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Killing with your own Hands

Killing with your own Hands

A while back, I published a piece called Something Almost Primal, which discussed a disturbing trend in consumer-targeted language, that consists of describing certain animal products (which are, by their nature, exploitative) as being ‘humane’. As I explained in the article, I believe that this trend has been intentionally engineered by the animal industry, as a way to regain consumer confidence in their products.

The message being promoted seems to be as follows:

1.    We are out of touch with the way we obtain our food, including modern methods of meat, dairy and egg production, which is unethical because animals are raised in factories and treated like machines.
2.    The solution is to return to a way of living that is more closely aligned with the methods of the past, including obtaining products from animals who lived more ‘natural’ lives.
3.    The most ethical way to obtain meat and other animal products is to be as closely involved with its production as possible. Ideally, you should kill and butcher the animal yourself.

There’s no doubt that modern methods of obtaining all animal products are horrific and brutal, and that tucking out of sight the factories and the slaughterhouses makes it easier for modern consumers to ignore the truth about where their food comes from. But I believe there is another, unexpected aspect to this development, and that is that modern consumers, as a direct result of their disconnectedness from meat production, have actually become more sensitized to the horrors of killing.

What’s particularly disturbing about the new trend of killing with one’s own hands is that it seems to be a deliberate attempt (by industry) to target this aspect of modern human psychology, which is surely in direct conflict with the widespread desire to continue eating meat and other animal products. To be clear, what I’m referring to is that a good majority of people are nothing short of horrified by the idea of taking another’s life themselves.

In fact, I would go so far as to guess that a large majority of the people I know personally would be distraught if they were required to simply witness the slaughter of an animal, let alone participate in it. Having been a vegan advocate for ten years, I know how adamantly people resist hearing details of animal slaughter and butchery. Being willing to purchase animal products in the supermarket does not, by any stretch, make a person willing to acknowledge the reality of where they came from, or to think about how a living breathing animal is turned into pieces of ‘meat’ – a word we use to describe flesh when we intend to use it as food.
 
I remain confused by the fact that more people don’t turn away from animal products in response to the sheer horror and revulsion they feel at the idea of participating in the slaughter of an animal, but we humans have a truly frightening ability to shut off our awareness of what is ‘out of sight’, and thereby continue participating in something we are morally repulsed by.

Last summer, while staying in a quiet rural area of upstate New York, I had the opportunity to participate in a very interesting discussion about the ethical debate around using animals for food. During the conversation, one man stated that he had recently been examining his own indirect participation in the slaughter of animals through his diet. He was clearly very troubled by the conclusions he had reached.

“I’m a hypocrite,” he said, explaining that although he eats meat, he is horrified by the thought of how it gets to his plate. “I could never kill an animal myself.”

Although he acknowledged that he had friends (some of whom were in the room) who did kill animals themselves, what he was expressing was a feeling that I know is shared by many.

When people actively participate in slaughter (as more people used to do, in times gone by), they become numb to the horrific nature of killing. You can not entertain thoughts of sadness or remorse or horror and still follow through with the act of taking another’s life, especially on a regular basis. In order to do it, you must silence the part of yourself that is horrified by the very idea of being responsible for causing the life to drain out of an animal’s body.

Admittedly, in order to buy animal products from the supermarket shelf you must silence the voice of your conscience too. But to come face to face with the reality of killing, and to actively participate in the death of an animal forces people to deaden a part of themselves, in ways that we may not even be aware of.

In the modern Western world, the majority of people are so far removed from the origins of their food that they can not stand to even be reminded of where it comes from… the terrifying sounds and stench of the slaughterhouse, and the horrors of butchery… And, one person at a time, our population is beginning to reject foods of animal origin in favor of a more ethical way of eating.

And how does the animal industry respond? They go right for the jugular, so to speak, and encourage people to kill and butcher animals themselves, to re-capture the delights of killing, all but telling us that flesh actually tastes better when you first have to wash the blood off your hands.

They’re clever, you have to give them that. But the future is yet to be written. In increasing numbers, people from all walks of life are leaving behind the predatory paradigm that has prevailed in the past. Whether the animal exploitation industry likes it or not, no amount of money spent on Public Relations will be able to stem this tide. The culture that considers it acceptable to live off the flesh of another is being exposed, and it is nothing less than the evolution of humanity. It can not be stopped, as it is an ideal whose time has come.

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352 comments

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3:16AM PST on Dec 28, 2012

I notice a few comments on being vegetarian/vegan and yet feeding meat to our cats and dogs.

I am vegan and have a cat, which I feed mostly fish with a little fresh meat now and then. It is not what vegans like to do, but we are faced with a fait accompli where the lucrative 'pet' industry is concerned. It exists and sadly many animals sold as 'pets' are little more than commodities to the industry.

