Rage and Reason

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Rage and Reason

By Michael Tobias, submitted by Onion to Animal Rights Online

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.

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 environmentalists.

There can be no environmental consciousness, no lasting solution to the ecological mayhem all around us, without an ethical core of intention.

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 eating.

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'ĂȘtre 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 biological aspiration.

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..."
-Paradise Lost

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?