No More Meat
I have come to believe that the massive slaughter of livestock and the frequent cruelty exhibited towards animals right up to and during their deaths is one of the most unnecessary and avoidable sources of suffering in this country. That the suffering is largely endured by animals rather than people is not sufficient reason to ignore it any longer. Even if humans are to have temporary control or governance of God's creation, it is not ours to exercise inhumanely. We have perverted nature to the point of absurdity. Hens laying eggs are so crowded in cages that they live their entire lives without spreading a single wing. Milk cows never get to feed their young. We are mocking nature, mocking God. And that's just the norm; look at the excess:
An animal rights group plans to release a videotape showing slaughterhouse workers with a KFC Corp. supplier jumping on live chickens and slamming them into walls, apparently for fun, a newspaper reported Tuesday.
Here is PETA's website on the KFC slaughterhouse.
Even for those who adamantly refuse to consider the pain of non-humans, I would offer the argument that by taking part in such conduct, either as a businessman or employee in that field or a consumer of that product, most American people are also suffering as a result. Can it reasonably be argued that the suppliers throwing live chickens against walls for fun are not disturbed and suffering? Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Anger, devotes much of the first chapter to a Buddhist perspective on how the massive suffering by animals is transmitted to humans.
And yet even for a non-Buddhist, it would seem to me hard to deny that taking part in a consumer culture that devours meat without coming to terms with what that means is a willful blindness and ignorance that is an indictment all to itself. Many, perhaps most people get very uncomfortable at the dinner table if anyone starts a discussion of what they are actually eating, how it actually came to be on their plates. I was one such person. Yet how can we justify to ourselves that the only way to avoid losing our appetites or even vomiting at the dinner table is to pretend that we do not know or do not care where the food came from, how it got there, and whether the animal we're eating lived a pathetic and short life filled with little but pain and slaughter? Is this not evidence of at least a subconscious understanding of the wrong being committed, the suffering being encouraged? And if so, does it not reflect an internal hypocrisy, paradox, or at least guilt that can be ignored but never eliminated? Even outside a Buddhist tradition, I see no way to avoid the conclusion that the willfully ignorant consumption of livestock and associated products is planting the seeds of suffering, anger, and guilt inside the vast majority of Americans.
And I am absolutely included in that group. This was a dark little secret for me. Particularly as an aspiring Buddhist practitioner, it was incumbent on me to do my research, understand where my food was coming from, be thankful when it came from suffering-free sources, and avoid it when it did not. But instead, for years I have put my head in the sand. Vegetarianism and animal-friendly dairy and egg products have always seemed just a bit too inconvenient. Yet I knew that if I were confronted with the truth about the meat I was eating, I would never be able to eat it again.
So I kept myself ignorant.
Well, no longer. While flipping through the channels last night, I encountered a documentary sponsored by PETA (not the KFC one described above) that was perhaps the most horrifying thing I've ever seen. That sounds like hyperbole, particularly considering my experience with the tragic visuals of the Holocaust and other slaughters of people, or various wars. Yet though those horrors are even more tragic and more regrettable, they are events in which I had no complicity. I did not give money to those people to commit the very acts that filled me with such horror. With the livestock industry, I did.
And I had no excuse for doing so. I am very well-educated, with access to all the information one could ever need to see the truth. I have all the resources I need to make a healthy and relatively easy transition away from eating meat from caged pigs or eggs from caged hens, or milk from caged cattle. I have enough money that I can afford to pay more for food gathered in more compassionate, animal-friendly, and environment-friendly ways.
It may be easy to dismiss what I have said as the rantings and ravings of a converted PETA eco-terrorist, or something along those lines. And I will freely admit that I am particularly emotional about this right now. But I would ask no one to take my word for anything that I've said. All I would ask is that people start asking questions, start doing research, and then decide for themselves. Doing what I did, hiding from the facts while enjoying the fruits of suffering, is perhaps the most cowardly and indefensible choice of all.