Itís Not About You Or Me. Itís About This Guy.
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM

James McWilliams
June 2014

I think in terms of broader trends, trends that shape human mentalities and moralities, integrating ethics into culture in a subtle and effective ways.

evolution history eating animals skullThe long duration of human history creates a slow burn effect on repetitive human behavior, habituating our thoughts and actions in ways we easily underestimate or forget. When I recently highlighted one bittersweet manifestation of this slow burnóthe hard won and long-tested omnivorous knowledge about what was or wasnít safe to eatóseveral readers countered that the weight of the past was in fact easily shucked off because, to paraphrase, ďI did it with no problem.Ē But hereís the thing: when you talk about the history of human history, you donít matter. Weíre talking large patterns not small blips in time, such as your existence.

Other readers didnít necessarily contend with my argument so much as wonder why I would offer ammunition to ďthe carnivores.Ē I need to be clear on this: I donít think that way. I donít see animal advocacy in such dichotomized terms. Itís not a zero-sum game, one in which information is deployed to save souls from carnivorous damnation. Instead, I think in terms of broader trends, trends that shape human mentalities and moralities, integrating ethics into culture in a subtle and effective ways. Iím all for protesting a Chipotle or marching in the streets for animal liberation. But I see the impact of those actions in the framework of how they shape broader cultural mentalities. If you write about the love of your pet, thatís lovely. But Iím only concerned with how it shapes our transcendent understanding of the human-animal relationship.

This perspective can lead to some counterintuitive ideas. For example, Iím much less concerned with whether or not an individual is vegan than with how the ideological substrate that supports basic human behavior is shifting. So, the reason why I bring up issues such as our million years of inherited meat-eating choices is that they comprise the substrate that I want to see changed. We need to grasp that reality before we work to change it. It is also for this reason that my veganism inadvertently slips, I donít lose a moment of stress. Just as itís not about you, itís not about me. If I hid in a closet and and choked down a burger, it wouldnít matter in the least.

Change will take time. Not another million yearsórevolutions in communications have changed the game. But weíre unlikely to see systemic changes with respect to eating animals in the course of our lifetimes (or at least mine). I make this claim not to extinguish our activist fire, but to acknowledge how deeply the act of eating animals has shaped human identity, one thatís as pre-programmed as it is adaptable. Rage on, people. But know the depth of the history we confront.


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