I read an article titled “Why I Farm” in the Mother Earth February 2007 edition. In his article Bryan Welch explains his animals are his friends and they live wonderful lives on his farm in the spring, and in the fall he kills his friends and eats them. As for me, I much prefer the morals of George Bernard Shaw who says,
“Animals are my friends and I don’t eat my friends.”
Later I read a section in the Mother Earth June 2007 edition titled “Is it kinder to not eat meat?” In this section one of the readers of Welch’s article states that after not eating animals for some time he decided, but with questions, to resume eating animals. He went on to praise Welch for his wonderful article in which he especially liked the phrase, ‘caring but not sentimental,’ regarding those who raise animals for their flesh. It’s a good thing there are leaders for followers to follow.
Another reader stated Welch’s attempt to justify his actions on spiritual grounds defies all logic. In my opinion, trying to understand or explain the things humans believe and do logically isn’t the best strategy. Welch responds to her letter and suggests her choice to not kill animals is admirable, but reminds her that creatures die even when we grow food. He points out animals die because of plowing fields and planting food. This, says Welch, deprives many animals of their homes and furthermore deprives many more animals of being born because their would-be parents have been displaced by fields of food. HUH? What peculiar thinking. Ten billion animals are slaughtered in the United States each year. I wonder if billions of animals are run over by tractors in the fields, perhaps millions, well—maybe thousands. It is obvious to a thinker that there is no comparison in the fields and the slaughter houses.
He also points out people ask him how he can eat his own animals. This keenly illustrates that it’s common for people to think there’s a difference in eating animals and killing them. In this culture people have managed to convince themselves the bad person is the one who does the killing and the ones who buy them in plastic wrap and eat them are guilt free. This is not unlike the slave owners who despised the slave traders for what they did.
Finally he poses a question asking if his lifestyle choice is ‘more or less egregious’ than the vegan lifestyle choice. Let me think about this—in the fall he finds his friends, slits their throats, peels off their skin and eats them.
For some reason Welch decided to write and publish his article on his lifestyle; and at least one person was encouraged to go back to eating animals–although he indicated he is still not sure it is right for him. I thought it only reasonable to elaborate on the opposite perspective; the perspective which is rooted in the ideal that we don’t have the self-given right to exploit other living creatures. A superior morality is based on ethics which are not human-centric, but rights-centric. This ethic allows us to recognize animals have lives, they have emotions, they raise families and they are our companions on this planet. It allows us to understand that although animals are not the same as us they have the same right to their proper life. Just ask a serious pet owner, vegetarian or meat eater, what they think about their pet. You will usually find they will identify and describe a life similar to ours. In fact if you didn’t know you may find it impossible to differentiate between a story about an animal and a story about a human. I chose not to eat animals in my first year of adulthood. I don’t contribute to the farming of animals because for me…it’s wrong; and it’s indefensible, no matter how many people say it’s right.
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” ~Thomas Paine.
In this commentary I would like to elaborate on the reasons I think are most important.
Ethics: The first is ‘morals.’ I choose not to take advantage of others. Of all the species on this planet we are the only ones able to choose; and with this privilege is the responsibility to make a rational choice. To me it comes down to a single virtue and a single rule which can only exist in humans—but this virtue is not sufficiently evident in most humans, and seems to be missing in some. Humankind must embrace this virtue and learn to live by this single rule if our species is ever to achieve its potential. And if this ever happens there would be no corruption, no killing and no poverty and we won’t need government, the police or the military. The virtue I speak of is ‘fairness,’ and the rule is, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ People complain if anyone bigger, stronger or smarter takes advantage of them, but the same people don’t seem to hesitate to pick on those weaker than they.
“For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” ~Pythagoras.
If Pythagoras was right I guess some people aren’t going to know real love and joy.
