Skip to content

On Misunderstanding What Compassionate Carnivore Means

Tuesday’s post, "On Honest Meat and Absent Referents," as well as others that mention "compassionate carnivores" have been frequented by some people who are then misconstruing them. I have no control over that, nor do I have the time to visit forums and discussion boards. I get in my daily blog early in the day and that’s about all I’m able to do other than check in to moderate comments.

I can definitely see how one could spend entire days chatting with others, discussing the myriad important issues that veganism raises (or responds to), and I do wish I could spend some days (or even hours!) doing that. But alas . . .

Here’s what I’ve seen, as well as what I’ve read in my inbox: that by saying compassionate carnivore is an oxymoron, I’m saying that the person who does the eating of the animals cannot in any way be considered as behaving compassionately in any area of their lives.

Not true.

Compassionate is a modifier (and is one of many syntactic functions): a grammatical element that is usually an adjective (or adjective clause) or an adverb (or adjective clause) that qualifies the word it is next to.

Basic Principle: Modifiers are like teenagers: they fall in love with whatever they’re next to. Make sure they’re next to something they ought to modify!

It is a "pre-modifier," if you must know, in that it is placed before the "head" (that is, the modified component, which could technically stand alone).

Compassionate is modifying carnivore. Not because I said so, but because of where it is placed and how it is (correctly) used by the people who describe themselves as such.

Allow my nonbelieving self to get spiritual/mystical for a moment.
No one is all one thing–good or bad. In my mind, we are all alive on
this planet because we have plenty to learn. We do things that are good
and productive and kind–and some of us do more of them than
others–and we do things that are unkind, unjust and/or cruel–some of
us more than others.

Remember that plenty of priests who turned out to be pedophiles also helped a lot of people for decades. Doing horrible things in one part of your life doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of doing wonderful things in another part of it. It’s messy, but it’s true.

No one is saying that a person who chooses to be a carnivore (and
omnivore is what they mean when they say that, I’m sure, as they
wouldn’t survive as carnivores) cannot ever be compassionate. I’m not even
saying that people who eat animals are incapable of compassion toward
animals. For instance, they might adore cats and dogs and do great work
in the service of cats and dogs (i.e., cat and dog people, as opposed to animal people, who don’t discriminate).

However, compassionate, in the phrase that they invented (so this isn’t like "new welfare" and they can’t complain) is modifying carnivore. From CompassionateCarnivore:

are becoming more and more concerned about what happens to their food
before it hits their tables. As an animal-loving, animal-raising,
animal-eating farmer, Catherine Friend tackles the carnivore’s dilemma,
exploring the contradictions, nuances, and questions surrounding the
bewildering choices facing today’s more conscious meat-eaters.

passage correctly describes what compassionate carnivores claim: that
they have found a way to be carnivorous that includes compassion.  They’re not saying you can be carnivorous and help people across a street or be a hospice worker (contrary to popular belief?). They’re saying you can be carnivorous–and you can love animals–while taking everything from them, including their lives. And I’m saying is I object to that claim and find their phrase to be riddled with contradiction.

I could get into things like:

  • "what happens to their food," as I believe the author means "what we do to animals while annihilating them to create what we call food."
  • Oh, and "it," which is really referring to dead animals. "Them" would be better.
  • Then I also might have a wee bit of a problem with "animal-loving . . . farmer." If you kill those you love, what do you do to those you don’t love, I wonder?
  • And of course, "meat-eaters" would be improved by calling them "animal" eaters, I think.

But again, I won’t get into all that.

Not to get all Gary Francione on you, but does compassionate pedophile make sense? Does compassionate rapist make sense? Do we say compassionate vegan?
No, because compassion is inherent in veganism. It isn’t inherent in
carnivorism, but certain people think they’ve found a way to change
that, and all I’m doing is taking them to task and saying that there’s
a reason we don’t put those two next to each other, and their
rationale doesn’t overcome that. I’m simply saying it doesn’t work.

So what’s with all of the defensive people telling me (or each other) about all of the
ways their own actions demonstrate compassion (and they do!) toward others,
yet they eat animals (they’ll say "meat"), therefore they really are
compassionate carnivores and it’s not an oxymoron? Do they not
understand the basics of grammar?

With all that said, people who claim to have compassion toward
animals (or "love" for them) while killing and eating them really ought to examine
that notion a bit more closely and ask themselves exactly how that
compassion is manifesting itself. Torturing someone a tad less is the
reality of compassionate carnivores. And if you don’t need to torture
them at all, or take their lives at all, it’s a tough concept to

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS