Daisy's semi-recent post on meat-eating and Michael Vick hit me where I live:
Will somebody please explain to me how a bunch of meat-eaters can judge Michael Vick?...
...Yes, eat eat eat that meat, endless profit-driven commercials for Hardees, Burger King and McDonalds, all while calling Michael Vick a BAD MAN. It's some of the most illogical mass-insanity I have ever witnessed.
All I can manage to say is: how dare you.
And before you say anything: YES, IT IS THE SAME.
EXACTLY THE SAME.
Ohhhh nooooo, the carnivores say, we LIKE TO EAT BIRDS. So, it isn't the same thing as dogfighting. We have said so!
Actually, it might be worse. At least the dogs get a fighting chance. The birds are raised to die.
Ohhhhhh nooooo, the carnivores say, WE MUST EAT.
Yes, I am fully aware that we must eat, but I haven't eaten meat in well over a decade now. I am alive and well and typing. YOU DO NOT NEED TO EAT MEAT TO LIVE AND BE HEALTHY.
Ohhhhh noooo, the carnivores say, there is sadism and unsavory pleasure taken in dogfighting.
There is also unacknowledged SADISM in putting an animal in your mouth and ripping it to pieces, chewing it up (GROSS!) and going MMMMMMM (instead of retching) when this is not necessary to live and is only for the pleasure of your palate. How is your deliberate ripping, slicing and cooking of birds, God's creatures (not yours!), any different from sport? It's all about entertainment of one kind or another. How is the entertainment of your palate supposedly superior to the entertainment provided to Michael Vick and his friends? The only difference is that one form of sadism is culturally acceptable and one is not...
...And BTW, if you like your meat? You refuse to give it up because the pleasure of your palate is more important than animals? THEN LEAVE MICHAEL VICK ALONE. The meat-eating culture that devalues animals CREATED HIM. If you want respect for animals, you must have respect for them all, not just the cute ones that obey you.
She has a point.
Let me begin by saying: I love meat. I love steak. I love chicken. I love fish. I love burgers. I love spaghetti sauce. So does my partner, and we thoroughly enjoy cooking and eating meat together - or ordering General Tso's. It's not a good habit, and I've tried to give it up multiple times - but I always fail, and I've come to the conclusion that I'm not ready. Like serious tanners love bronzed skin and the relaxation of he bed enough to take the cancer it guarantees, I love it enough to take the guilt that comes with it. I do feel guilty, and my dilemma hurts. But not as much as giving up a big, juicy, medium-rare steak.
(And for that matter, it doesn't hurt as much as it hurts the animals I eat.)
I'm not only a meat-eater, I'm an unethical meat-eater. I buy, like, Kroger steaks and chickens. I support a system that exacts unnecessary cruelty on animals - breeding them to be weak, giving them a pathetic kind of life, and then delivering the low-quality product to me, wasting needless amounts of gas and energy in the process.
And there are options to mediate this - I could buy less clothes and spend the money I save on visiting local farms, like Polyface farms. There are a lot especially in my area of Virginia. I'm poor right now, but I'm never too poor to try and make small changes. And I'm making a couple little ones - I'm trying to cut back on my meat consumption from nearly daily to (ideally) two or three times a week, and red meat no more than once a week.
Now, I don't have a huge problem with meat-eating philosophically. Humans are omnivores, which includes carnivores. It's the food chain. And attacks against meat-eaters are not waged as harshly as they might be in feminist conversation because of the awful, misogynistic, racist tactics of groups like PETA. Vegetarianism and animal rights have been given a bad name by their shameful tactics.
However, I'm not going to pretend like it's something that gives me the moral high ground - I will cede that definitively to vegans and vegetarians, whose commitment to ethical living is certainly more thorough than mine. (That's not what it's about for vegetarians, of course - I just want to give them their due.)
What struck me - and made me defensive - about Daisy's post is her assertion that non-vegetarians are not animal lovers. This hurt me, because I deeply love my pets. Thurgood is my co-worker in my home office (see at left), and he and August are like mine and J's children. We constantly coo over them, worry about them, pet them, photograph them. I adore them, and they are animals, so I must be an animal lover. Right?
Not really. I don't love all animals - I love individual species. Dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals are great, but I want to eat less cute animals. I don't really advocate for their right to a healthy life, as I do other oppressed bodies.*
I'm not an animal lover. I'm an animal eater, and a pet lover. It's not a feminist choice, but it's the one I'm making now. Hopefully, in the future, I'll be able to mediate my meat eating in a less hurtful way. But right now, I'm voting the wrong way with my dollars and my stomach, and I need to change.
I'm not going to refrain from commenting on animal rights when I see something that makes me angry or clearly displays injustice. However, I'm going to try to mention my failings and be mindful of the fact that I am significantly failing in this area. Until I start making real progress towards treating animals fairly in my offline life, I need to cede to the judgment of people who are doing it right.
*Edited slightly for clarity.