Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Trains powered by the entrails of a cow…

Would this be a violation of your vegetarianism?

It may sound to some like making the best use of a cow that was already being slaughtered. Hence, ethically mandated rather than just ethically permissible. On the other hand, it affirms the moral position that cows and other animals are simply here to be utilized by man for whatever economic value can be made of them. Now, there is another economic argument for continuing this position if not strengthening it, even while there is less economic, and nutritional, argument for the industrialized slaughter of animals for human use.

Short answer, though, is I would ride the train.

With the methane gas that cows release, it could be argued that it is not only economic manipulation but environmental protection to slaughter them. I don't buy that argument. I enjoy meat though prefer free range cattle to the "veal stalled" industrial cows.

Have you ever seen The Meatrix website?

It doesn't inspire you to go out and have a burger...

The huge population of cows exists solely because we propogate them for our use. In the wild, what are their chances?

The fundamental point is whether, morally, humans can look at animals principally for economic value and then exploit them within an industrialized system of production. If those answers are yes, then ethically we are obligated at least to do the best we can to make good use of them, subject presumably to some reasonably humane treatment from birth to death.

If the question then is one of humane treatment, there is a problem. Industrialization is a word that I think sums up the mentality of the majority today, in the production and consumption cycle. Those who participate in that production & consumption cycle do so wittingly and are accountable for it: The "I didn't know" or "My consumption doesn't matter" defenses don't exist, because to not know is willful indifference if not disdain for life. So if you are going to participate in any process -- liking eating cows -- doing so outside of the industrial production/consumption cycle is the best way, yes?! This is part of taking ourselves outside of economic determinism and respecting life and the mutual interdependency of all beings and species. Killing itself is not what is necessarily immoral, but does easily become immoral. This, I would contend, was part of Jesus’ message and was a complete rejection of the old testament Judaism. It was certainly Buddha's message.

I have no problem with people humanely raising their own animals, or cooperatively raising animals, for food. The point I think is important is that if you eat animals, please cultivate as direct a connection to life's processes as you can. From this, I believe that, more often than not, respect for life and its wonders/miracles grow (as does vegetarianism). And a deep appreciation for the sacrifices necessary for life. And that is very much part of a good life.

Being part of any process based upon slipping cows/pigs/chickens onto an assembly line, into a mechanized slaughter house, with cubes coming to people in styrofoam containers is not part of any path to a good life that I am aware of. And I mean "good" in its fullest sense.


I think your utopian model is valid, but it is not sound in the current context. We can't all raise livestock, grow crops, make barrels, be smithies, or provide services to these people like doctors, lawyers and teachers. This model became obsolete with the Industrial Revolution. I would argue that this was a bad development and many societal woes are a result of the collapse of the community "structure". Certainly, many problems predate this paradigm change, but I think we can agree that problems become larger in a "larger world". Humans are better equipped to deal with issues on a tribal/community level. This is why I am a huge proponent of municipal control of most issues. Certainly some issues require a more global approach. Many environmental challenges in the gloablized world cannot be solved by the City and County of Honolulu (I would argue that most problems cannot be solved by that group). Climate change is a good example. The actions of people in Indiana and Ohio have a direct and very real effect on farmers in New England.

To wish to go back to this old style, as I once did, is not completely realistic, but holding on to the principles and applying them when appropriate is a way to stay true to these ideals. Slaughtering a cow is not something that I could do. In your model, I should then either be a vegetarian or grow some wheat to trade with my neighbor that raises cattle. I could certainly live with this, though it I might have a legitimate complaint if Apartment #905 had a cow in his apartment, or on the roof (reference Blade Runner: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the book that inspired the movie).

I do not have a moral dilema with using cattle for food. Just like a shark doesn't have a moral dilema over using humans for food in the ocean. We are all products of our genetic dispositions. And, I could not agree more that humans need to treat animals humanely and give them a "good life" for the time that they are here. I think the mistreatment of livestock should be a crime, but I won't gain much traction in the Senate where the farm belt delegation would laugh me out the door.

"Killing itself is not what is necessarily immoral, but does easily become immoral." That is a great line and a great summary of Jesus' views, but I must say could only have been typed out by the fingers of a lawyer. Very nice! I will not go further into the common misinterpretation of Christian, Judaic, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist teachings because I could write a PhD on it. One need only look at our administration to see all the examples of people who are "illiterate" trying to interpret the word of God. What a mess!

Friends always get the final word:
Final words? Nah. Anyway, as Andy Dick so eloquently says in his Bushvideo sendup, "What speaks louder than words? No words!"If you have not yet seen that, you have to. It is sidesplitting.

For those of you who have not seen the speech bit yet, you can find it at:



Pirate said...

Count me in just don't expect me to do anything.

Pless said...

wow pete- interesting take on how we use animals for our own good. Ever read the book (or see the pbs special) on guns, germs, and steel? A cool take on how civilizations expanded and why some succeeded and others didn't. One point i remember is that many of humanities diseases have come from over population/domestication of animals for human use. Seems to be true today, with the bird flu and sars and mad cow and etc. Some call it the earth's immune system trying to heal itself. Anyway, don't eat animals unless they are about to eat you.

Freak Politics said...

It should be stated, by way of clarification, that I only wrote the Me parts. A friend, who wishes to remain anonymous wrote all the bleeding heart "vegetarian" stuff.