Health: The second reason is for better health. It’s common knowledge the consumption of animal products is a significant contributor to disease and death. Heart failure, stroke and cancer, the major causes of death in this country, are related to people eating animals. And it is extremely common to read in books regarding children’s health, that a major cause of ear infection and allergy are dairy products. I have read most of the antibiotics used in this country are used on animals, and we are approaching a serious crisis because many bacteria have developed antibiotic resistance; if a family member gets an infection which could be life threatening, the chance of fighting it with antibiotics is diminishing. The medical community reports indicate many thousands of people die from antibiotic-resistant infections. Animals carry disease causing organisms which cause sickness and death in the human population. Tens of millions of people become ill and thousands die due to consumption of foods contaminated because of the animal industry. As I am writing this many tons of contaminated animal products are being recalled—again; and as these animal products are being returned through the back door people are walking in the front door to buy more to feed their children.
Environment: The third reason would be in favor of a better environment for our children. The production of animals for consumption is damaging the environment; it’s polluting the air, the water and the land. Universities are researching some of these problems, such as the high concentrations of manure particles in the air getting into the lungs and then the blood stream. This can cause adverse reactions in humans; coincidentally problems with asthma have increased in epidemic proportion. Land is being ruined and waterways are being polluted with runoff from untreated manure. There are mountains of manure spread out across the country, but if one person was caught dumping solid waste from humans on the ground, they would be prosecuted. Animals produce much more waste than humans and it is more toxic to the environment. Statistics from EPA indicate over 70% of the rivers are polluted beyond safe levels. A recent tragedy with spinach contamination was reported to be the result of animal runoff getting to the fields where the food was growing. If you look at some of the large feedlots you will plainly see why there are such problems, but most people don’t see these.
“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.” ~Albert Schweitzer.
Animal production is also very inefficient. It is common to hear comparisons like sixteen times more land is required to produce a pound of beef than a pound of grain. This wastes a lot of land and water which is bad news when you hear talk of critical water shortages by the years 2020-2025. Large corporations are already trying to gain control of water supplies, and it’s not so they can properly manage it to the best interest of the population.
Humanity: The fourth reason is for the sake of improving humanity. My personal belief is humankind will never evolve to its potential until we can choose to stop exploiting. Humans always have and apparently will continue to exploit humans, animals and everything else possible. Personally, I suggest to anyone who would like to live in a world without war, violence, corruption, fear, poverty, sickness and exploitation to consider whether participating in the constant violence perpetuated against the animal kingdom and the environment is the right course to follow. People are taught the contradictory behavior of claiming to be compassionate and at the same time abusing the animal kingdom. It seems this would cause a somewhat sociopathic perception to be able to live with such dichotomy.
“The highest realms of thought are impossible to reach without first attaining an understanding of compassion.” ~Socrates (470- 399 BCE) Philosopher and Teacher.
I know a lot of people aren’t fully aware of what happens in the process of bringing animal products to the plate, and to what extent, but it is cruel, wasteful, polluting, inefficient, dangerous and degrading. Our culture teaches children to be nice to animals, then to kill animals and eat them. Is that conflicting? Parents tell their children there’s a tooth fairy and a Santa Clause; that rabbits lay eggs for Easter and everybody needs milk. And now they are learning a modern fairy tale—hamburgers grow on plants. But eventually the children learn the truth, although usually from someone else. And usually that someone else is a neighbor’s eight year old child. The bulk of our society looks their children in the eyes and lies to them and eventually another child tells them the truth? When I have talked to adults about this the response so far is 100%, ‘My parents told me those stories and it didn’t hurt me, and I will continue to do the same.’ But, there is no way to know if it hurts us or not.
Only 150 years ago the United States Government proclaimed the slaves emancipated. Too bad the general populous of that time couldn’t have taken credit for understanding the inhumanity of slavery and choosing to abolish it. Turns out, human slavery was sacrificed by the government to aid the effort in the Civil War. How do you explain the behavior of those Americans? The same way you explain the behavior of today’s Americans. Where those Americans wrong? There were some voices against slavery, but not enough. Are today’s cultures wrong? There are some voices against animal abuse, but again—not enough! The fact is people born into each generation are taught, and accept whatever is acceptable to their culture—right or wrong. And the majority never changes, even when they suspect it is wrong.
“Custom will reconcile people to any atrocity, and fashion will drive them to acquire any custom.” ~George Bernard Shaw.
