You think the above killing grounds are justified so as
to continue the habit of meat? Then prove it; do what the poet Percy
Shelley recommended, and then, only then, may you judge yourself on the
level of other, non-human predators:
"Let the advocate of animal food force himself to a
decisive experiment on its fitness...tear a living lamb with his teeth,
and plunging his head into its vitals, slake his thirst with the
steaming blood; when fresh from the deed of horror let him revert to the
irresistible instincts of nature that would rise in judgment against it,
and say, Nature formed me for such work as this. Then, and then only,
would he be consistent." *
* A vindication of Natural Diet in Percy Shelley,
Selected Poetry, Prose and Letters (ed., A. S.B.Glover), [Nonesuch :
London, 1951] pages 900-913
There can be no environmentalism without a thoroughly
unambiguous belief in the preciousness, the importance, the fragility of
life on Earth.
Meat eating spits in the face of that belief system,
countering caution and self-restraint with gluttony, and a mockery of
all that the life force has achieved, in four and half billion years of
As children of nature, endowed with a heart, a
conscience and a brain, we ought to know better; we cannot continue the
charade of supposedly caring about the planet, while turning our back on
an estimated seven billion mammals and avians condemned to being eaten
every year, in the United States alone. The numbers on an international
scale have never been calculated but they surely amount to tens of
billions of animals. Just one fast food chain, among many, boasts, on
its billboards, of having sold nearly thirty-billion hamburger patties.
And it goes on.
For these, and many, many, other reasons, I will never
take an environmentalist - or any human being for that matter -
seriously, who, knowing all this continues to eat meat.
"No light, but rather darkness visible, served only to
discover sights of woe, Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
and rest can never dwell, hope never comes. That comes to all; but
torture without end..."
There is nothing so pitiful and helpless in all the
world, as a one thousand pound, bewildered cow strung upside down by a
shackle on its ankle, bellowing, clawing clumsily for life, trying by
all of its unpracticed instincts to find its friends, to ward off the
death he knows is coming. A blood splattered wall to his right, a little
human killer with an unreachable mind, unreachable heart, to his left;
surrounded by bayonets, knives, shotguns, air guns, electric captive
bolt applicators. How to become that cow? Frightened, in agony, no one
to hear it, the cruciate ligaments of its knees rupturing, the fetlock
and hip joints dislocating, the skin being peeled off while he still
clings to every final breath, blood pouring out of his nostrils,
covering his eyes, pain burning like the fires of the sun until darkness
descends with a quick splutter of weakening surmise. And the lights have
gone out forever. Who can ever answer to the feeble ferocity of a cow's
final bellowing query: Why?
Go on to The Other
Victims of Puppy Mills by G. Kerry
Return to 4 October 2000 Issue
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