On Wipeout and Lion Burgers

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On Wipeout and Lion Burgers

By Mary Martin, Ph.D. on AnimalPerson.net

Respect for the natural lives of others and wanting justice for them shouldn't be determined by an accident of birth and geography. Or even by a weak argument about near extinction.

Have you seen the ridiculous television show, Wipeout? There's something hilarious about people intentionally putting themselves in a position to be beaten up like Wile E. Coyote. It's all in fun, with much of the humor coming from the commentators and the special sound effects.

It does get old, however, after about 10 minutes. At minute #9 for me last night was a young woman going through one of the obstacle courses and getting pummeled, just like everyone else. The commentator says that part of her winnings will go to abolish animal cruelty (yes, abolish).

Cut to a conversation with the contestant . . .

Interviewer: "Are you a vegetarian?"

Contestant: "Nope. Well, sort of. I mean, I eat chicken and fish."

Interviewer: "Wait, so you want to abolish animal cruelty, except for chickens and fish, (pointing at the contestant) because she doesn't like them?"

Contestant (flustered): "We, well, we used to have chickens on our ranch."

Interviewer: "Oh, so you've killed chickens."

Contestant: "And turkeys."

Interviewer: "Wait a minute now, hold on, so I'm getting a whole different thing. Now you kill turkeys, chickens, fish and--"

Contestant (mortified, laughing, with hand over her mouth): "Cows."

Interviewer: "Cows, okay, there's another one you kill. I think you actually support animal cruelty."

Contestant (laughing): No.

I don't watch much television, so I don't know how extraordinary this moment was. But for me, it was remarkable. I can only hope that even one person watching in the comfort of their great room had an epiphany regarding what they claim to believe and what they do.

If you kill animals or pay someone to do so for you, you support animal cruelty. And no amount of donations to groups that supposedly want to abolish animal cruelty is going to make up for the fact that until you stop having animals killed for you you are part of the problem.

Finally, in my e-mailbox this morning, and probably in yours, was the Care2 newsletter, including a link to a column about a restaurant in Arizona that will soon serve burgers made from lion meat. I was curious about why it's so terrible to eat lions. They're from a legal farm in Illinois, so the law isn't the reason. It's probably going to come down to culture, I thought. Lions aren't food in our culture. But that wasn't it either.

The last paragraph states:

In the U.S. there may be any number of restaurants serving game. However, with lions the story is different because they are a vulnerable species in the wild, and their numbers are declining. Two recent surveys estimated the range of African lions to be 16,500-30,000, or 29,000-47,000.

Here's my first problem with this: The number of lions in the wild is not affected by the farming operation in Illinois. I respect the lives of lions, no matter where they live, and I don't believe that they should be used for food any more than cows should. But I don't feel like I was presented with a compelling argument for not eating lions.

Then come the comments, including one by Devon N, who thinks that the restaurant "is owned by someone without a conscience or soul." Devon N is joined by many others who are appalled by the idea of eating lions.

I understand the impulse to be repulsed by the idea of eating lions. Enculturation includes instructions on when to feel disgust. But once you step outside yourself and you look at whatever the issue is from the perspective of whomever is most affected by it--in this case lions--culture is meaningless. Respect for the natural lives of others and wanting justice for them shouldn't be determined by an accident of birth and geography. Or even by a weak argument about near extinction.