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Is meat eating an act of violence?
by Renato Pichler, President Swiss Union for Vegetarianism
Violence toward animals is today so commonplace that it is even subsidized with tax funds. Virtually no-one would allege that a slaughterhouse is a place of peace. But just as few are the opinion that the violence committed toward the so-called “economically useful animals” (live-stock) could contribute to the level of violence displayed between humans.
A glance at the goings on inside the slaughterhouses are proof enough that meat production without use of violence is simply not possible. The killing of sentient fellow creatures is practiced x-times daily. Most humans are in comfortable denial of this fact (“It’s not that bad” / “there’s nothing we can do about it” / “one has to kill, in order to live” etc.).
“Meat production” as an exceptional case
Meat production holds a privileged position in our society despite the obvious violence inflicted towards our fellow creatures. It is the only completely legal use of violence resulting in death(1), which is not only socially accepted, but also promoted by society (distribution of state subsidies and financially supported by our society through meat sales). It is viewed simply as “unavoidable”, just like human deaths during times of war.
The “suffering” amongst humans, which would result from the renouncement of the systematic use of violence toward “live-stock” through the renouncement of meat consumption, is socially classified as worse than the suffering endured by the animals being slaughtered.
Interestingly enough, psychologists repeatedly discuss the possibility of whether violent computer games are causing children to become cruel. Even though the killings in such games, however realistically portrayed, are only fictitious, contrary to the real killings of animals, the violence against animals is only seldom integrated into the prevention of cruelty. However, at least those experts dealing daily with human violence, currently see a close relationship between violence toward animals and violence toward humans(2).
In Florida there is an independent police unit(3) which deals exclusively with violence toward animals and that with similar harshness as with social violence between humans. The reason: FBI investigations found that there was a similarity amongst nearly all serial murderers: They all (usually already as children) were violent toward animals. Once a basis of violence was laid, it is difficult to limit these only to certain forms of life, or situations. This is the case for those who torture animals and later humans, just like soldiers, who were trained to kill and later have to return to civilian life. Of-course not every soldier who had to kill many humans in war times becomes a mass murderer in civilian life but psychologically they are forced to carry an enormous load (the suicide rate of former soldiers of war is very high: the willingness to use violence is directed against oneself).
Violence should be avoided in all forms, since it is difficult to tolerate violence within some situations and to condemn it at the same time in other situations. There was a reason why the peace fighters Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, Albert Einstein etc. refused to eat animals, precisely in order to avoid the necessary violence associated with meat production. If one is against practicing violence, then one morally cannot oblige others (e.g. butchers) to commit violence. Peace-loving humans therefore cannot condemn violence between humans and simultaneously look the other way when violence is inflicted toward animals.
“We take all forms of violence very seriously. We believe that violence between humans is an escalation of violence toward animals. … Animals can represent human victims. Their faces show pain, suffering, they bleed and they die. They can be more easily procured and controlled, and the punishment for the cruel acts inflicted upon them are less severe.”
Alan Brantley, FBI Supervisory Special Agent in the national Headquarters of violent crime analysis(4)
“All those accustomed to regarding living organisms as generally worthless, run the risk of concluding that also human life is worthless.” Dr. Albert Schweitzer
This article is a revised excerpt from the more extensive, not yet publish article “Pazifismus” (“Pacifism”) by Renato Pichler.
1. Hunting is a special case, which in earlier times was practiced in order to provide meat.
2. Juvenile Justice bulletin: “Animal Abuse and Youth Violence”, September 2001, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the US-Justice Department.
3. Vegi info. 1999/3: Police constable in the service of the animals.
4. Quoted in: Animal Abuse & Human Abuse: Partners in Crime (German version)
Link: Human Abuse—Cruelty to Animals
Link: PETA: Animal Abuse & Human Abuse: Partners in Crime
Link: Swiss Union for Vegetarianism
Link: The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence
Other EVANA-articles about this topic:
Cruelty has cursed the human family for countless ages. (en)
¿Comer carne constituye un acto de violencia? (es)
Ist Fleischessen gewalttätig? (de)