How to Challenge Omnivores

(from a Facebook comment thread)

Back when I ate meat, I had a goal of participating in killing and butchering an animal – Beyond swatting mosquitoes, I really haven’t done any real killing, but I *have* enjoyed the product of other people’s killing for most of my life. For me, that was my fundamental hypocrisy, that I was aware of every time I ate meat. I didn’t dwell on it, but I kept it in my mind.

Factory farming is not a different matter – I think that anyone who saw what happens in factory farms would lose their appetite for meat very quickly. But that kind of total honesty from the meat industry, I think everyone will agree, is about as likely as Monsanto allowing a law requiring that GMOs be labelled as such to be passed without a protracted fight. 

As such, appealing to people on the basis of “meat is fine to eat, but it should be raised and killed humanely,” while completely rational in its approach, will never be a successful gambit; it’s way too easy for people to delude themselves that meat is a necessity (for 99% of us, it simply is not, but it’s a useful conceit for deluding oneself that one does not have to change one’s habits to match one’s ethics) and that their hands are tied – “I absolutely MUST have this tasty steak, and I MUST have it at this price, so I have no choice but to buy from factory farms. There’s no point getting my face about it – you’re just being unpleasant/rude/militant/{insert anti-vegan epithet here}.” 

The better approach, I think, is to settle on a model of what most well-meaning omnivorous people would agree is a “100% ethical” manner of raising and slaughtering a food animal, and then challenge anyone who believes that meat is a necessity for them to stand at close range (within a few feet) and watch as that ethically-raised animal is killed in that ethical manner. Challenge them to watch as the knife cuts the cow’s throat, or the bullet enters its head, or however they’re gonna do it, and watch the animal bleed out, watch it scream and writhe if they do it wrong maybe, and definitely twitch and gurgle as it bleeds out. And then watch them hoist the animal up and gut it, slice it open, pull out its entrails, smell that nasty smell that wafts over from the Maple Leaf plant, but smell it right up close, at its source. Remove all “a happy animal is a tasty animal” appeals, because frankly, every ethically-raised steak I bought during my meat eating was actually quite bad, and I know how to cook a steak (for myself) better than any restaurant.

I don’t think most omnivores would accept that challenge in the first place. I don’t think that every one that *did* take the challenge would stop eating meat, but do think that not a single one that did would ever be so flip about their “need” for meat again, because that moment in which a human hand kills the animal, and the moment in which the animal expires, is the one part of the life cycle of a food animal that they cannot ever deny, no matter if they never have to look at it once in their life. And really, to deny yourself the experience of being there, even just once, seems like the paragon of foolishness to me.

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