Meat is “Justifiable Homicide?”
There’s a debate about whether meat is murder or "justifiable homicide" (and prepare yourself for some mighty interesting moral acrobatics here) in and after "The Compassionate Carnivore," which Jenny alerted me to.
- Tom Hodgkinson was a vegetarian for ten years. He now raises, kills and eats his own pigs, and thinks his actions may be called "justifiable homicide." Talk about backsliding.
- "The adrenalin ran high on pig killing day. . . . they were shot in the head with a pistol, while the man with the gun stroked their heads. One squealed for a few seconds before dying, the other simply dropped to the ground. Then each animal was tied by its back legs to the tractor and hoisted into the air. There was quite a bit of kicking. I was struck by the calm gentleness of the whole operation.
We cut the pigs’ throats and drained off the blood, which we immediately stirred to make blood pudding. Thus began the enormous job of processing the pigs: they say that every part of the pig can put to good use apart from the squeak, and we certainly used most of the beasts over the next couple of weeks." I get the homicide part. I’m still waiting for the "justifiable" part.
- "What was surprising was the amount of tenderness that we felt towards the animals when they were killed. We did not sob in a sentimental way as we did, for example, when the bunny died. But we experienced an emotion that was a sort of mix of sadness and gratitude: you wanted to say, thank you, noble pig." I’m stuck on tenderness that’s not sentimental. Maybe the sobbing was for his conscience that died with his pig. And what’s this about gratitude? Thank you, noble pig, for trusting me so I may betray you at will? I’m not sure which definition of noble Hodgkinson is using, but whether he’s calling the pig distinguished or saying the pig has high moral qualities, is this some kind of complimenting-them-before-you-slaughter-them mentality that makes the person on the slaughtering end of the equation sleep better at night?
- Hodgkinson describes his method of killing as "humane and painless" to his friends who are appalled by what he’s done. They do love the taste of the meat, though.
- Hodgkinson continues: "[A] very strong argument for being veggie is that in so doing, you reduce the size of the market for factory-farmed meat. But eating meat that you yourself have cared for yourself is a different matter. My vegan friend Graham told me that he did not really have a moral objection to what we did. His veganism is part of a general attack on exploitative capitalism. Small scale farming is a way of grabbing back some control over our food production from the big guys." What about by begin vegan you decrease dominance, exploitation and violence? Isn’t what Hodgkinson just described about as violent as a situation can get?
- Finally, we get into the real delusion: philosopher Roger Scruton’s outline for being a "conscientious carnivore" (so I guess there’s no grain and very little veggies and fruit in their diet?). "Duty requires us therefore, to eat our friends." I can’t wait to read how he’s going to get that to make sense.
- "The animal brought to the table will have enjoyed the friendship and protection of the one who nurtured him, and his death will be like the ritual sacrifices described in the Bible and Homeric literature – a singling out of a victim, for an important office to which a kind of honour is attached." How disappointing. I thought he was going to provide an explanation difficult to decimate. He even called the pig "him" rather than "it." But we still haven’t explained why the homicide is justifiable. Singling out a victim to kill when you do not need to kill anyone at all is in fact unjustifiable homicide: murder. He just unwittingly disproved his own thesis because he has not provided a reason why it’s necessary to kill anyone. Next, it’s 2008 and in the developed world ritual sacrifices have gone the way of, well, ritual sacrifices. That comparison is absurd. The only thing remotely "epic" about this scenario is the betrayal of the pig by someone who acts one moment as friend and nurturer, and the next as executioner.
Check out the debate following the article. Not everyone is buying what Hodgkinson is selling. What’s important for us is to constantly point out the hypocrisy, denial and grave misuse of language that the peddlers of all things animal cling to in the hope that people aren’t paying attention or thinking for themselves.