From a strictly rational viewpoint producing animals for humans to consume is foolish; it is inhumane, unhealthy, expensive and wasteful. It’s not rationally defensible! I haven’t personally met anyone who could defend their choice to eat animals in a rational manner. I have met many who said they don’t eat much or they would like to give it up. And I have met a few who only had emotion and ego to support their desire to eat animals. You can usually pick that up in the level of hostility in their response. In four decades of being vegetarian several people have told me they would like to stop eating animals, but there was always someone in their family who would make it difficult for them. It was usually women who made this statement. Perhaps women are more sensitive to being exploited for obvious reasons, but don’t feel able to stand up for what they feel is right, for obvious reasons also.
This summarizes the type of information I have used to support my beliefs. But I have learned, over very many years, this approach generally does very little to persuade others. Fact is most of the points I make; ethical, health, environmental and humanitarian are virtually impossible to argue against—rationally. Most informed people don’t attempt to argue them, but many still get very emotional about it.
Actually if you want to try to influence someone’s choices your best and most effective approach is a predominately emotional appeal. Once a person makes a decision, which is usually emotional, then facts and figures do a wonderful job of justifying and supporting their decision. If someone reads this whose belief system is already in tune with it, they will readily accept it, but if someone reads it who doesn’t already believe it, then their existing belief system will filter it such that it will be rejected, classified irrelevant or at least unimportant, whether it is true and sensible or not. The point is it will be accepted by one and rendered null and void by the other, pretty much as their current belief system dictates, regardless of facts and figures and good old-fashioned common sense and compassion.
The average person just doesn’t have a lot of control over their beliefs and therefore, their choices. I once wondered why people seemed to be locked into the social strata into which they were born. I think it is because whatever image a person develops of his or herself, based on their culture, is a part of their belief system. This belief system and self image filters their reality in such a way as to keep them in their status quo, in their box. And this includes decisions of morality and spirituality as well.
But is one right and one wrong? One person raises friends, kills them and eats them and the other cultivates the soil, raises vegetables and eats them. Is one right, are both right? I have this sneaky suspicion if you randomly selected 100 children between 5 and 10 years of age, put them in a room with one person peeling potatoes and carrots and another person skinning sheep and calves, more of the children would think less of the animal butcher. I think that would be a safe bet.
“Put a rabbit and an apple in a crib with a child. If the child eats the rabbit and plays with the apple I will buy you a new car,” ~Harvey Diamond.
Is there absolute right and wrong? Most will say no, as they are inclined to treat right and wrong as relative concepts. I think this is probably okay as long as no harm is done. But I think there is a point at which an absolute wrong can be done. Can you call someone wrong when they are just doing what they were taught is right? If it’s not wrong to do what you are taught, to do what your culture does, then would it be okay to eat other people as long as it is a cultural choice? Would it be okay to eat an animal while it is still alive? Would you consider a person wrong for beating a dog to death with a bat before eating the dog to enhance one’s virility? How about a tribe raiding a village, murdering the men and stealing and raping the women? What might we think of people whose culture allows drowning baby girls in favor of having sons? In some cultures tying up chickens and pulling off their heads for entertainment is perceived to be okay and in some a crowd of people will carry a goat up several stories and throw it out a window to watch it splat. How about a family sitting down at the table in their nice suburban home to share a sliced up baby cow? Are some of these okay and some not? What if a cannibal comes to this country and eats somebody, is it okay because he was taught it’s okay? Ugly stuff…but real! But, as normal as it is to those raised with it, is it right or is it wrong? If it isn’t wrong for people to do these things, because it’s what they were taught, then it must be right. If it’s right then we should be okay with it—shouldn’t we? Perhaps this is another one of those situations where our ‘relative’ wrongs are okay but theirs aren’t.
