Considering the cold, callous reality of what meat-eating really means, could this unthinking question really represent the cart before the horse? Is it even the right question, rather than “Why eat meat?”. The usual driver behind the question "Why Vegetarianism?" could be para-phrased as: “How come vegetarians see anything wrong with eating meat?"
Nothing wrong with meat-eating
The underlying, baseline assumption of meat-eaters in general seems to be that there is nothing wrong with killing animals for food. Society at large accepts it without question, so it must be ok. Therefore we don’t have to reflect about it.
When the reasoning (or crass lack of it) behind their casual enquiry concerning the vegetarian position is exposed through the slightest modicum of critical thinking, it puts a different complexion on the meat-eating position. That is, when they are probed, and asked about what meat-eating really is, it turns out that people know and fully understand that animals, in their hundreds of thousands have to suffer and die before their time, for no other reason than a pleasure-seeking, egocentric one, -just because they like the taste of their ‘meat’. Further, this happens daily all around the world, in most cases just to satisfy peoples' base appetitive instincts
Vegetarianism -Expression of Non-Violence.
To answer the meat-eater's original question, Vegetarianism, embraced as a philosophy for all the right reasons, is the thoughtful outcrop of sensitive souls; the expression and celebration of the heart’s desire for peace or non-violence. It represents the goal of peaceful co-existence with all other living beings and equal respect for all life. It is at once an expression of the visceral repudiation of, and revulsion at, all unprovoked violence against defenseless animals who have no power or voice or say in whether they live or die. It is the philosophy of people who understand that life is precious, not just one type of life; a philosophy that holds that the same principle that gave birth to our life, also gave birth to all life.
Killing animals as necessity
In poor societies, we understand that people may feel the need to kill animals to survive. There is little alternative, and most people probably wouldn't think twice about it. Necessity is at least an argument that finds favor with most people in places of grinding poverty in the world, where people are starving. This helps those with a strong sense of conscience, compassion and sensibility towards life, at least to feel better about themselves for killing other sentient living beings. But at least such people may try to offer some justification to themselves that killing animals is ok, based on the value judgment that human life is "more important" or "superior" than the creature whose life they are about to end).
They may even justify themselves or absolve their sense of guilt by using the artifice of thanking God for "giving" them the animals which were apparently born into the world so they could suffer and die to conveniently serve as "food", for humans. This line of thinking supposes that these creatures were not ends in themselves, which is what they really are. Are you, as a human, an end it itself, or were YOU conveniently created to serve as food for cannibals? (Or food for a race of extraterrestrials who have just subdued the earth and its puny earthlings?)
It seems like a very cruel God indeed, though, who apparently would have the infinite ingenuity to bring into existence so many different types of harmonious, non-meat foods for humans, but who would also create and label sentient, intelligent beings purely as "food" to serve another group of sentient, intelligent beings She also created. Apparently one group was designed to live, and another to die, which seemingly defeats the common purpose of life, at least at the obvious level, which is to live.
Nevertheless, ultimately, eating meat is still a choice, recognized or not, because remember that there are those who would go on hunger strike for their beliefs and principles, even unto death.
Even necessity is a choice.
Justification for vegetarianism?
There might be some justification for killing an animal if we were starving and had no other recourse, or if an animal were attacking us and we had to kill it in self-defense. However, consider the innate desire(at least in some humans)of living in peace. Does this need justification? In the context of killing animals for meat, every creature has inherited life, and so no-one employing valid logic can assert or arrogate to themselves the moral authority to take life away unnecessarily, that is, certainly without a valid, compelling reason, such as where an unavoidable life or death struggle is in play that would prompt such violent reaction.)
Vegetarians believe it is self-evident that their peaceful philosophy does not have to be justified, because it is peaceful by default. Therefore, for this conversation, if anything required justification, on the contrary, it would be meat-eating. Simply put, vegetarians do not wish to be either the direct or indirect agents for causing ill-treatment, suffering, violence, and bloody death to an ever-increasing range of animals, purely for profit. Profit? Yes, profit, because, if you live in a relatively wealthy industrialized society, that has meat factories, that's what it comes down to.
Therefore, it is beyond appropriate that the question ‘Why Vegetarianism?’ be turned on its head to: Why eat meat?
The ultimate violence
Killing is the ultimate violence. Isn’t this so? Because what further damage, injury, or hurt could any one inflict that has a more final, irreversible and absolute result than the pre-meditated killing of a creature that was once alive?
Less insensitive meat-eaters might consider the killing of animals purely for sport, as completely unjustifiable, because it is a wanton waste of life, exercised purely for personal pleasure in the power over life and death of a living being. Some primitive, less evolved humans actually receive sick pleasure from the supremely cowardly act of killing weaker, defenseless creatures in sport.
