Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Reposted from GentleWorld.org

“At one grocery outlet, at least, ‘certified humane’ meat is selling briskly. D’Agostino, a small grocery chain in New York, said sales of meat jumped 25 percent since it added the ‘certified humane’ logo, though the products cost, on average, 30 to 40 percent more.”

- The New York Times, 2006

During the past decade, numerous articles in magazines, newspapers and online have documented a disturbing trend. Individuals describing themselves as ‘ex-vegetarian’ or even ‘ex-vegan’, seem to have been enlisted as spokespersons for a new animal food fad, characterized by the promotion of ‘humanely-raised animal products’, or, as described by some, ‘Happy Meat’.

As Newsweek pointed out, these “conversion narratives… which inevitably take place at a quaint, family-run butcher shop… [some of which are] even run by former vegetarians and vegans”, are becoming increasingly common. Without fail, the stars of the show, generally self-described ‘animal lovers’, explain how they now have first-hand knowledge of the entire Happy Meat production process, all the way to actually witnessing (or even participating in) the butchering of the victim’s body. In a bizarre and horrifying twist, the result of their experience is that they are no longer repulsed by the idea of eating flesh. Rather, they happily declare their enjoyment of a taste and texture sensation that used to be ‘off-limits’ to the consumer with conscience, until the kind folks at their local purveyor of flesh and blood provided them with ‘an ethical alternative to mainstream meat’.

Tara Austen Weaver, author of The Butcher and the Vegetarian, seems enthusiastic about being a representative for the new craze. “There is something almost primal about it,” gushes the former vegetarian, as though the word ‘primal’ is a noble quality to be embraced as the latest ‘Vogue Virtue’ for ethical consumers. Let’s not forget that the word is almost synonymous with ‘primitive’, and could just as easily be used to describe cannibalism or rape. What’s next? Fashionable foodies trying to one-up each other by declaring that, just like the carnivorous animals they think so highly of, they only eat meat directly from the carcass? At least that would be more honest.

It seems that the directors of the puppet show are aware that ‘primal’ is simply a concept that plays to the perverse desires of the lowest parts of our selves. After all, this base and brutish lust for blood has such a hold on people that we are willing to turn a blind eye to unthinkable acts of cruelty in its name.

In my case, I can’t help but wonder who dreamed this up around the meeting table. Which public relations executive now takes the credit for such a shrewd tactical move? A sudden influx of happy meat stories cunningly placed in various alternative and mainstream media… artisan-butchered body parts from an animal so well-treated she virtually offered up her throat to the knife… ex-vegetarians finally liberated from the constraints of self-deprivation, free at last to unleash their cravings and sink their teeth into the sizzling flesh and fat they had so long denied themselves… It’s almost primal… One can actually picture the slideshow that went along with the presentation.

It’s time to face up to it folks – we are being played. Animal slavery means big money, and you can be sure that the people who profit from it are not going to sit back and do nothing while the truth comes to light about their foul practices  and the immorality of the institution itself. They have no choice but to do their damnedest to try and sway public opinion away from recognizing the injustice inherent in all animal exploitation, and toward the belief that there must be some way we can still have our cake and eat it too… some way that we can avoid sacrificing our taste preferences while maintaining a clear conscience.

As a public relations scheme, it’s almost ingenious. On the other hand, what do they think we are… three years old? It’s the same lie we tell our children when they first burst into tears at the idea that what’s on their plate was once an animal like the one curled up at their feet – that certain animals don’t mind being eaten for dinner because that’s what they’re here for, and that they don’t value their lives like dogs and cats or fear death like you and I.

But no matter who is telling it, no matter how often they repeat it, and no matter how cunningly it is concealed in the propaganda we are fed, it’s still a lie, and a lie of the worst variety, because it allows brutality and oppression to continue unchecked. It’s a lie when we tell it to our children, it’s a lie when the animal industry tells it to us, and it’s perhaps the worst lie of all when we tell it to ourselves.

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Replies to This Discussion

I suppose that Ms. Flinn is unaware that her reference to "the lowest parts of ourselves" and our "base and brutish lust" are ideas rooted in the notion of the Great Chain of Being, which, from Aristotle's time onward posited the "higher nature" of man as opposed to the lesser (and less valuable) nature of "brute" and dumb animals. Isn't it interesting then that even one so enamored with her Utopian vision of a "gentle world" can't escape the idea of human transcendence of the very nature we are inexorably are a part of. 

Therein lies the incoherence of this brand of "animal rights" thinking. On the one hand we are not better than other animals and they are "just like" us, but on the other hand we must rise above our "base and brutish" natures in order to live morally. Which is it? Are we different and better than those lower animals or not? 

Tim, I don't think that it is a matter of who is "better" than the other.  Most people think they are "better" than people who are not like them.  But we don't go around causing unnecessary harm to them or eating them.  It really comes down to the basic idea of doing the least harm we can in the world.  This type of moral dilemma is common in many areas.  In animal experimentation, for example, scientists say that they can use other species to do the tests on because they are "not like us".  But using them and applying the results to humans means that they are indeed, "like us". 

But again, it comes down to choosing compassion whenever possible.  Other species often do it.  There are countless examples of a predator species choosing to care for, rather than kill and eat, their prey.  A lion who cares for a baby chimpanzee, etc.

Tim Gier said:

I suppose that Ms. Flinn is unaware that her reference to "the lowest parts of ourselves" and our "base and brutish lust" are ideas rooted in the notion of the Great Chain of Being, which, from Aristotle's time onward posited the "higher nature" of man as opposed to the lesser (and less valuable) nature of "brute" and dumb animals. Isn't it interesting then that even one so enamored with her Utopian vision of a "gentle world" can't escape the idea of human transcendence of the very nature we are inexorably are a part of. 

Therein lies the incoherence of this brand of "animal rights" thinking. On the one hand we are not better than other animals and they are "just like" us, but on the other hand we must rise above our "base and brutish" natures in order to live morally. Which is it? Are we different and better than those lower animals or not? 

HI Rae,

My point was not that I believe that people are better than other animals, or that people ought to think of themselves as better than other animals. My point was that I believe that Ms. Flinn is confused in the way that she thinks of such things as "higher" or "lower" natures. If we are instructed, as Ms. Flinn appears to want to instruct us, to leave off of our "base and brutish" ways, then it seems to me that she is valuing something in humans that other animals (those brutes that they are) haven't got. I wonder what she thinks that is?

In any case, as a rule, other animals are amoral creatures and, other than the biological altruism toward kin and clan that evolution has rewarded in them, they haven't any real concern for whomever they must use and kill in pursuit of their own survival. Dolphins kill and eat fishes, lions kill antelopes, ants enslave other insects, hundreds upon hundreds of sea turtles hatch from their eggs, their mothers don't care and very few survive to adulthood. Nature really is, for the most part, red in tooth and claw.


Rae Sikora said:

Tim, I don't think that it is a matter of who is "better" than the other.  

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