So by now most of you probably know that I affiliate quite strongly with the fact that I am partially a meat eater. I believe quite strongly that we, as humans, are meant to consume meat to a certain degree. There is massive evolutionary evidence that we could not have evolved without it. (Of course, if you don’t believe in evolution, one of our most proven theories about the natural world, then you’re welcome to step out of every scientific biology debate right now.)
What baffles me is the sheer amount of opposition to meat and animal products that gave our ancestors such life. People proclaim that we’re not meant to eat meat. Well, actually we have been eating meat since before we even existed. Even modern relatives (such as chimps) eat meat. Now we also have evidence that humans evolved specifically to be able to drink dairy.
It’s put me into thinking a lot about what meats I eat and why. The chimps mentioned above have no qualms about eating whatever they want but I feel a vague moral twinge when I think of eating a dog. Now I know why I don’t eat MY dogs… They provide for my mental and physical well being and we have a sort of symbiotic relationship. Similarly I don’t want to take away someone else’s best friend… But even a stray dog?
It has put me into the conclusion that I don’t eat meats that are easy for me to humanize. Dogs have evolved with us as companions, and there is this amazing Nova documentary about how much they have evolved just to be with us. This makes dogs easy to humanize. I have similar reservations about elephants, dolphins and great apes for similarly humanizing reasons. Elephants grieve, dolphins speak, and apes… Well do I even have to start? These creatures recognize concepts like birth, death, family, responsibility, and even social politics to certain degrees.
But some animals are just far too different. Most of our production animals have very different social structures. In a pair of cats (brother and sister even) you can take one away for just a couple of days and the remaining cat will not care much, but bring that cat back and the remaining suddenly sees not their sibling but an intrusion. The same can be said for chickens. Removing a member of the flock does not make a big difference in their social structure. Returning that member causes an uproar. I feel this is likely caused because of their status as prey (or in cats, their solitary nature). Loosing a member of a flock is not a big deal, it happens all the time. An intruding member that is invading their resources is a far bigger one. With cows, when you remove their young they naturally panic. Within a week they have adjusted and moved on as their natures dictate.
Naturally there are exceptions to this rule… Some cows grieve for months. In wild herds this is counter=productive to survival and such moms get left behind by the rest of the herd. Some cats welcome back relatives that have been missing. And I suspect that even chickens occasionally break their standard social rules and quickly accept a new comer if the situation is right.
But I feel like that is even taking it too far. Even that is too human for an animal. Politics, ecosystems, extinction, evolution, mass slaughter, food chains… Even numbers beyond 100 are concepts that most animals would struggle to perceive.
If you could talk to a chicken and explained that millions are killed each year for food and that mass farming ruins water systems with pollution you’d get this blank inconceivable stare. It is like asking a normal human to conceive the entire universe as our whole world is just one rock orbiting one star in a galaxy with billions of stars in a universe with millions of galaxies ever expanding and increasing so that when it comes right down to it our entire SOLAR SYSTEM is one tiny little speck of dust in a universe with no edge and trillions of worlds… It’s just… Impossible.
Or perhaps imagine seeing the world without wavelengths of light. All color is just that… A different reflection of light upon it’s surface. The world would be matte flat colorless and nothing would have any conceivable shape because it would all be the exact same in perception. There would be no shadows, it would not even be grey because that too is a color. And when we mix colors of paint? We are really mixing the way the individual object reflects light. Asking you to see the world without colors or wavelengths of light, as a flat matte non-existent to perception image is impossible. How can we perceive a sight we can’t even see? It’s like asking a cow to understand that humans will eat them when they stop producing milk, and this is the life of every dairy cow… It might blow their mind for a moment but within an hour they couldn’t care less. It’s something that is simply… Beyond them. And it’s beyond them in a very non-human way.
And when we try to apply our human-like way of thought on them, so different than any other creature, you end up with things like dog fighting for sport, letting orangutans smoke, feeding cats vegan diets, and comparing the eating of a rabbit to the murder of a human… Which are all very arrogant because these things are only human concepts.
So ultimately I think the push back against eating animals is not always the practical one it is touted to be. People who protest consumption or keeping of animals are applying their own very human ideas onto these creatures who think in a very non-human way. They compare the holocaust to the butchering of chickens. They say if you wouldn’t eat your dog you shouldn’t eat chickens which are even more removed from humanity.
Now this doesn’t mean we can walk all over farm animals… Far from it. They still feel and perceive things in their own way. They can still experience pain and joy. But to liken the killing of a human child, leaving an entire community, a family and all of that child’s friends grieving to removing a chicken from a flock that stops caring the moment you leave the pen and making it your dinner is nonsense. The resulting impact is just not the same. It doesn’t mean they are less than us… But they are definitely different.
So in the end, it really is a personal decision. There’s little about refusing to eat meat and dairy that is based on facts. Both can be healthy. Both are certainly natural. We have evolved with both. And for me, I have chosen to eat meat.