My first attempt at being vegetarian was when I was 18 years old, and was ruined by a trip to Nandos. All the reasons that I’d thought were so important to be a vegetarian completely went out the window when met with the prospect of a nice bit of marinated chicken. This meat-eating path continued all throughout university, when I decided I wanted to enjoy myself without limits and that guilt was simply a waste of time. After all, the animals were still going to be killed whether I ate them or not.
I love the taste of meat, and I do associate it with cosy family dinners, and Christmas time. It’s very easy to focus on the good memories surrounding meat-eating and to enjoy it. But after four years since my last bout of vegetarianism, I have once again gone back to a meat-less diet, which has now been in operation since January.
Disclaimer: I am not trying to convert anyone to vegetarianism. I’ve just trying to explore the issue, and encourage discussion.
Here is a summary of a few of the internal moral battles I’ve had with myself about this matter;
- Humans are animals too, and it’s natural for animals to eat animals. This is true. It is natural. But I would say it’s perhaps only natural when necessary for survival. If I was stuck on a desert island, I would have no qualms about sharpening my spear and killing a wild pig for dinner. I also understand that many people around the world rely on hunting for their survival. Nature is a cruel system, but one that works. I suppose what I think is unnatural is the factory-line nature of meat production that is not essential to our survival in civilised countries.
- Farmed animals are different from domestic animals. How many people do you see on Facebook, sharing pictures of sad-looking cats that have been mistreated by owners, and those very same people then go away and eat a burger? I suppose I find it odd that we have the RSPCA stopping people from being mean to dogs, but apparently stringing pigs up by their ankles and killing them is okay. To me, it just makes the RSPCA’s work seem a little redundant. Maybe it should be the RSPCDA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Domestic Animals).
- Animals are less intelligent than us, so it’s okay to eat them. In a way, this was a big reason for why I ate meat. I thought that animals are probably not fully aware of where they are or what’s happening to them, and by the time the moment arrives, it’s done quickly and humanely. Unfortunately, most of that previous sentence is untrue. Animals arguably have better instincts than humans. Besides, there are some humans in the world with severe mental disabilities that are probably no more intelligent than some animals; does that mean it’s right to kill and eat them?
- Farmed animals have good lives and are killed humanely. Nothing can really be killed ‘humanely’. It’s an oxymoron. I think we have this nice of idea of happy pigs and sheep running about in fields, blissfully unaware of their impending fate. The reality is that in some facilities animals are mistreated and are riddled with fear on the run up to their death day. As soon as I realised that all beings, humans or otherwise, want to avoid suffering and death, then it became harder to eat meat.
- The majority of people eat meat, so it’s pretty normal and not that bad. Everywhere you look, there’s meat. It’s so entrenched in our daily, normal lives, that it’s difficult to think that it could possibly be cruel. But then again, looking back at history, there were plenty of things that humans used to do that were cruel, but were viewed as normal back then. I honestly think that in 1000 years time, eating meat will be viewed the same.
What do you think about these issues? Do you think it’s inherently difficult for humans to not eat meat?