Yet, pleasure is the only real motive of meat-eaters for eating meat, though they claim they do so for food. It is simply not true that in the wealthier, industrialized nations (where no-one starves) that we need to kill animals for food. Once we take a moment to consider this truth, how can it be considered anything other than a depraved choice to kill them. Oh, but meat-eaters do not kill animals directly. It's there in the shops for us.
If we consent to the killing of animals for food, while fully realizing that this wholesale daily slaughter of innocents is done on our behalf unnecessarily, and on top, solely for profit, then are we not participating in their deaths in some intrinsic essential way, by proxy? Think about that. If so, does that not therefore make us violent, and in some essential way depraved, even if we believe we are not, and just normal everyday peaceful people?
No need to justify meat-eating?
If someone were to suggest to meat-eaters that by eating meat, in reality they were engaging in violence, - killing by proxy, or ‘taking a contract out on an animal’, just as surely as if they took a knife to the animal’s throat himself, would that seem like a valid or acceptable idea to them?
Or would that seem like a totally ridiculous notion to them? Would they not hold that, on the contrary, they had nothing to do with the whole process of slaughtering animals, and say that they just eat their meat?
Yet when this is drawn to their attention, they would have to admit to knowing full well, that the truth is, animals are only killed for their meat by popular demand, a (profit) motive which, under a limit situation, might be less ignoble. Eating meat therefore represents full, active consent to what slaughter-houses do, legitimizing what they do, since they are actively paid by the consumer to do it. Or how can this state of affairs really be interpreted any other way? And can this consent to killing for pure pleasure, be considered by any reasoning person anything other than depraved?
It is depraved. This is certain. If you have ever thought about the issues I have just raised, or are considering them now, for the first time, if you have no conflicts about it either then or now, then it can only mean that you are depraved, meaning you are currently the owner of a degraded consciousness. Only a degraded consciousness could think that such an issue should not even be raised, or called into question. Only a degraded consciousness could think that the issue is unworthy of attention. You are depraved and degraded even if you think you are not. Even if you are peaceful in the other areas of life, and pat the dog, if you eat meat in your lifestyle, you have a degraded consciousness. Period.
What I am saying may seem appalling to most people, because they cannot even begin to see themselves in that light, because it conflicts with their own romantic image of themselves, fictitious as it may be. This is hard for meat-eaters to see. But on hearing this heresy, people now resist this notion and protest that this cannot be. We cannot be depraved, just because we do what most others do, can we?
But in order to evolve as a human, or to be minimally worthy of the name, you need to be aware of the real state of of your consciousness and work from there.
Incredibly, many meat-eaters do not even see meat-eating as violence, in the same way that they might more readily do so were it human perpetrating violence against human. Amazingly, it does not even occur to them to make the connection.
Well, ok, they say, it's violence, but that's just part of what has to happen. The animal's death is simply necessary in order for it to end up on my plate. -distasteful but necessary, because after all, I couldn't do without my meat, now, could I?
Just to hear the way people talk about meat, and how delicious the steak from such and such a restaurant is, and the way they salivate when they talk about it, and try to replicate that conditioned response in others, appealing to the most primitive blood-lust,is sickening. It sounds like so much mindless conditioning, the copycat regurgitation of a thousand meat-eaters talking and salivating in unison, replicating a meme that brainwashed people mindlessly repeat.
Since when does our own appetitive desire for egocentric pleasure come before the life of other highly-developed, sentient, and intelligent creatures? Animals share many of our own characteristics. These creatures are capable of warmth, love, gratitude,and companionship, qualities that we value in ourselves, but strangely, not in them. It seems these are facts that we seem able to just blot out of our consciousness by compartmentalizing our mental habits and behaviors.
And all this despite the fact that technically and in every other way in this secular society, humans fall into the same category of 'animals' ourselves.
If we were to kill other races of humans, not on the basis of "our superiority", perhaps because we considered them "more primitive" (a not-unheard-of concept) but did so for food, perhaps many of us might be horrified, unable to believe that we could do such a thing. But if we do it to other sentient animals that just don't happen to look like us, then a vegetarian protest about such behavior is largely met with blank stares of incredulity. Why is that? They cannot even believe that vegetarians could entertain for a second, such a point of view, logically bullet-proof, though it is.
The automated nature of meat-eating as a habit-based routine activity renders it unlikely to be challenged by its own proponents, nor render it remotely prone to the thinking or questioning process. As meat-eaters do not see any moral issue in what they do, they have no conflicts. Their point of departure, is that they do not even think they have to justify it, so innocuous is the topic. They appear to believe that the mass condemnation of animals to unnecessary pain, suffering and violent death does not require justification because it’s just something that we humans do as a matter of course. We do not witness their deaths, do not attend or have to attend the brutal slaughter ceremony. Nor do we wish to. We are not up to watching it. Animals are killed for us by proxy.
