There is a general perception that vegans are sloppy-thinkers, that our views are based on woozy undirected sympathy, and that, generally, the animal rights movement is divorced from reality. Conversely, it’s generally held that meat-eaters are brimming with common sense, rationality, and are in touch with the true nature of things.
I have argued before that this attitude is always used to stifle progressive movements. A good example would be how anti-slavery activists in the eighteenth and nineteenth Centuries were mocked for being bleeding-heart do-gooders who didn’t understand economics.
Slavery is a helpful example actually, because it’s easy to show that, despite what was thought at the time, it was those who wanted to keep the status quo who were the sloppy-thinkers. They were men and women who believed utterly in the American constitution, which clearly states that “all men are created equal” and that all individuals have the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and yet at the same time were passionate supporters of slavery. Those two views cannot be reconciled. To believe both, as many did, is to hold massively contradictory and inconsistent views: it is to be a sloppy-thinker.
There is an equal amount of sloppy-thinking in the modern pro-meat status quo. A simple example is that the British pork industry uses the term ‘pig units’ instead of ‘pigs’. Pig units? Pig units?! How divorced from reality is that? Equally, when dangerous dogs are killed by the police, the media describes this as the dog being ‘destroyed’ rather than killed. Both of these examples reveal an attitude that animals, rather than being conscious living beings, are just objects. I shouldn’t have to point this out, but that view is factually incorrect.
In 2006, a whale became stranded in the Thames river in London. The whole nation was brought together in concern for this whale. Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money was used to try to rescue the animal, and no one complained. People were glued to their TV screens rooting for this poor creature. As they watched, they continued to guzzle down factory-farmed fast food, and tuna caught with trawler nets. Trawler nets kill a huge number of dolphins: they get stuck in the nets and drown. Let’s compare dolphins and whales. Dolphins are far more intelligent – they are about as intelligent as six-year-old children. When the unnecessary use of trawler nets kills a dolphin, the mental events that take place in that dolphin’s mind are the equivalent to what would happen in the mind of a drowning six-year-old boy. Trawler nets are completely immoral and completely unjustifiable. Yet the public loathe spending a few extra pennies on tuna caught with dolphin-friendly methods, but happy to see millions of pounds of their taxes spent on saving a single whale. The inconsistency of the mainstream view on animals is staggering.
Yet more inconsistency in the mainstream Western attitude to meat is found in our reaction to the fact that dogs are eaten in East Asian countries. We are appalled, horrified and upset by such a practice. And yet we eat pigs, which are more intelligent than dogs. Not only do we eat them, but we factory farm them in barbaric conditions, trapped in cages so small that they can’t even turn around. The spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council had this to say on the subject of factory farming: “So our animals can’t turn around for the 2.5 years that they are in the stalls producing piglets…I don’t know who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around.” Can you imagine if someone treated a dog in this way and then said something like that? They would go to prison. Yet replace the dog with the more intelligent pig, and you’re just a level-headed sensible businessman. Utter hypocrisy, utterly inconsistent and utterly irrational.
The pork spokesman’s quote is meant to imply that animal rights supporters are the silly ones who don’t think clearly. By pointing out the absurdity of asking the pig what her views are, the spokesman is trying to imply that she’s just a dumb animal, and that animal rights supporters are projecting their own human emotions onto her. But scientific evidence clearly shows that animals kept in these conditions suffer. And we shouldn’t need to go as far as science to make this point, it should just be common sense. But then again these pro-meat advocates don’t seem to have any common sense. It is they who need to think more carefully about their views, not the animal rights movement.
Level headed vegan thinking
I think the debate around animal testing is very revealing. Pro-vivisectionists always use the same argument: animal experiments are absolutely necessary to save lives, and that’s what justifies it. This argument effectively admits that we should all be vegetarian. Vivisectionists don’t just say, “It’s just a dumb animal, so who cares?” No, they base their position on the fact that animal experiments are necessary to save human lives. So there is agreement that the unnecessary killing and torture of animals is wrong.
Well given that eating meat is completely unnecessary, this principle implies we should all be vegetarian. Once again, the inconsistency of the status quo mind-set is revealed. In fact, I often make this point to meat-eating friends. They always completely agree when I say the unnecessary killing of animals should be avoided. Then when I point out that eating meat is unnecessary, they splutter and come up with some kind of incoherent non-point such as “Oh…well… um, that’s different… er, because…it’s natural…”
From meat-eating scientists crying when a tiger is illegally shot, to pro-fox-hunting activists who say that their horses have personalities, to families who don’t think there’s anything bizarre about ordering a ‘bucket of chicken’ for dinner, the meat-eating world is stuffed with people who don’t think of their meat as dead animal, or pick and choose when to care about a creature’s death. The technical term for this is cognitive dissonance.
I could go on and on listing examples of inconsistent views and behaviour, and misuses of language that misrepresent reality, as there is an almost infinite amount of such sloppy-thinking, but hopefully I’ve made my point. Whilst it’s true that vegans can be inconsistent too, and there certainly are plenty of muddled well-meaning hippies in the movement, it’s clear that it is actually the meat-eaters who have unexamined opinions that are ill-thought-out and wishy-washy, while the vegan argument is the level-headed one.