In the process of trying to figure out the correct way to live I have developed a vague perception of right and wrong. And I have learned and developed a variety of theories to help understand the actions of humans, myself included. These are theories I consider when trying to understand human behavior, in this case that described by Bryan Welch. Humankind is always in the unique process of creating its own perception of right and wrong. This is done by structuring and restructuring belief systems supporting whatever has evolved to be considered truth. The really interesting point is that once a ‘truth’ is established the belief system will support it, right or wrong. This happens to be part of a mechanism we are born with which aids the survival process. One of the difficult lessons I have learned is ‘truth’ is whatever a society accepts as truth. If you are born into a culture which believes your teeth should be chipped into points with a rock, then your teeth will be pointed and when you have a child your child’s teeth will be pointed. If you are in a family believing you should be Catholic then there is a good chance you will Catholic, and later your children will be too. If you are part of a society which eats a variety of bugs, guess what you’ll eat for snacks. We tend to do just what we are taught; very few search for truth and even fewer change. And it gets worse because societies divide and subdivide truths anytime it is convenient. Just go to a couple dozen of hundreds of different churches, it will soon become evident. So this creates a dilemma for a few, how does one determine what is absolutely right, if there is such a concept, once it is understood that anything we believe may be, in an absolute sense, wrong?
Does this seem far fetched? At different times and places people have believed, taught and died for incorrect beliefs, or correct beliefs not accepted by society. Did you know Earth is flat; it is supported on the back of a tortoise? You know this is ridiculous because the tortoise would fall down. But actually the tortoise is standing on the back of other tortoises all the way down. Did you know Julius Caesar is part god? Yeah! His mother told him so when he was young. And, as it turns out, Zeus was quite a womanizer in his time. Well, it was all true at one time. ‘Their truth is our literature.’ George Washington contracted some sort of bug that probably wasn’t lethal, but none-the-less he died. He had about three doctors draining his blood until he was too weak to stay alive. The doctors surely thought they knew the truth, but without their intervention George Washington may not have died at that time. There is an infinite supply of what we may now perceive to be foolishness in history, but sadly there is also an infinite supply of the same foolishness in contemporary cultures everywhere. Turns out this ‘historical foolishness’ I refer to was at one time ‘contemporary truth.’ It seems through all time and all places, people are generally only able to detect the foolishness in others. Surely the people of every epoch believe they have the ‘truth.’ Just as do the people of the current epoch. And just as surely as the people of each succeeding epoch realize their predecessors were not as wise as they may have thought—so will our successors. Think about it!
The development and maintenance of the belief system is affected by the combination of an innate need to survive, the wish to feel safe and secure and the desire to answer life’s questions. An innate mechanism, controlled by the primitive brain, helps ensure the survival of our species. Another, virtually innate mechanism, the belief system, is passed to us through memes from our environment. This belief system affects our sense of security and our ability to make some sense out of life. It affects our choices and our actions.
During early childhood when the belief system is developing we are almost completely open to anything new. Once the belief system is developed we are almost completely closed to everything new. The brain and nervous system then function to support the belief system by modifying any stimulus which enters the nervous system. The frightening thing is it doesn’t matter if what we believe is based in truth or not. What matters is that it suits us! So ultimately we end up with myriad belief systems, each seeming to be correct and worth dying for. But, they can’t all be right; and possibly can all be wrong. So is it possible to rationally debate the virtues of different lifestyles? Only if there is a point at which it can be agreed there is a difference between right and wrong and it can be defined and agreed to.
Our history is one in which every conceivable wrong has been done and for the most part condoned, even by religion. For me and the minority who believe along the same lines, there is a definite point at which an action is wrong. It is an absolute point. It is at the point of harm. Harm comes in degrees so let’s say ‘wrong’ starts at the point at which the best possible good is not the goal. So, whether the perpetrator knows it is wrong or not—the cannibal eating a neighbor, a rancher slitting an animal’s throat, a corporation polluting the environment or a government official taking money to vote contrary to the public’s best interest—it is wrong, it is causing harm. How can we know if we are doing wrong? One easy test, if you do anything to another you wouldn’t want done to yourself.
One of the difficult lessons I have learned is from a societal perspective to behave ‘correctly’ doesn’t necessarily mean to behave ‘right.’ In a seminar I attended the speaker asked the group to participate. Some of the things she wanted us to do seemed a little too ridiculous to me, so I didn’t participate. I looked around the room and everyone else was doing what she asked. The interesting thing was one of my coworkers said that by not doing what the speaker asked, I appeared to be the oddball, the one in the wrong. Could it have been that I, the oddball, was the only one who was right? Expanding the point a little begs the question, is having a majority agree on something sufficient to call it right?