Buying packaged meat seems quite harmless. The meat is quite inert, lying there on the table. It does not resist, struggle or scream when we pick it up, as it did in the abbatoir (Fr. 'to beat down'). That’s all in the past now.
It is as if a strange hypnotic mental filter comes over meat-eaters, a compartmentalization of their consciousness to prevent them from seeing the reality of what eating meat really means. Even when challenged by the logic of the vegetarian argument, they go into denial.
Even to consider the vegetarian position of not wanting to inflict unnecessary suffering and death on animals merely to satisfy our base appetitive cravings and from no imposed position of necessity, would seem so strange to them, trivial, or even 'over the top'.
They seem not to share the vegetarian’s apparently exquisite sensitivities. The most amazing thing is that they do not even remotely see it as the moral issue that it is, if moral issues exist at all. By the way that meat-eaters react to vegetarians, it might appear that the emotion-based arguments of vegetarians seem limp and to lack force. Yet curiously, many of these very same people scream blue murder on hearing of the abortion of a 12-week-old fertilized zygote, because they believe it is "human".
What is so sacred about a human zygote that is not sacred about a fully-developed, sentient creature?
The daily killing of animals in slaughter-houses is duplicated in all parts of the world and is a routine part of everyday life, as casual as whistling. It is a form of deadly invisible violence, from which we are shielded. It is something that we do not have to see, but with which most of us grow up, unquestioningly accepted by society through habit. It does not even suscitate the slightest tremor or murmur of conscience in its participants. They are totally de-sensitized to it. No issue at all. But just because of this, does this mean that this unnecessary violence is not violence? It is what it is. To the vegetarian, it is a question of simply seeing things as they are, and calling things by their name. Why should we call it anything else?
Could it be that for meat-eaters, the reality of meat-eating poses a conflict with their self-image, -who they believe themselves to be? They do not believe themselves to be violent people. Yet they consent without any conflict whatsoever to these violent acts by proxy. So confronted with the undeniable facts, there is a clash, a cognitive dissonance about who they are. They are being presented with ideas that they recognize to be true deep down, but, if accepted, would represent the painful repudiation of a life lived until now. Rather than accept that heavy karmic burden, it is far more acceptable to the self to stick to one’s guns, go into denial, rationalize the conflict away, and convince one’s self that all is in order. Everyone else is doing it. They wouldn’t be doing it if there was something wrong with it. If everyone else is doing it, that makes it ok. That absolves us from reflecting about it. We don’t have to go inside and examine our ideas, or ourselves, or reluctantly consider the unacceptable realities in which we actively participate. If we thought independently, wouldn't that make us wrong?
Wouldn't that put us outside the fold? The rest of violent society has to be right.
So there's nothing wrong with meat-eating. Well, that's settled then.
It is simply amazing for vegetarians to observe that otherwise normal people with the usual range of human emotional sensitivities do not see eating meat-eating as the ultimate violence it is, nor do they seem to recognize their consent or implicit involvement in that violence. Meat-eating seems to them like a normal, natural, neutral and bland activity, like eating your Cheerios, as casual as merry whistling, and as innocuous as brushing your teeth. It is as nothing to them.
Eating meat for food
Meat-eaters will say they eat meat for food. But there are many, many foods. If people don’t eat meat, will they die? No, but if they do eat meat, animals most certainly will die, and unnecessarily. In societies of plenty, killing animals for food is totally and utterly unnecessary. To even to state this is idle.
On top, they go on with this nonsense about needing their “steak” to “feel strong”. Other people may not need it, but I do. As though no-one could achieve the same result with any other food.
Anyone who knows the slightest thing about nutrition knows that, there are many different foods you can eat as protein substitutes. Meat-eating in our wealthy Western societies is not even remotely a question of animals having to die so that we may live.
Reasons for not giving it up
“Yes, but I couldn’t give up meat. I like my steak too much”.
Considered objectively, can anyone think of a more depraved or trivial reason for deciding to end an animal’s life, than simply that they like the taste of its meat? (apart from people from nations who suddenly decide to slaughter an animal in celebration of their country’s just getting through to the World cup quarter-final). Can anyone who offers such a reason for eating meat, stop to contemplate what they are really saying, even for a moment, and at the same time conclude that it is not trifling or trivial?
For anyone to believe the idea, after fair reflection, that animals are just there for the egocentric and selfish satisfaction and pleasure of humans' palates, and that to satisfy their appetitive urges, an animal must die, can they seriously conclude that this does not somehow represent a degraded condition or state of consciousness? In short, a state of depravity albeit an unconscious one.
