Are Animals As Innocent As Vehement Vegans Vow?

Another week, another argument with vegans. Reading this blog you could suppose that I spend all my time arguing with the no-meat brigade. Thankfully it’s not that common – it’s just that it always seems to inspire another blog post.

Why arguing is pointlessThis time it was a particularly vehement vegan (VV?) who insisted that I was a rapist and murderer because I work in the animal science industry. It’s not the first time I’ve heard those claims – indeed, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s a vegan argument flow chart out there (see below, click to enlarge), as all the conversations seem to follow the same pattern and use similar (if not identical) phrases.

Vegan flow chartDon’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that the power of my mighty tweets will help these hapless vegans see the light and immediately go out for a steak. I have absolutely no problem with anybody being vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, fruitarian, or whatever their dietary and ethical choices are. I respect those choices, even more so because I used to be a vegan myself (As a side-note, I was told by VV that it’s not possible to be an ex-vegan, so I obviously wasn’t a “real” vegan in the first place.) However, I do have an issue with being called a rapist* and murderer, particularly a murderer of “innocent animals”. So please, let’s stop the cute, fluffy, anthropomorphic nonsense. If somebody really thinks they know what it feels like to be a cow, maybe they need professional help, rather than arguments on twitter.

Yes, animals are killed to produce meat. If you have a problem with that then perhaps you should indeed consider being vegetarian or vegan. But are animals innocent? Not in the pure, clean-living, non-malicious sense of the word. Consider the billions of predatory animals who murder other (innocent?) animals every single day for food. Consider the penguin. Or more specifically, the penguin prostitute, who will offer sex to single male penguins in exchange for stones with which to build her nest. Consider the male mouse, lion, or hanuman langur (Old World monkey) who practice infanticide – killing entire litters of their mate’s offspring if they suspect that they are not the father. Consider homosexual necrophiliac ducks, who will repeatedly rape a dead male mallard. Even on the farm it’s not all peace and love – the top-ranking cow in the hierarchy gets first pick of the feed and the best mattress to lie on. Why? Because animals aren’t innocent. It’s a good marketing trick to show cute little baby animals that tug at our heartstrings and make us think twice about eating the cheeseburger, but animals are no more innocent than we are.

CarnistThe ultimate vegan insult is one of “carnism” – literally the opposite of veganism (as in carn- or carne-, latin for meat), which includes the theory that that meat-eaters practice speciesism in considering themselves to be superior to animals. Yet by decrying the murder practiced by so many animal species, aren’t vegans the epitome of speciesism? On a higher plane by virtue of a cruelty-free life? Let’s get real. To quote Alfred, Lord Tennyson: “Tho Nature, red in tooth and claw…” – a world where every life is sacred and cruelty does not exist is not a description of planet earth, and if it was, there’s every chance that we humans would have been wiped out eons ago.

*Cows are not raped. The definition of rape is “Unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim.” and, as any dairy farmer will tell you, a cow will not stand to be served unless she is in heat (estrus). Trying to rape a dairy cow would be an exercise in futility.

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”