Understanding Veganism: Ethics

Changing is difficult. Especially when it comes to things we consider immutable since the dawn of time. Eating meat is one of those actions everyone makes every single day without exactly asking themselves why. I’ll write a set of articles trying to shed some light on this. I have to say they’ll be a little biased since I’m a vegan myself, but for the most part, I’ll try to give you facts and not just my worthless opinion. In the end, the decision of eating dead animals will remain yours and yours only. I’m not here to tell you what to do, I’m just trying to inform you about what’s on your plate.

For years, I’d been telling myself there was nothing wrong with eating meat. Sure, I knew it came from dead animals, but I believed their death was quick and painless, so there was nothing really wrong with me eating their flesh. Funnily enough, I would also avoid seeing any videos about animal farms showcasing how they were treated and how they were killed without mercy. I couldn’t stand that kind of violence. What I was experiencing was what I now know as ‘cognitive dissonance’. I had two contradictory beliefs: I thought there was nothing wrong with eating meat, but I also couldn’t bear to think animals were being killed for the sake of my taste buds.

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Most of us couldn’t kill a cat, dog or even a pig if we were asked to do so. Such a cruel act seems archaic and unnecessary. However, we have no problem with paying the local butcher to do it for us, since the absence of a direct contact with the animal deceptively makes it okay. If you really think about it, there’s no single logical reason why we eat pigs and chickens, but not dogs or cats. Yet, when we see a news article about a dog meat festival we feel disgust and repulsion. ‘How could they do that to those poor dogs?’ we say while enjoying our chicken nuggets.

In 2012, an international group of neuroscientists gathered at the University of Cambridge to create the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in Non-Human Animals1, which stated that “humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals (…) also possess these neurological substrates.”. Many would agree so as well, but surprisingly, as a 2011 study showed2, meat eaters are motivated to deny minds to food animals when they are reminded of the link between meat and animal suffering. That means we tell ourselves animals don’t have a consciousness or don’t feel pain when we know we are about to eat meat, increasing the cognitive dissonance even more, but decreasing the amount of guilt we feel by eating their flesh. That was what I doing a couple of years ago.

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Mark Rowlands says that to call something ethical, it mustn’t cause any suffering unless there is a vital need to do so3. Since we don’t need meat to live a healthy life (more on that in the next post), the suffering of the animals we put on our plates every day must come to an end. Why do we need to reduce a cow’s life expectancy from 20 to only 2 years4 just because we want to eat their flesh? Cows used for dairy foods aren’t safe from this nonsense either since they only live 5 years. Putting them through pain and suffering and even ending their lives just to have a few seconds of pleasure in our mouths has no logical reason behind it. This unequal treatment of humans and animals is even called by some experts as a form of ‘anthropocentrism’, given the analogy with racism and sexism. To give more importance to a member of our species just because we are part of that species is the same as considering one race superior to the other just because we are part of it.

The more you research, the fewer arguments you will have against veganism. It’s time we put our brains to work and think about the unnecessary suffering we are inflicting every day in millions of animals throughout the globe. As Peter Singer once said – ‘All the arguments to prove man’s superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals’.

Sources

1 – Low, Philip, et al. “The Cambridge declaration on consciousness.” URL http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness. pdf(2012).

2 – Bastian, Brock, et al. “Don’t mind meat? The denial of mind to animals used for human consumption.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 38.2 (2012): 247-256.

3 – Mark Rowlands (2013). Animal rights: All that matters. Hodger & Stoughton.

4 – http://www.peta.org

 

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