03 November, 2007

Does it make you sad when I eat meat?

I have been asked this question on occasion and could give a simple 'yes' or 'no' response. Before I do, I would like to deconstruct the assumption that this question is based on.

Many people assume that people who are vegetarians or vegans choose those lifestyles because of purely emotional reasons. The characterization is that we are overly emotional people who can't handle harming poor innocent creatures. I know that people think this way about vegans and vegetarians because I have thought that way myself in the past. The fact is that most people don't understand the logical and rational thought process that is behind ethical veganism. Most people don't even understand that there could be logic and rationality behind veganism.

I can only speak for myself, but my belief in basic rights for animals is based soundly in logic. I believe that when we consider how we ought to treat other animals (humans are animals too), we cannot make a moral distinction based on species. That is to say that all sentient beings have the right to equal consideration, and that no arbitrary characteristic such as race, gender, sexual-orientation or species can be used to exclude any group. So, my main reason for being vegan is not based solely on emotion, but on a logical rejection of speciesism.

Now that the basic reason for my being vegan is known and the assumptions of most omnivores have been shown to be false, I can comfortably answer the question: Yes. Yes, violent and unnecessary death after a life of torture does make me sad.

That being said, I believe my emotional response to suffering and death is normal. When faced with images and accounts of suffering and death, most humans feel an emotional response. Whether these images be of human suffering such as occurred during the holocaust or of animal suffering such as occurs daily in slaughterhouses, we all feel something when confronted with this reality. Therefore, it is not me or other vegans who can't handle harming the innocent creatures, it is the omnivores who are practiced at dissociating their meal with the reality of what horrors went into that meal.
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