Pro-meat eating arguments
Since it has to be evident when considered, that the existence of an overwhelming range of foods and different ways of obtaining nourishment and vitamins render the argument of the necessity of eating meat idle, can meat-eaters offer any serious, non-trivial arguments for consenting to the killing of animals.
In the absence of a non-trivial argument as to why we should not leave animals live in peace, how can anybody justify killing them?
Justification for killing
Killing in wartime, may offer an obvious justification of self-defense, as also in peace-time, in a scenario in which someone tries to kill us for no valid reason.
We can all be violent. It is true that even peace-loving humans are capable of resorting to violence, above all, when their own survival is threatened.
The right to kill?
We will fight tooth and nail to preserve our right to life, and be left in peace. We do not assume, but bitterly contest by our actions, the right of anyone to end our own lives, above all if they don't have any real justification based on our own hostile conduct towards them. Let us be clear: When I speak about rights, -or the 'right' as in the 'right to kill', in this context I mean 'authority', -that no-one can claim to have received, or have been conferred, by the higher 'authority' of another the right to kill another, such that this makes it ok.
Our justification or rationalization (to ourselves) is that we are a higher life form and are therefore more deserving of life. At least it is good that we feel the innate need to justify this to ourselves, while lacking any real logical or substantive argument even in that extreme circumstance, to explain why our life is more deserving of sustenance than the animal we kill.
Does killing require justification?
If, through logic, we reject and refuse to recognize the assumed, automatic right of other reasoning humans to try to kill us for food (or for their own designs without mortal threat to them),then by the same logic, how can it be asserted that we have an automatic right to kill them? In starving third-world countries, we can find a justification for the taking of animal life. In wealthy consumer societies, the arguments for vegetarianism are many and, in such societies, in stark contrast, there is no good meat-eating argument, since we do not need to kill animals in order to survive. Vegetarianism therefore surely represents an upward step (one of countless) in the evolution human consciousness.
To state the latter truth is at once to place vegetarians in diametric opposition to defenders of meat-eating, for this will immediately get their hackles up and they will be anxious to tear down such an apparently self-righteous assertion. However, it would be difficult to imagine how those who oppose the vegetarian viewpoint might argue the contrary position, -that it is not peace, but violence and its perpetuation that in reality represents that upward step. Not all people are peaceful. They have violent impulses. A significant portion of humanity is constantly at war. So to be peaceful is an evolutionary step that not all people even embrace or even set themselves as a goal, perhaps not even recognising their
own violence.Therefore such a step is no small thing, since if everybody were peaceful, we would be well on our way to that cherished paradise earth.
There are many in Governments around the world who precisely fear the threat of peace.
It is agreed that Vegetarianism does not turn us into saints just by the fact of following that position, any more than does abandoning the practice of head-hunting or shrinking missionaries' heads or quitting the habit of genocide. But who can deny it represents a fine first step in the right direction? Before getting on the road to sainthood, we have to at least abandon
as much evil as possible, and that, before we do even one good deed.
It is true that Vegetarians need to practice what they preach. There would be little point in observing the Vegetarian creed, while continuing to drag drivers out of their cars in road rage attacks, or beat their wives, or children.
Meat-eaters do not try to justify what they do, they just do it with little real thought, on the basis of nothing more than pleasure, profit, because animals have no voice to protest and because “might is right”. We kill animals for profit just because we can.
We have the unbridled power, just as in some distant future, extraterrestrials colonizing our planet, having superior power, intelligence and technology, could decide to farm humans because they liked the taste of our meat, not to mention the considerable financial opportunity such a venture might present, and not even ask our consent.
So, the hard-to-stomach reality, that meat-eaters try to block out, is the realization and recognition that they are really degraded savages, but who don't think or believe that they are.
Yet meat-eaters will contend that it's preposterous to even suggest such a thing. The nicest people you'll ever meet, are meat-eaters. So this might seem like a very radical position to meat-eaters, offensive in the extreme, but so?
Vegetarians simply want the slaughter of animals to stop. How can that happen unless the consciousness of meat-eaters is jolted with the truth they so willfully blind themselves to?
The intention is not to offend, but if we wish to simply state the bald, unvarnished, naked truth, which is what it is, and that simply needs to be said, how can we say it any other way and be effective?
Changing peoples' consciousnesses requires it, to force them to think, not to mention feel.
But just as soon as they are ready to contemplate that reality, and meditate on it seriously (because it's a serious thing to contemplate) the sooner they can understand their condition from the inside, call a spade a spade, come out of denial, and finally make the determination to make that profoundly evolutionary step, -give up meat forever.