The Animal’s Almanac: Justifying Eating Animals

Trace the oppositional arguments against animal rights to thier deepest roots and you’ll find an embarassment of ignorance. I was reminded of this fact while reading a bit on the history of animal advocacy.  A common tact employed by active opponenets of animal rights–and a rather innocuous one–was to obscure the weakness of their position in a cloud of sarcasm. One editorialist, undone by all the “proselytizing animal lovers” coming out of Victorian England, snarkily retorted that, if we were now going to care so much about mere animals, we should offer them “a little education, a little night school training, [and] a few newspapers printed in their language.” Funny (not). (See Diane Beers, The Prevention of Cruelty.)

In a more disturbing vein, those threatened by the rhetoric of animal compassion frequently sought refuge under the cope of sexism. Noting that a large proportion of the animal rights movement was women, medical experts concocted a hysteria-related disease known as “zoophilpsychosis.” Only unhinged females, the diagnosis suggested, could resort to the whacked out idea that animals mattered more than objects. Readers of Carol Adams (The Sexual Politics of Meat) will quickly recognize that matters today have changed little since the nineteenth century. In fact, on the sexism front, they may have become worse. “Meat,” she concludes (with ample and horrifying evidence), “is a symbol of male dominance.”

It’s true, and worse. I’m not going to elaborate here, but I urge you to plumb the depths of the pro-meat agenda. One needs little analytical expertise to quickly realize that common justifications for eating animals require an uncommon resort to sexism, speciesism, and solipsicim. Nowhere in this effort to justify unnecessary suffering will you find compassion, tolerance, or open-mindedness. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, will you find an affirmation of love.


About James McWilliams
I'm a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethics of eating animals and animal-based products.

One Response to The Animal’s Almanac: Justifying Eating Animals

  1. BlessUsAll says:

    Yessssss … sexism, speciesism, solipsism, as well as speciousness, sarcasm, superciliousness, scoffing, sneering, snarkiness, spite, stolidity, even stupidity.

    All those “s” words remind me of a slithering, subtle serpent. Like the one in the allegorical garden of Eden, tempting the mythical Eve to believe … a LIE.

    Hmmmm, maybe as a counterpoint to the lies behind the “Got milk?” ad, we could promote justice for dairy cows and calves with a photo of a baby calf being fed by a bottle, with the words, “Got a mother?” Or perhaps a picture of a baby calf chained by the neck in a veal crate, with the line, “Got compassion?” Or a scene of a bulldozer shoving a distressed downed cow into a slaughterhouse with the words, “Got mercy?”

    The fact is, everyone possesses these qualities. It’s just a question of knocking gently at the door of consciousness, scratching softly on the opaque pane of glass hiding the heart — until each individual is ready to open that door and shatter that glass. And thus begin to live in truth. And with love. And for life.

    Gosh, am I ever glad I am finally awake to the snake! 🙂

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