We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
What struck me, in reading the reports from Sri Lanka, was the mild disgrace of belonging to our imperfectly evolved species in the first place. People who had just seen their neighbors swept away would tell the reporters that they knew a judgment had been coming, because the Christians had used alcohol and meat at Christmas or because ... well, yet again you can fill in the blanks for yourself. It was interesting, though, to notice that the Buddhists were often the worst. Contentedly patting an image of the chubby lord on her fencepost, a woman told the that those who were not similarly protected had been erased, while her house was still standing. There were enough such comments, almost identically phrased, to make it seem certain that the Buddhist authorities had been promulgating this consoling and insane and nasty view. That would not surprise me.
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.
Just because we believe it has always been done, doesn't mean we should continue to do it. Change is necessary for betterment. If something having been the case in history should be a case for it to continue, then let rape continue, let murder continue. There was a time when we were torturous, terrible monsters to our own, a time when we treated other human beings with the darkest of disgrace. In this present day it's difficult to comprehend that we were ever so cruel. Likewise, there will be a time in the future when we reflect on having been so cruel to other creatures. For the time being we are lost somewhere, defying the truth that deep down we know. We hide, we turn a blind eye, we conceal and contain the horror, we try to justify the crimes that we commit upon beautiful, gentle and innocent creatures. Consciousness IS developing, narrow minds ARE opening, conscience IS growing, compassion IS expanding, Man IS evolving and there IS hope and drive to vanish the shame that is the slaughterhouse.
You're thinking I'm one of those wise-ass California vegetarians who is going to tell you that eating a few strips of bacon is bad for your health. I'm not. I say its a free country and you should be able to kill yourself at any rate you choose, as long as your cold dead body is not blocking my driveway.
I was proud to be brown in my own way. Well, I was at school; at school I was brown about the funky stuff that came with being vegetarian, like being really arrogant about it, declaring proudly to a room full of beefeaters when Mad Cow disease initially broke that it was 'Vishnu's way of telling y'all to stop eating and start worshipping'.
I made the choice to be vegan because I will not eat (or wear, or use) anything that could have an emotional response to its death or captivity. I can well imagine what that must feel like for our non-human friends - the fear, the terror, the pain - and I will not cause such suffering to a fellow living being.
The symbolism of meat-eating is never neutral. To himself, the meat-eater seems to be eating life. To the vegetarian, he seems to be eating death. There is a kind of gestalt-shift between the two positions which makes it hard to change, and hard to raise questions on the matter at all without becoming embattled.
I remember one bobcat they had in here - now bobcats are an endangered species in this neck of the woods - they'd caught it somewhere and they must have put that cat through a dozen rounds of burn experiments before they finally determined that it was utterly useless to them. Like an empty beer can. And then you know what they did to it? Claudius was late for a lunch date so rather thanput the destroyed but still breathing animal to sleep, he picked it up by its hind legs and simply smashed its head against a wall repeatedly until it was dead. How can I forget it: I was the one told to clean up the mess. The head dented in. The eyes slowly closing. The once proud claws hanging down, stunned and lifeless, the utter senselessness of it all, and the hate, a hatred that was consummated in me which is as dangerous a hormone, or chemical, or portion of the brain, as any neutron bomb. Except that I didnt know how to explode. I was like a computer without a keyboard, a bird without wings. Roaring inside. I wanted to kill that man. To do unto others what they had done unto me. I was that bobcat, you better believe it.
Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I've discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory-- disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.
Needless to say, jamming deformed, drugged, overstressed birds together in a filthy, waste-coated room is not very healthy. Beyond deformities, eye damage, blindness, bacterial infections of bones, slipped vertebrae, paralysis, internal bleeding, anemia, slipped tendons, twisted lower legs and necks, respiratory diseases, and weakened immune systems are frequent and long-standing problems on factory farms.