“The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more often likely to be foolish than sensible. There is no impersonal reason for regarding the interests of human beings as more important than those of animals. We can destroy animals more easily than they can destroy us; that is the only solid basis of our claim to superiority.” ~Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) Humanitarian, Author, Nobel Prize for Literature 1950
Interestingly, even though this group of adults was being coerced to do foolish things, the individuals chose to follow. Certainly, it seems there was no blatant harm done there, but we all know group mentality is not necessarily the best at times, and problems do arise from people just following. So maybe there was harm in that action. I think it is better to be true to oneself than to follow the crowd. In another meeting with this same group of peers another lady told me, although she didn’t think the comments I made on the topic of discussion where politically correct, she agreed with me. Too many of us seem to be more concerned with whether we are speaking something acceptable than speaking something truthful.
Why are people able to live such different lifestyles and why are each able to defend their lifestyle as being right—even to the point of death? Simply—it’s because of our unique beliefs. Our brain and nervous system support our beliefs based on what we are exposed to as children. These beliefs are created for us by our parents, teachers, ministers, television, corporations and so on. Everything we have contact with and how we are taught to perceive our experiences affects the belief systems we develop during childhood. It is not about what we choose to believe, it is about what others teach us to believe. And our brain doesn’t discriminate between true and false or good and bad, it just integrates a belief system. And with this we pursue life, making decisions we think are based on facts and truth and good. A question which troubles me is, ‘how do I have any confidence my choices are good when I know the very basis of my beliefs may be incorrect?’ Some will say ‘why worry about it’? But, I don’t suppose for a moment anyone being acutely harmed by their culture would agree we shouldn’t worry about it.
Can people change their core belief system? Is it impossible or does it just seem that way? I consider the beliefs we are given during childhood to be core beliefs. The set of beliefs we carry into adulthood seems somewhat indelible, and seems to remain a component of our character for life. When a person, after childhood, makes what appears to be a radical change in a belief it may be just an intellectual override. A friend of mine, a vegetarian for thirty-five years once stated if his children were starving he would kill animals to feed them. I wonder; if we took his scenario to the extreme and assumed all the animals had been killed and his children were going to starve would he kill the people next door and feed them to his children. Seems ludicrous at first, but it illustrates a point. He had stated to protect his children he would do what he had decided, as an adult, was wrong—kill and eat animals. He was stating he would go back on his own choice—his own morality. He had made the decision to stop eating animals when he was 21 years of age, although he had never made the decision to eat animals as a child—it was made for him. And very importantly, the decision was made when his belief system was developing. He felt he could kill animals even though as an adult he had made the rational choice that killing and eating animals was wrong. The reason I use the example of killing the people next door is because it has been my experience that ‘normal’ people will only go to the point which their core beliefs allow. This is the point which is set for us in childhood. In his particular case the point set during childhood is, ‘it’s okay to kill animals but not okay to kill humans.’ It seemed on the surface he is willing to do what would be necessary to keep his children from starving, but this is most likely not the case. Not unless he is willing to go all the way and kill people to feed to them. Would he kill the neighbors? I don’t think so. So in actuality he was only willing to do what his mother told him was okay in order to protect his children. In all the years in which I have heard of millions of children starving in other countries, I have never heard of the parents going next door, killing a neighbor and bringing back a leg for the kids to gnaw on. I suspect if you confronted a reformed cannibal with the same scenario you would get the same result. Surely he would revert to killing his neighbors to feed his children. Why? Because his mother told him it was okay when he was a child. Is it impossible to change the core belief system which we are taught as children? We can learn and we can modify our perceptions, actions and reactions, but can we change the belief system our parents gave us? I don’t know, they are very strong.
Some research supports the notion that changing beliefs is nearly impossible. Researchers have concluded that once a child reaches a certain age, their nervous system is pretty much permanently structured and one of its major functions is then to support the beliefs developed in childhood and carried into adulthood. It doesn’t matter if what was learned is right or wrong. Our minds, in accordance with the beliefs we have, will make adjustments that affect how we perceive information, so it will fit the existing belief system.
