June 3, 2012
Is Meat Murder?
If so, can that Murder be Mindful?
Meat is Murder. It’s a loaded statement that immediately divides people. Vegans see it as obvious: of course meat is murder, how the f do you think that burger got on your plate? Meateaters see it as overly dramatic – an overstatement by those who are out of touch with their carnivorous identities.
Humans don’t generally identify with the murderer label. So they will try to overcompensate by doing things like devoting entire websites to bacon. And vegans will drive the point home by doing things like posting blood spattered Meat is Murder stickers all over public property (which is funny, because that makes them look like the morbid ones).
Recently, I was discussing the new restaurant Meat & Bread with a dance friend. As I flippantly chuckled about how I wanted to spraypaint their windows, she immediately mentioned that some chefs are extremely mindful of where they obtain their meat (because she eats meat and wants to make a case for ‘mindful’ meat consumption.).
This comes to no surprise because most meateaters, when faced with a conscience-jostling vegan, will grab for some reason to justify their lifestyle. I know the drill.
So anyway, just as casually as she described head chefs, out of the kindness of their hearts, visiting factory farms ‘in the flesh’ to pick out the best rotting corpses, I casually mentioned that the whole idea was utter bullshit (no offense to bulls…)—that there was no such thing as mindful killing, because I don’t really give a crap why someone has decided to kill me, or even so much how they do it, if I’m still going to die unwillingly. I explained that the chefs were only acting mindfully for their own benefit (achieving a certain desired taste and of course $$).
And for those who like to think they buy ‘ethical meat’, no matter what slight alterations in conditions the label promises: you weren’t there. You don’t know how the animal was treated. You only know that it’s dead.
Being polite and maybe not knowing what to say, dance friend then asked me if I hate meateaters. I think I said something along the lines of: I appreciate what people bring into my life. Most of the world eats meat. Would I like it if the world went vegan? Sure. But here we are…
I feel I said this in defense of her assuming that these statements were coming from a place of hatred in me, when really, they were just revealing a hateful act that maybe she still plays a part in.
What I could have said (and might still say) is that people’s choices are not who they are. Sure, patterns of choices can be indicative of character, but context is a large determinant of a person’s choices. Something I’ve realized recently: sometimes it can take us years to realize that we’ve made a mistake. Take for instance when I left my little sweetheart puppy dog, Turbeau, to go traveling when I was 23.
I left indefinitely because I wasn’t happy living in Calgary. At that time, I thought of him as our family dog, ie. not my responsibility. Cut to 8 years later, seeing animals as equals now, I see that he and I shared the closest relationship out of anyone in the family. And that he needed me as he was getting old. It was a difficult time for me during his last years, as I was dealing with staring-at-a-closed-door in my love life, but had I acknowledged the importance of my relationship with my dearest darling, I might not miss him so much today. He was, as I’ve mentioned, my inspiration to go vegan and become an animal rights activist because he showed me how human animals can be.
Anyway, no, I don’t “hate meateaters”. I don’t see people who eat meat only as meateaters, so then I definitely don’t see them primarily as murderers. People are complex. And society is built to hide the truth about what they’re eating. It takes a strong person to pull back the curtain, and then explore other options. I see it as my role to show the other options. Simply.
Which brings me to an expansion of this topic. I sometimes watch real crime shows. 48 Hours Mystery. Cold Case Files (soo scary). I watch them to solve the mystery, to test myself as a human lie detector, and to test myself to see what I can handle knowing. And I sometimes feel quite deeply for the victims and families.
Becoming vegan, I now watch this suffering a little differently. I still feel for them just as much, but I also acknowledge that they are (unconsciously, for the most part) instigators of murder themselves. Going back to those stubborn stats, 99% of the population eats animal products. This makes most crime victims and their families the reason that animals die horrific deaths in factory farms each year. Does this make them any less deserving of our sympathy? No. But when they are crying for themselves, I wonder if they ever give thought to anyone they have killed.
Someone without the vegan mindset might read this and think it’s despicable for me to even go there, but when we feel sorry for ourselves, it’s a great time to take stock of any harm we have caused.
Real life example: my first job was as a counselor at a YMCA camp (I always thought it was weird that we sung to “the Lord”…) Anyway, my section directors came down really hard on me mid-summer for not being camp-y enough. Just probably being a princess in general, apparently I have an attribute or two of that ; ) To be more specific, I had this hairy troll of a co-counselor who saw herself as my ‘senior’ and she tried to throw me under the bus for counseling with a more laissez-faire style than her ogre-y ways. I was intimidated by my first-time bosses to either be more fake and people-pleasing, or get fired. I chose a), cause I didn’t know myself that well then. I recently remembered how shiteous those people were to blame me without even asking my side of things. And then I remembered how weeks after, another co-counselor and I played a similar power trip on our CIT (counselor in training) for telling the campers that they were ‘on crack’. We nailed her for being inappropriate and crossing the line. I mean, really? She was just a sweet kid. So I was power tripped on, and then repeated the behavior (the cycle of abuse that leads to the sick hierarchy of our society). This is me taking responsibility for harm I have caused as I revisit a victim experience.
Do the families of murder victims also take responsibility? It’s something I think about now when watching these shows.
And on that note, it’s usually the mastermind behind the crime who does the most time, not necessarily the one who actually did the killing. What does that say of those who pay for meat?
I See you Brother
One of the first things I think of is Neytiri on Avatar killing an animal and sort of blessing it by saying: “I see you, brother.” This makes me rather nauseous, and I guess this is the same idea behind ‘halal’ meat where they slowly make the animal bleed to death. Ugh.
If I was being held captive by a murderer who needed to get his psycho fix and he said right before slicing my head off: “I see you, sista”. I would say: NO, you DON’T. Let me live and then I will show the world who I am. Not you, I don’t give a flying fuck about showing you who I am. Don’t ‘see’ me, take a look at yourself, you psycho fuck! (Whoa, really went there…)
So would an animal feel the same way? An animal who is taken away from its mother at birth to become veal to perpetuate the dairy industry?
I would say yes.
So what of the foodie chefs who refuse to buy from the most dire factory farms because they have ‘high standards’, such as that infamous Robert Belcher from Fuel (now Re-Fuel since we took them down a notch)? Or what about these new hipster butchers who feel that they deserve to eat the animal if they do the dirty work of butchering it themselves? Butchering apparently now some kind of sick art.
I mean, I have more respect for a person who hunts their own meat than someone who buys it. But in the end, killing is killing. Unless it’s done in self defense, then it just wasn’t necessary.
Hot shot chefs need to acknowledge that any extra thought they put into where they obtain their rotting animal flesh is essentially for their own gain, NOT the animals’.
Being mindful of something is a nice notion, but unless an action towards the nonviolent alternative is actually chosen, then that mindfulness goes to waste. Just an abandoned whim.
Sorry if I’ve spoken a little bluntly here, to all the yogis and new agers who have worked so hard at mindfulness. But if you’re well-practised at mindfulness, this is actually a huge head start for you to use it to examine gentler alternatives. Mindfulness IS gentleness.
Daily mindfulness is not just noticing pain, it’s observing it, accepting it, questioning it, and then acting to move beyond it. Without the action, you could mindfully do just about any horrific act.
I’m not going to get into whether an animal’s life is worth enough to be considered murder. I think we’re all familiar with varying punishments for murderers, depending on who they are and who they killed. Some people’s lives are deemed more important than others in our current society. Immigrant prostitute? Less. Rich white politician. More. Do we really want to play that game?
How about re-defining “I see you, brother” to mean that we see ourselves as animals – one and the same. Then no one has to die.