Animals In Print
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25 September 2010 Issue

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The 'Meat Paradox'

“Oh, I know animals suffer, but I love my steak”: The self-serving resolution of the meat paradox”

We always must remember it’s not a matter of “what’s” for dinner but “who’s” for dinner…. Many people continue to eat animals knowing they’re consuming misery

By Marc Bekoff

There’s no doubt that billions of factory-farmed and other animals suffer for our gustatory delights, most of which are unnecessary. Now, a new study shows just how far people will go so that they can continue to eat animals who needlessly wind up at the end of their fork. Steve Loughnan of Kent University in the UK and his colleagues discovered that “people who wish to escape the ‘meat paradox’ i.e. simultaneously disliking hurting animals and enjoying eating meat, may do so by denying that the animal they ate had the capacity to suffer.”

While some people stop eating meat when they learn that animals suffer an overwhelming majority do not, and continue to enjoy their steaks knowing well that they’re eating pain and misery. They simply deny moral status to the sentient beings who wind up on their plates as if all’s just fine. This very important study shows “when there is a conflict between their preferred way of thinking and their preferred way of acting, it is their thoughts and moral standards that people abandon first – rather than changing their behaviour. ‘Rather than change their beliefs about the animals’ moral rights, people could change their behaviour,’ Loughnan said. ‘However, we suspect that most people are unwilling to deny themselves the enjoyment of eating meat, and denying animals moral rights lets them keep eating with a clear conscience’.” I wonder just how clear they’re conscience is. When I was writing my book The animal manifesto I continually talked with people who told me “Oh, I know animals suffer, but I love my steak.” They went on to offer lame excuses such as “I just can’t stop eating meat even when I think about the misery for which I’m responsible.” Sure they can. It’s so easy it’s laughable to think that they not only deny sentience to the animals they consume but also deny that non-animal alternatives are readily available, even “fake meats.” And it’s also essential to remember that cows, pigs, and sheep who are unrelentingly tortured on their journey to and when they temporarily reside on factory farms are no less sentient than companion dogs or cats. Most people – likely all people – would not let their companion animals trade places with these most unfortunate beings.

We always must remember it’s not a matter of “what’s” for dinner but “who’s” for dinner as we routinely and wantonly slaughter sentience for unneeded meals to the tune of billions of animals per year. Surely we can do better and it’s really easy for most of us to stop consuming pain and misery.

Marc Bekoff is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and is a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society and a former Guggenheim Fellow. In 2000 he was awarded the Exemplar Award from the Animal Behavior Society for major long-term contributions to the field of animal behavior. Marc is also an ambassador for Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program, in which he works with students of all ages, senior citizens, and prisoners, and also is a member of the Ethics Committee of the Jane Goodall Institute. He and Jane co-founded the organization Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: Citizens for Responsible Animal Behavior Studies in 2000.

Simulposted with the Psychology Today Blog and Thomas Paine Corner Published on August 5, 2010

From Dusk 'til Dawn An Insider's View of the Growth of the Animal Liberation Movement

© Keith Mann [email protected].

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