So, exactly what is it that determines our moral baseline? Is it what we decide as informed adults or is it what mother tells us as children? In the previous example I think the answer is evident, ‘morals seem to be based on what mother says is okay more so than on what we decide as adults.’ I think it may be impossible or nearly impossible to change a belief transcribed into the nervous system during childhood. But if beliefs cannot be changed, then our only hope is to intellectually override our flawed beliefs and teach new and better beliefs to our children. Perhaps someday children will grow up with only the truth and none of their morals will be influenced by tradition, culture and the consumer industry. Until then as we continue to condition the minds of our children to match our belief systems, we will continue to perpetuate the myths.
What is this conditioning and how effective is it? One of my brothers once insisted that we not tell his young daughter where her food was coming from, and it wasn’t the vegetables he was worried about. We have to be taught at an early age to behave a certain way, to eat the specific animals we eat; those unique to each individual’s culture. It is interesting that people in one culture will spurn those in other cultures for eating animals they decide shouldn’t be eaten. That seems blatantly hypocritical, but it is common. I met a lady who will stop watching a movie if an animal is portrayed as being hurt, and then go to the kitchen and put a rack of ribs in the oven. I knew a fellow who would fight with you to defend an owl or an eagle and then go home and eat a chicken. I have seen people sitting at an event promoting the protection of greyhound dogs, while eating a hotdog. A woman was seeking donations to save the Mustangs and handing out coupons to a beef restaurant in town. And I have heard parents tell a child to be nice to the cat or dog; then tell them to eat the chicken, fish or pig on their plate. How can anyone not perceive this as hypocritical? In a culture such as ours shouldn’t a child be allowed to bring home an abandoned dog or cat, stab it in the chest, peel the skin off and throw it on the BBQ? Shouldn’t the child be able to do this in a society which eats animals every day, especially a child who has graduated from FFA? Shouldn’t this be okay in a society where people make a vocation out of mass producing, killing and preparing animals for consumption? At least the child wouldn’t be hypocritical. Fact is, it would be terrible, but so is the rest of it. Most people have learned to look at it through a specific cultural filter. A filter which turns this wrong into a ‘perceived’ right.
The mind has to be conditioned for the exploitation of animals or humans. Considering slavery, there has always been some who believed it wrong, but obviously there have been enough people who thought it sufficiently correct to maintain this horrific institution throughout history. The fact no well-balanced, right thinking person could condone such a practice is obvious, but it existed just the same, and it still does. So what is the answer to this puzzle? How is it, a new country made up largely of freedom seekers, the majority of which claimed to be Christian, supported such an institution? The answer is quite simple—childhood conditioning. The correct perception has to be created at an early age for the child to fit into the acceptable societal pattern. Just as those who participated in or otherwise supported slavery had to be conditioned from childhood, our children have to be conditioned to slaughter and eat animals. Why do they put animal flesh in infant’s food, if not to condition them to the taste? Yes, the taste buds need to be conditioned also. Researchers have demonstrated that the tastes infants learn to like influence what they prefer throughout life. What is the purpose of organizations such as FFA and 4H, if not to condition tender hearts to carry on the merciless task of exploiting innocent animals? Why are the medical and educational institutions able to promote eating animals? The people in these institutions have been conditioned by what their mothers taught them so their judgment is also skewed in that direction by their belief systems. What a mother teaches her child is powerful. Doctors can be educated on and observe first hand the detrimental effects of poor diet, smoking and drinking and still participate in that lifestyle. Why? Because their belief system tells them it is okay. The information that comes their way will be classified as worthwhile or not worthwhile based on their early training.
