Alright, I’ll admit it: I’m a speciesist.
I’m not ashamed of being a speciesist. In fact, I know how veal is produced and how sausages are made … and still enjoy eating them. (Contra Frederick the Great, the process of making laws is far more nauseating.)
Mm … sausage. Preferably Italian sausage swimming in marinara on a hoagie, with a couple of half-slices of provolone or mozzarella. Steak and eggs, with a side of bacon and a huge glass of milk. A 16-ounce medium-rare prime rib with horseradish and jus on the side (au jus is “in juice”, so to say “with au jus on the side” is a contradiction). Albacore steak. Turkey leg. Reuben sandwiches, with the corned beef piled high. Babe’s Chicken, the best darn fried chicken in the world and you can only get it in the DFW metroplex. Chicken-fried steak with pan gravy and biscuits … again with eggs, sausage and bacon. Yum.
I even like Chicago dogs and beef sandwiches, although the peppers in the dogs bite back and I burn through the night like Atlanta.
Now, of course I have a point in writing all this, and it’s not in the fond hope of making some poor vegan urf on her keyboard (well not completely in the fond hope). It’s not just that PETA should stand for People Eating Tasty Animals. The point is that I have no qualms about eating animals because animals aren’t people.
But doesn’t the Bible say, “Thou shalt not kill”?
Well, I already wrote a long post about that; the short version is that “murder” better translates the Hebrew behind Genesis 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17. Until relatively recently — within the last century or so — this was understood. No one from Moses through Jesus to Leo XIII ever saw a contradiction between God permitting, even commanding, various sorts of justifiable death-causing and that particular injunction … until Mark Twain opened his yap in one of his tirades against organized religion.
The point goes beyond that, though. I think what really pointed out for me the absurdity of the “speciesist” label is the recent billboard put up by PETA (shown). Oh, that’s it … sharks attack humans out of revenge. Huh … who would’a thunk it?
Sorry. Nope. Not buying it. A human can go on a weeks-long journey of revenge, like Wyatt Earp hunting down the remnants of the Clanton gang. But only someone who’s read Rudyard Kipling’s short story “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” too many times believes it of other animals. (Did anyone else ever see the TV cartoon? And remember for long nights afterward the harsh whisper of Nagina: “If you move, I strike. If you do not move, I strike. O foolish people who killed my Nag!”)
On the one hand, there are definite negative points to be made about our consumption of animals. If you really want to be put off your Big Mac, read Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, by Eric Schlosser. We have a national problem with obesity in part because the fast food industry’s marketing has successfully manipulated our sloth and gluttony into consumption of massive quantities of nutritional nightmares.
It’s made me what I am today … three hundred pounds and hypertensive.
Beyond human health concerns, there are environmental impacts as well. You don’t have to buy the global warming myth to agree that pollution needs to be minimized; simply as a theological point, we show gratitude to God for our dominion on earth by taking care of this garden spot. The impact of the beef, pork and poultry industries is too complex a topic for this poor blog post; suffice it to say, we need to find better, less poisonous ways of returning animal by-products to the biosphere.
On the other hand ….
The down side of treating animals the same way we treat people is that, inevitably, the logic of the equation takes over and we start treating people no better than animals. We go to much greater lengths to preserve human life and dignity precisely because we believe humans are more worthy of our protection than dogs, chickens and fruit flies. When “human” = “dog”, not only does this enable the man to act like a dog (2 Live Crew: “I’m a dog in heat, a freak without warning …”), it enables the rest of society to treat him like a dog — not only to expect nothing better of him, but to extend to him no greater respect or rights.
Societies suffer from the gravitational tug of entropy just as do natural bodies. The natural flow of the universe is to go from the complex to the simple, the organized to the random, the structured to the chaotic. Life is the only force in the universe which directly works against the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the only one which builds instead of deteriorates. While we know through history that you can have too rigidly structured a society, one too inflexible to be capable of growth and development, too loose a structure allows decay and social disintegration; can we say this isn’t happening now?
In The Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton goes to some length to demonstrate the difference between Man and other animals. I don’t need several paragraphs to do so here. I need merely point out that we can have a PETA, but sharks don’t, can’t and won’t ever have a SETH. Crows, jackals and buzzards will lose neither feather nor hair over the proper, healthy disposal of human remains; they’ll just feast on the corpses. Animals don’t worry about whether the human they eat is kosher.
Animals don’t believe in human rights. We do.
We are different from other animals. Asserting animal rights and animal dignity illustrates that difference more completely than any other argument I could give. I’m a speciesist because it demands better of us towards each other.