Would you like a side of corpse with your meal, Sir?

I was interested to see the following description of Hitler’s* (*see disclaimer below) behavior in a recent Drover’s article:

…[Hitler] was offered a piece of ham and refused, saying “it is like eating a corpse.”

Is it me, or is that remarkably similar language to that used by PETA and HSUS? Before somebody opens a can of Godwin’s Law whoop-ass, I’d like to point out that I’m not trying to prove my point by referring everything I don’t agree with back to Nazism (although it’s a popular way for internet trolls to try to end arguments), nor am I comparing PETA and HSUS to Hitler. After all, PETA are inherently amusing – without PETA we wouldn’t see so many pictures of Pamela Anderson or marvel at the faux-pornographic inventiveness of “Milk Gone Wild“, let alone snigger at their attempts to get Ben & Jerry’s to use human breast milk. However, I can imagine this a headline in the National Enquirer: “Animal Rights Groups Use Hitler Soundbites” – could be a PR nightmare (take note PETA publicity dept)

Still, it’s interesting that simple words can evoke such a violent reaction. As an unrepentant omnivore, I’m well aware that the meat that I eat originates from animals that have been slaughtered (yes, slaughtered – carrots are harvested, animals are slaughtered) in order to provide human food. Therefore according to the definition of a corpse “A dead body, esp. of a human being rather than an animal”, the juicy burger I’m planning to eat for lunch is a 1/4 lb patty of flesh from the corpse of a cow. What is it about human frailties that such a definition instantly makes me feel like Jeffrey Dahmer, whereas “meat” sounds tasty and innocuous like something grown on a tree in a sunlit California valley?

In high school, my friends and I eschewed meat for animal welfare reasons, horrified by the vivisection pictures prominently displayed by the animal rights activists at the local mall. Yet once we grew out of the teenage rebellion stage, these issues seemed to be less important: during my 12-month vegan stint (aged 15) over half the girls in my high-school class were vegetarian, yet my college class contained less than five vegetarians and I only have two in my current circle of friends. If we took children on tours of slaughterhouses as well as farms and museums would the number of adult vegetarians increase? Or would the fact that meat generally appeals to the human palate overcome those images?

The vast majority of farm animals are well cared for and slaughtered in a humane manner in accordance with the regulations applicable to that region. Yet continuing to disguise the facts of food production by replacing “slaughter” with “harvest” (I’ve been rebuked several times by industry colleagues for refusing to use “harvest”) and playing into the consumer fantasy that meat is produced without death occurring may lead us into dangerous waters in future. So are we ready to pick up a package of ground beef flesh and to baste the Christmas turkey corpse? Its unlikely…but it sure would take the wind out of the PETA and HSUS sails wouldn’t it?

*If the name Hitler instantly ticks your “Alert! Cheap rhetoric!” button, feel free to replace with Idi Amin, Pol Pot or “small angry fanatic with ridiculous moustache”

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8 thoughts on “Would you like a side of corpse with your meal, Sir?

  1. I just saw your blog for the first time, and I noticed the top right picture on the home page. I’m pretty sure I know where that picture came from!!!

  2. I feel inclined to use the proper terms as well; I think deferring to the “softer” words just bows to the pressure to pretend we don’t know where food comes from. Our butcher caved in, though, telling me how they struggled with what to put on their website, and finally settled on “harvest” and “frame” versus “slaughter” and “carcass.”

    • Glad to hear that Michelle! I had an interesting conversation with a reporter today – having heard me say “harvest” twice she asked “by harvest, do you mean slaughter?”. Further evidence that we’re just confusing consumers even more by using euphemisms.

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