If the entire human race were to change to a plant based diet, I very much doubt there would be slaughter houses to serve companion animals. Rather, if such a perfect world existed, humans would not 'own' animals, but would respect their spaces to live as nature intended. We humans do not need to own animals, to eat animals, or to eat any product from animals. Our earth provides everything for our optimal health without the need to kill or enslave other sentient beings.

However, as long as we have to pick up the hurt and abandoned throw-aways and give them shelter, we must also give them close to what nature intended. The only alternative is to ignore them, look the other way.... what kind of a world would that be?

In other words, we have to make the best of a bad job.

5:55AM PDT on Jul 20, 2010

Thing is that in the past animals were not killed in large scale, and the hunters were even asking permission from the soul of the animal. In our villages it is still a common practice to ask it and it is true that such animals die a quicklier death, since they are at peace with their own sacrifice. [You'll say it's not true, but my vet is a witness that when once tired of my cat' fear of the medical treatment, I just explained it, looking in its eyes, that it was for its own good. And the animal calmed down and struggled no more to escape. They do have intelligence and understand our world.]
But to kill without need to eat has no sense really. This is the real issue, not becoming vegan.
We lost any connection to nature, to life, to what the harsh reality of existing is, and all I see we're doing is to disconnect even more.

3:29PM PDT on Jul 9, 2010

I would like to add an important point:

Yes killing animals you don't know, repeatedly, as hunters and slaughterhouse workers do, would numb you to the horror and moral contradiction of destroying other intelligent life.

But being obliged to raise your own animals to satisfy your meat cravings would be quite a different matter. Having the choice to kill or keep alive an animal you have nurtured from its infancy through its maturity, and have probably bonded with emotionally, would make the morality much more stark and clear and result in more people becoming vegetarian, I believe.

The trend towards 'slow food' and smaller-scale, neighborhood farming is in the long run far better for humans and animals. We need to patronize it and provide serious competition to the giant food conglomerates which decrease quality of life and food for animals and people alike.

Is it too Utopian to hope that one day, we will all grow more of our own food or get it from smaller, local markets where it will not only taste better but where life itself will be held more dear?

7:14AM PDT on May 21, 2010

Great article! Go Vegan!

11:28AM PDT on May 15, 2010

I COULD NOT KILL ANYTHING AND I DO NOT EVEN KILL INSECTS, SO I DO NOT THINK WE SHOULD KILL ANYTHING AT ALL.

2:28PM PDT on Apr 28, 2010

I will never eay another animal as long as I live. I wrote here earlier on. I have been a vegetarian for over 3 years straight (tried for 5) and a vegan for going on 1. I can't eat dairy or eggs either. It is cruelty. People can call it what they may but it is cruel considering all of the choices we can make at the local grocery store. This is not 50 or 100 years ago. We have so many choices. I know there are places where people have no other choice and I accept that. Hunting is called a sport. People are conditioned to believe this is ok and true. It is not a sport. No one is running, exercizing, building muscle, and competing. The animal is the only one running. Running for it's poor life. It's very sad that people will keep thier minds so closed as to what is really going on in the factory farms as well. Watch and see, then try to eat dinner. I bet your salad will look mighty tasty. There are so many better alternatives to meat. it takes some trial and error but it is fun and worth it!! Love the animals, all of them. Just like you love your dog cat or other pet. You consider them family. Cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, elephants, bears ,wolves ,deer, all of the animal kingdom love thier young just like we do. Why do we take them away like we have the right to do so? I watched a bird with a 6 ft. wingspan fly and dive into the water to catch a fish to feed his family. He has to do it several times a day. it was beautiful. Don't shoot him-you kill his while family. Love them

6:22AM PDT on Apr 22, 2010

I could not even think that I could kill a chicken they way they do it nor kill a pig or a cow. The methods used are so primitive that I scream with the scream of the animal being killed.

1:28AM PDT on Apr 19, 2010

I believe in animal rights, and high among them is the right to the gentle stroke of a human hand. ~Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.com

11:43AM PDT on Apr 11, 2010

Thanks for the thoughts... But I am STILL left with the dilema that I have ALWAYS had...

Even if I never eat a piece of meat again in my life...as a pet owner of cats, I still need to feed my carnivous animal.

What are the options? NOT to adopt animals from shelters and let them sit there waiting to be euthanized? There's nothing "vegan" about THAT, either.

4:51AM PDT on Apr 9, 2010

See how nature,trees,flowers,grass grows in silence,
see the stars, the moon and the sun,
how they move in silence...we need silence to be able to touch souls.
~~Mother Teresa~~
We all must protect the Animals...we must be the Voice for them all!

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