Some think we are in the age of enlightenment; humankind has arrived at the pinnacle. And those before us were by comparison, ignorant and devoid of the opportunity for true happiness which is ours alone because we live in the age of technology and understanding. Well, I suspect in a few hundred years our successors will think the same about us. Their history books will tell them we aren’t anywhere near the advanced, civilized humans we think we are. And they will conclude they are the enlightened generation. Are we enlightened? Are we any better off than people were a couple hundred years ago? We have wonderful x-ray machines, but some suggest using these machines for medical diagnostics and treatment may be causing disease. Antibiotics are becoming useless from misuse. The energy being generated by communication technology is interfering with radio astronomy. We have fast food and we have obesity, heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. We have the most food and the major killers in this country are related to diet. We have disease and unsatisfactory health care. We have a few rich and way too much poverty. And we have the internet with stats which indicate most of the top 100 search categories are related to sex. Medical science is still treating breast cancer the way it did in 1800—mastectomies. And dentists are still drilling holes and packing them with something, hopefully not as bad as mercury. There is uncontrolled corruption in government and business, countries continue to make war, there is on going genocide, mobs, gangs and domestic violence. We haven’t arrived anywhere; we just have more stuff. And I’m not so sure we are all that enlightened or happy. In fact, maybe we have less to be proud of because we should know better now.
So what about those people who sense their morals to be less than satisfactory? What about all those people who told me they would like to stop eating animals? Will they be able to do what they claim they want? In a world where right and wrong seem to be relative and subject to change with time and place—and the wind, is there any virtue in trying to do right? It’s not like you will be praised for doing the right things. But, you will be praised if you figure out how to make yourself rich producing some gadget that is interesting to play with for awhile, even if producing it causes destruction to life and environment. In this country a person doesn’t have to strive for moral excellence, but a few will. Personally, I am thankful for the few who do because if humankind ever looses what little humanity and compassion it has, this will soon be an unfit place to live.
I know this; society is what we and our predecessors have made of it. There are a lot of problems in this country. There is poverty, disease, crime, fear and insecurity. After the people in America came through the depression and WW2 there may have been a special time in America’s history. Perhaps the government wasn’t so big and so corrupt it couldn’t function somewhat on behalf of the public. Perhaps the mood was right. I think I grew up in America’s heyday, the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. It was a time when one adult working was common and was enough to raise a family of seven in comfort. I know I was fortunate. Although my father was a relatively poor man we went to new schools, lived in a new home and could go get jobs in local manufacturing businesses. We could buy things ‘made in America.’ In those days you had to work for what you wanted, and if you did you could do okay. Well it has changed and I blame about 90 percent of the problems on our politicians and the rest on us. And this is because I think most of us realize whatever is going on in the higher levels of government and big business stinks—but we do nothing about it.
Most of the problems humans are facing are due to the inability of societies to do what is right, regardless. A lot of people are willing to take advantage of others, but they shouldn’t. Unfortunately, there are many who take advantage of animals and people. We in the working class, the tax paying citizens end up paying for all the unchecked white collar crime and corporate welfare. Huge corporations poison our water, air, land and food, while making their families wealthy, and people still idolize the CEO’s. Our educational institutions sell out to the highest bidding advertisers. The medical and pharmaceutical industries are a fearful combination. American businesses buy from foreign countries, where it is suspected work conditions may resemble slave camps, and then sell the products to working class Americans. All the while the working class is thinking they are doing quite well because they can, seemingly, afford to by all this ‘inexpensive’ stuff. Meanwhile the corporation owners are becoming the richest people in the world. How many instances of this kind of inhumanity are there? Our world has lots of problems. In the case of animal farmers the contribution to pollution, disease, suffering and inhumanity is part of the choice. There is more to the choice to farm animals than just treating your friends nicely until you slit their throats and eat their flesh. This is an industry that does harm to animals, humans and the environment. But, for and industry to exist there has to be people willing to do what has to be done to provide the product and there has to be people willing to buy it. And there seems to be plenty of both.
With all the problems of mankind from birth defects, poverty, violence, crime, corruption, disease, suffering and early death, it seems we need to ask if we are right or wrong. It must be obvious to us something is peculiar about the way we view life when in the midst of all the negative things I have mentioned, and I only scratched the surface, we tend to go through the days saying, ‘have a nice day,’ or ‘it’s a wonderful world.’ You don’t have to look very far to figure out it just isn’t so. Should we continue to contribute to our own demise and the demise of posterity or should we change? Change starts with the individual. If individuals can’t do the right things then neither can the government, corporations or any country. Where does this leave humankind? If you pay attention to what is going on then you already have the answer to that.
