Self-Deception and Slaughter: The Psychological Salves Required to Kill

The following images of self-slaughterers (and, in one case, a witness of a slaughter) are accompanied by short commentaries on the justifications offered for undertaking the butchery, or the meaning of the act. The point here is as simple as it is disturbing: when humans choose to kill an animal they know doesn’t want to die they’re forced to weave a protective narrative that obscures the inherent and unnecessary aggression of thier action.

First comment on this person’s blog: “Good for you for taking back another piece of your food chain.”

A student participating in a chicken butchering workshop at Fairhaven College: “I realize now, more than ever, that the chicken on my dinner plate was a living creature and that it had to be sacrificed for my consumption.”  (I wonder if they offer Ethics 101 at Fairview?)

“Death is only one day . . .”

“I felt a whole lot of pride, and I felt like a real farmer . . .”

It strikes me as deeply troubling that we’re so indifferent to the emotional lives of animals that we can justify killing them on the basis of the following “arguments”: killing animals is a way to fight the power of corporate influence; killing animals has to be done as part of some skewed sense of the natural order; death is meaningless if life was lived well; and killing an animal instills pride in the agrarian life.

Just in case you’re not yet thoroughly depressed, I’ll end with this excerpt from a magazine I recently discovered called Backwoods Home Magazine:

“Fall is butchering time, a period of joy in the harvest of the year’s work and of sadness that the lives of your beautiful, healthy animals have come to an end. On this occasion the animals should be treated with the same kindness and respect with which they were treated during their lives. Good farmers raise their animals free from fear, anxiety and stress. The animals should meet their end as they lived, without the terror of the slaughterhouse.”
But the reality of the slaughter.

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.

3 Responses to Self-Deception and Slaughter: The Psychological Salves Required to Kill

  1. CQ says:

    It is hard for sensitive souls to comprehend the degree of emotional obtuseness and depth of denial in the mind of a killer.

    But I have to say: I don’t believe for a minute that this is the true selfhood of anyone, no matter how depraved or deprived they act. Rather, I think they’re ignorantly agreeing to be robbed of the lovely qualities — including normal sympathy and genuine concern for their fellow-beings — that constitute their real identity.

    Each of these individuals can reclaim their decency, meekness, compassion, childlike sweetness. Each can turn away from the violence that has captured their imaginations and to which they seem inured.

    A note to the self-deceived: There is no such thing as animal sacrifice. Animals have no reason or desire to give their bodies to humans. The only legitimate sacrifice is when a human forsakes his/her own selfish desires.

    These thoughts apply, and ring true to me: “Mortals must change their ideals in order to improve their models. … Sensualism evolves bad physical and moral conditions. … Selfishness and sensualism are educated in mortal mind by the thoughts ever recurring to one’s self …. and this education is at the expense of spiritual growth. … [Each of us will one day] drop the false estimate of life and happiness [and] attain the bliss of loving unselfishly….” ~ Science and Health, p. 261

  2. Provoked says:

    At a yard sale I came across a dozen or so National Farm Journal magazines from the 20’s. The 1929 October issue shows this:

    What was surprising about this look backwards was how very old these pigs, cows and chickens were once they were finally killed. Some pigs at 7 to 9 years… Cows in their teens – And chickens a few years old. The caution was to not to wait “too long” as to avoid the unpleasantness of meat from “old hens”.

    Another thing one can clearly see is that vegetables and fruits were the main food. Most articles aside from quilt patterns and farm machinery are all about growing food. Real food… For human consumption! Recipes galore that don’t include the first bit of animal derived ingredients. It was truly amazing to find so many vegan recipes printed almost a hundred years ago!

    This is probably way off track, but it gave me a perspective on how things were once. No, certainly not ideal… But not as wicked, wretched and “unfixable” as it appears today. :/

    There are stories I’ve read and heard about how grand-pa would retreat to the hills for solace after a day of “culling”… Maybe since life was much harder then… It was also more appreciated? Not only for human but also extended to their “stock” as well? And in this radical change to industrialized, frivolous, non-essential meat/dairy and eggs we’ve grown ever more callous – Creating the salves that go beyond treating minor burns… They are trying to cure a cancer. (?)

    I can forgive those who lived decades before… They just didn’t know – And didn’t even know enough to ask the right questions. But we do now. There’s absolutely no excuse, no justification, no “ethical reason” to continue on to hog killing time or any other slaughter of any one! Enough already!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: