Animal lovers, vegetarians, vegans, you don't need to defend yourselves. It's not us against them. It's not even right against wrong. It's simply the known against the unknown. The massive majority of people are good people but they either don't know what goes on or they don't know what to do about it. The simple truth is that we're shielded from factory farming and slaughterhouse processes. It is hidden because it is horrific and if the good majority saw it they would not buy or eat the produce of the industry. If all was okay within the industry and if such scenes were natural, acceptable, etc. then these practices would not be hidden. They would be instead for all the world to see. There is no battle here. Forgive people their reactions. Denial is the first necessary phase of grief.
Some animal rights activists are demanding vegetarianism, even veganism now, or nothing. But since only 4 or 5 percent of Americans claim to be vegetarians, 'nothing' is the far more likely outcome. I ask these activists to weigh the horrors of Bladen County's industrial farms and the Tar Heel slaughterhouse against the consequences of doing nothing to alleviate the hour-to-hour sufferings of its victims. Is not a life lived off the factory farm and a death humanely inflicted superior to the terrible lives we know they lead and the horrible deaths we know they suffer in Bladen County today?
We need a better way to talk about eating animals. We need a way that brings meat to the center of public discussion in the same way it is often at the center of our plates. This doesn't require that we pretend we are going to have a collective agreement. However strong our intuitions are about what's right for us personally and even about what's right for others, we all know in advance that our positions will clash with those of our neighbors. What do we do with that most inevitable reality? Drop the conversation, or find a way to reframe it?