Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Regarding The Consumption of Factory Farmed Meats Fish. A commentary on a Time Magazine Article from 2014

Credit: Time Magazine reprint for educational purposes. Commentary in bold.
May 13, 2014

Like it or not, you're a carnivore. (wrong: Humans are omnivores) You can eat meat or you can pass it up, but either way, spare yourself any moral agony (remain deluded and in denial) — a new study confirms our brains are hardwired to justify such decisions to ourselves. Clever release from responsibility to the realities of factory farming and mass cruelty.

If a cow could eat you, it would. It wouldn’t give a hoot about your feelings. It wouldn’t kill you quickly or humanely and it certainly wouldn’t worry about whether it was right to make a meal of you in the first place. It would ask itself one question: Am I hungry? If the answer was yes, you’d be lunch. Another subtle justification for factory farming of cows?

In that one way, at least, the carnivorous cow would be smarter than we are. The hard truth is, we eat meat, we love meat, and our bodies are built to digest meat. It would be nice if we could pick the stuff off the trees, but we can’t. So apologies to goats and pigs and cows and chickens and fish and lobster and shrimp and all the other scrumptious (opinionated) stuff that flies and walks and swims, but you’re goin’ down. (Typical American arrogance mixed with socially acceptable humor)

(Ah yes but for the rationale)

That, of course, is the primal, flesh-craving part of our brain talking. But other parts—our softer, cuddlier, morally tormented parts—are consumed by guilt over taking a life to make a meal. The only way to reconcile our minds, to say nothing of our menus, is either to go vegan—try that for a week—or to convince ourselves that despite the critter murder we effectively endorse every time we tuck into a pork chop or a chicken salad, we are still somehow decent, somehow good. That takes some fancy ethical footwork. (juicy rationalization)

The main dodge we usually rely on is the “animals can’t think so they never know what hit them” excuse. (Nobody with half a brain thinks this) That may well be true when you get below a certain point on the cognitive scale. As no less a figure than Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer—whose 1975 book Animal Liberation launched the animal rights movement—told me in an interview a few years ago: “I think there’s very little likelihood that oysters, mussels and clams have any consciousness, so it’s defensible to eat them.”

That case gets harder to make as you climb the critter ladder, and even chickens—as sublimely dumb a bird as ever lived (making assumptions and judgement about chicken species) —must have at least a dim light flickering upstairs, never mind pigs or even octopi that exhibit complex behaviors and a certain cleverness. But as a new study published in Current Directions in Psychological Science shows, we’ve found ways around that problem too. (The same way we rationalize pumping gasoline fumes, coal fumes, dumping toxic waste in pristine rivers lakes and streams)

In a series of experiments and surveys, a team led by research psychologist Steve Loughnan of the University of Melbourne confirmed that while people across a broad range of cultures agree that the more mindful an animal is, the less defensible it is to eat it, we have a convenient way of deciding which critters think and which don’t. If you like beef, you’re more inclined to believe cows can’t think; if you eat only fish, you’re likelier to see cattle as conscious, while the salmon on your plate was probably a non-conscious nincompoop.

That handy reasoning even works in an ex post facto way. Loughnan found that a subject who had just eaten beef and was then asked about cow consciousness tended to rate it low, while someone who had just eaten nuts gave cows more credit. We justify food even after we’ve already consumed it. We do something similar with any animal that either through charisma or companionability has achieved a sort of most favored fauna status. So a hamburger is fine, but a horse burger? We’re not barbarians. Ditto shark fin versus dolphin fin soup, and turkey versus, say, eagle for Thanksgiving.

None of this ethical expedience is necessarily a bad thing; indeed it’s a necessary skill for a species with a conscience like ours trying to make its way in a morally ambiguous (there is nothing morally ambiguous about the cruelty found in factory farming - it's simply wrong bad and evil) world. But we shouldn’t pretend it’s more than expedience. The vegetarian’s truth is no more legitimate than the pescetarian’s or the red-in-fang carnivore’s. (also wrong. Who paid for this article, the "red-fanged" meat industry?) We can all agree that gratuitously subjecting animals to suffering is a bad thing, and it’s the rare human who could look at unnaturally fat chickens or pigs in cages or crates that barely allow them to move without thinking that we’ve gone terribly wrong somewhere. (Ya think?) Still, in most cases, we make our own (insane rationalization border-lining on psychopathy) peace in our own way with what’s on our own plates. Pay your own check and the meal is up to you. (In other words Time Magazine's writer give America permission to eat anything for any reason consequences be damned.)

This is a clear "get out of jail free card" article. I suspect it would please meat packing industry people while moving reluctant vegans and vegetarians to think twice about eating meat in a strangely serreptitious manner. I'm a reluctant vegan. I admit I eat meat occasionally when cravings for it exceed my ability to resist. But I maintain a constant effort to fill my vegan kitchen with cuisine that is expanding in variety and delectability; recipes that could seduce even the most addicted carnivore in order to replace the cravings for meat. In other words I seduce myself away from eating meat by discovering inventing or otherwise obtaining recipes that distract and entice if not seduce my senses completely away from the abject cruelty of the industrial cruelty of the meat industry, not to mention the significant health and wellness aspects of a well rounded Vegan / Vegetarian diet. When I cave the meat I generally go for the faceless sea creatures like scallops clams and oysters mentioned above. However they are some of the most questionably healthy foods. They are completely unverifiable for how clean they are. As questionable as they are they are always a gamble in terms of nutrition and toxicity. This goes for the beef chicken and other creatures but the controls on their environment are more rigid. Although we manage to over-control them with antibiotics and hormones. If you can afford it we can choose grass fed and corn finished for fat content beef but that's becoming less affordable for the average person to buy.

If we were to pay for the remediation of all the pollution that is caused by an automobile at the time of purchase it is estimated that the cost of the vehicle would increase 1000% or more. To take care of livestock animals and harvest them without cruelty must be on par with this idea. As our world conscious desire for decadent yet affordable meats and sea creatures there will always be an unscrupulous person company or major corporation willing to fill that need. Even if it is at the expense of the environment, your personal health and the future of the planet. So yes, "Pay your own check and the meal is up to you..." However the bottom line is responsibility to all species the evolution of your soul the planet, your kids grandchildren and future generations is up to you.

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