A couple days ago, I was discussing with a Facebook friend of mine the legitimacy of an article on whale hunting in the Faroe Islands–you all know the one I mean. The one with the horrible, bloody pictures and the use of the title “Her Child Was Torn From Her Body” to illicit the emotional response that makes someone interested in reading such an article. I pointed out that the article title–which appears to be maybe about abortion or something else–was misleading, and that the facts aren’t necessarily presented in fact form (this story was presented to me as an alternative suggestion directly under his post)–basically, I could never do what these islanders do, but I understand why they do it and I don’t feel that it’s my or anyone else’s responsibility to police what these guys do if it isn’t illegal, if it’s humane, and if it enhances their quality of life.
But that isn’t what this post is about.
One thing led to another, and of course because the Faroese people use the whales for food, the subject came up of the inhumane reality of how corporate livestock are handled. Basically–people are against the slaughtering of these whales because of the apparent cruelty that they suffer (which the article I linked to addresses, shedding some light on how humane the process really is in comparison to the gruesome images that are circulating the Internet), living in their natural environment and never knowing captivity, but they’re cool with our livestock living in cubicles their entire life, treading through inches of their own feces day after day, never seeing the sunlight, some of them (like chickens) being injected with steroids? They are both barbaric, but one is acceptable and one is not to Western folk, because we understand one as a food source and another as torture.
I’m not vegan, or vegetarian…I like my meat. I try really hard to buy local meat or grass-fed meat that isn’t subjected to as much cruelty while alive, just because it makes me feel better (though it is a little pricier).
The friend who I was discussing this topic with is a recent vegetarian, as of the past couple years. So, when he threw the following quotes at me:
“He who permits the slaughter of an animal, he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who buys or sells meat, he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, must all be considered as the slayers of the animal. There is no greater sinner than that man who though not worshiping the gods or the ancestors, seeks to increase the bulk of his own flesh by the flesh of other beings.” -(Manu-samhita 5.51-52)
“Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to the attainment of heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun the use of meat. Having well considered the disgusting origin of flesh and the cruelty of fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let him entirely abstain from eating flesh.” – (Manu-samhita 5.48-49)
Well…I was pretty irritated. These are both from Vedic scripture, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, so they are indeed pretty oldschool and show that the desire to be compassionate to other creatures has been a very long-going process, for thousands of years. NOT quite as long as humans have been surviving using meat…but still a pretty freaking long time ago. I respect the origins of these, and those who believe them–however, in the context of discussing how one can kill an animal for food and not feel bad about it, these quotes definitely look like a shaming technique to make me and other people feel bad about eating meat.
NOW we’re to the point of this article!
My friend here is a RECENT vegetarian–before that, I witnessed him put away pounds of Pizza Hut chicken wings, which are debatably the WORST kind of processed meat, both humane-wise and for my own organs (I can attest to what just five of those did to me last evening, within literally 10 minutes of eating them), hot dogs, huge burgers…you name it. So when this friend, who has never before tried to “convert” me, started slinging these at me in the context of an article about how cruel whaling is…it definitely felt like shaming.
Whether or not he was trying to shame me for eating meat, despite his own history of meat-scoffing, I have encountered many a herbivore who has tried to tell me how bad eating meat is…UNSOLICITED.
“I could really go for a burger after this tattoo.”
“Ohhh, don’t do that! Don’t you know how bad they are for you? All the cholesterol and fat that’s in meat will make your heart give out…plus, don’t you know how those animals are treated?”
YES I KNOW AND I’M FUCKING HUNGRY. Yes, I love animals, especially cute ones, and I have a respect for (nearly) all animal life. But, I shouldn’t have to prove this to you by justifying why I eat meat and don’t feel bad about it. It’s not YOUR job to tell me how to eat…you can recommend it, you can tell me why you like it, but don’t try to tell me how what I’m doing is bad. That never works. Try telling a smoker how bad cigarettes are for him/her mid-puff and see how well it works. Furthermore, try offering to take a vegan out for steak and see how offended they get. People DO NOT LIKE to be criticized by people who aren’t being affected at all by that person’s decisions. Especially strangers.
I don’t know why this is, but the entire culture of veganism is getting a bad name from people who decide that their way of helping the world will be to try to persuade as many people as they can to see their point of view and take action, even if it is randomly and annoyingly. But what’s worse is when this attitude leads to discrimination against those who DON’T see things the same way–this is true not just for veganism, but for anyone trying to promote ANY cause.
One time, I posted a rebuttal to a comment on a page that promoted animal rights and to get rid of animal cruelty in the food industry. I am for both of these things, by the way. However, the comment was so extreme…it compared the enjoyment of meat as food to enjoying rape.
THAT escalated quickly! So I posted something to the effect of how those aren’t even the same thing, and to condemn someone so quickly for liking meat is going to work against their efforts to gain supporters for what would normally be a pretty justified effort.
I got immediate backlash, to say the least…I was told that I’m a horrible person, that the only people working against their cause was scumbags like me, etc.etc. My post was then deleted, I was blocked from the page, and others continued to slander me while I could do nothing to defend myself. People took it SO PERSONALLY, it was absolutely insane! I don’t know what these guys eat for food, and I don’t really give a crap (one of many differences between them and I), but I do know that someone who defames the character of someone based on one small opinion that they hold about ONE subject, is being pretty shallow and ignorant.
Does anyone remember…
The recent blog of “The Blonde Vegan” (who later changed her name to “The Blonde Veggie” and then “The Balanced Blonde), who received tons of backlash when she revealed that she would no longer be eating vegan because it had led to an obsession with her diet, which is an eating disorder known as orthorexia? Here’s a quote from her “About” page (click it to go there):
“I identified as vegan for a year and a half because of the whole plant-based eating, no animal product, ethical choices thang… but after learning that many people in the vegan community take the label too far and use it in an exclusive, all-or-nothing way, I decided to move away from labels and veganism as a whole.”
In June 2014, she had made the announcement that she was transferring away from veganism. She received a lot of backlash for this decision, with some claiming that she was making “a bad name for veganism.” This is only one example of the bad name that these sort of people make for THEMSELVES and their cause, by discriminating against others with different beliefs! I think it’s awesome when people believe in a cause and stick to it. It’s much less awesome when one’s reaction to the cause is to crush people with it. Simple lifestyle choices like these would get SUCH a less bad reputation if less of those who participated were so extreme and polarizing about their personal choices, so much so that they let it affect their perception of others.
Moral of the story: people can do what they want! If it’s not illegal, don’t knock whatever it is until you try to understand it. The best thing about free will is the ability to have different views. I’m not about to tell someone whether or not they should be allowed to hunt whales, or whether or not they should be allowed to abstain from eating meat or using animal products. I’m not about to tell people that they should listen to Vedic scripture, but I’m also not against it in any way. You want to worship sixteen gods and sacrifice your underpants to them once a week for good luck? Do it! IT’S YO BUSINESS, YO.