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Killing Other Animals For Food Does Not Make us Human

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Killing Other Animals For Food Does Not Make us Human

By Marc Bekoff, Psychology Today - Animal Emotions
March 2012

There's nothing spiritual about killing innocent animals for unneeded meals

I just read an interview called "Killer Cuisine" that made me think about who we are in the grand scheme of things and also made me a bit ill.

Georgia Pelligrini, author of Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt At a Time," decides to go out and kill animals and writes about the epiphany she experienced when killing a turkey:

Killing the turkey was sort of my watershed moment; it sort of woke up a dormant part of me. So many horrible things happen in our industrial food system and I wanted to explore what it meant to step outside the traditional way of procuring meat, and really go back to the way we used to do it. I wanted the experience of participating in every single part of the process - from the field to the plate - and to make sure that there was no suffering (my emphasis), that every part of the animal was used and used with integrity. I wanted to pay the full karmic price for the meal.

There's lots of "I's" here but what about "them", the animals whom she kills? There are two sides to the bullet, the hunter and the hunted, and this "It's all about me" attitude is an insult to the animal beings who are kiilled.

I do agree that factory farming should be stopped immediately but Pelligrini's claim that the turkey didn't suffer is absurd. Stalking animals causes immense suffering for those who are stalked, and even if there were no suffering what gives her the right to kill an animal for a thoroughly unnecessary meal? Even if people stalk animals but don't try to kill them, the animals suffer greatly. Just seeing a potential predator, and hunters are viewed as predators, is stressful. Patrick Bateson, at the University of Cambridge in England, found red deer stalked by dogs showed stress responses similar to those experienced when animals were anxious and scared. Deer showed high levels of cortisol and the breakdown of red blood cells, indicating extreme physiological and psychological stress. Stalked deer also displayed excessive fatigue and damaged muscles. Non-stalked deer and those shot without prolonged stalking didn't show similar stress responses. There's no reason to thinik that birds would respond any differently.

Clearly, animals don't like the emotional distress, anxiety, and fear of being stalked and neither do humans. Stalked animals may also spend less time feeding, resting, and protecting young. The stalker's intentions, malevolent or not, are unimportant to the animal and there often is much collateral damage to family and friends of the targeted individual.

Does killing other animals make us human?

Ms. Pelligrini, also writes, "If you want to feel what it is to be human again, you should hunt, even if just once."

Hmmm. I feel rather human and find hunting to be offensive especially when it's for a meal that's not needed. She also finds hunting to be "emotional, spiritual, intense". What is spiritual about killing another being? Once again, the point of view of the hunted is totally ignored. Does she think the turkey or other animals feel good about providing an unneeded meal to a human predator?

As I wrote above, there's lots of "I's" and "me's" (about the hunter) in these discussions but little about "them," the hunted. The implications of these claims, for few are really detailed arguments, imply much about perceived human exceptionalism and speciesism in which we conveniently place ourselves above other animals in importance, and in which animals are valued only for what they can do for us (instrumental or use value) but not for their own inherent or intrinsic value (for more discussion see).

It's important to get the issues about hunting out for discussion. Others who have been vegetarian or vegan also become born-again meat-eating zealots when they change their ways and write as if there's no other way to live or to be human. They write self-serving flowery prose about their personal and spiritual journeys about how it's human and almost an out of body experience to kill other animals. Killing other animals is just fine for them and everyone should do it. But what about the animal whose life was taken because the human decided it was okay to do it? And what about the other animals who suffer the loss of family and friends? We need to factor in their points of view as well.