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ~Count Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910) Russian Novelist, Poet, Ethicist.
The things which were familiar to me over fifty years ago are pretty much gone. And that will be okay, if the future holds something better—but I don’t see it. It’s somewhat scary for me to watch this country make the changes it has because I have children and grandchildren. If it worries you, perhaps you may ask if you are doing the best you can. Does it matter? I absolutely believe there is no person or body of persons who are capable of doing what is right for their country, their business, their society or their family while exploiting others; animals or humans. I do not believe anyone can detach from the abuse and suffering in one area of their life and be truly caring and compassionate in another.
“As long as human beings shed the blood of animals, there will never be peace. There is only one little step from killing animals to creating gas chambers a la Hitler and concentration camps a la Stalin. All such deeds are done in the name of ‘social justice.’ There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is.” ~Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904 – 1991) Author, Nobel Laureate for Literature 1978.
I know of no justification for raising and killing animals. We don’t need to exploit them for anything; of this I am absolutely confident. But we do need them for something, their companionship and their help. Over the last four decades I have met many people who participate in the misery of the animal killing industry as consumers, and most of these people don’t share the confidence that what they do is right. I have a few relatives who will say, “Gimme meat to eat, yeah I need to kill something.” But I attribute that to their attempt to act manly or tough—you would have to meet them.
In this country we are free to pretty much do what we want within the framework of our laws and morals. And that is what we do, pretty much what we want. But look at where it has gotten us. In our culture we like to think we are compassionate and caring. But in reality we aren’t much different than our predecessors, just a little more technological. We learn to view our cultural choices and actions through our cultural belief system. This system of beliefs is designed to allow us to fit into our culture. It filters our reality so it is possible to justify whatever is normal for the time and place, whether it be white supremacy, male superiority, slavery or animal exploitation. That is what we are given so our conscience can survive. No one asks us how we want to be, we are taught how to be. Sure we can go out and choose a religion or a vocation and we think we are free to be whatever we want. And we are…as long as it fits in the confines of whatever we are taught. But if you look carefully you will notice people don’t stray too far from what they were taught, whether it be the religion or the class of work they choose. I used to wonder why people tended to stay in the financial strata they were raised in. Now it is clear, it is where we ‘believe’ we belong.
We are not alone in the folly of our ways. For example, there are other cultures where the thought of fornication is almost ‘taboo’ but in truth fornication is quite common there. Unfortunately for those people AIDS is at epidemic proportions because they’re doing what everyone acts like they’re not doing. What is worse is when someone is afflicted, usually women, they may be ostracized by their own family as if they were doing something out of the norm. Such a shame, and they want to act like there is nothing going on. Sadly, they con only themselves in this way. Just as we con only ourselves in the way we do.
So I think we should consider whether we want to follow along with what we were taught as children or make our own choices based on the desire to achieve the best outcome for ourselves and children. We should face the facts; we live in a consumer society and what we learn more than anything are consumer ethics. I don’t approve of this and I choose to not participate when possible, although it is getting tougher all the time. Just try to buy American. The American companies head for other countries and the store buyers buy foreign. What can you do?
It may be impossible to rationally answer the question, is there right and wrong? If it is true that the very definition of right and wrong is redefined for each generation by itself, how can we know? But for me, I will continue to do the best I can, I will try to do no harm to people or animals. And maybe my only justification is I wouldn’t want anyone or anything taking advantage of me, but for me this is enough. Perhaps some can better understand the concept of taking advantage by considering those who are getting wealthy at our expense. What do you think of a huge corporation that will knowingly damage the health of the people in a community in the process of making their billions of dollars? Or CEO’s who will take multi-millions of dollars from a corporation while the employees can barely afford to pay rent? How do you like the government that will do what it wants while ruining our way of life? What do you think of a 240 lb. man who will beat up a 150 lb. woman? What about a person who will take advantage of a helpless animal?
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” ~Albert Einstein.