On Animal Abuse

I’m currently reading Neither Man Nor Beast by Carol J. Adams, a feminist and animal rights activist. She is best known for her ability to tie significant social justice issues together to show the intersectionality of all who remain oppressed in our society. I have also read one of her earlier, and perhaps more famous books, The Sexual Politics of Meat. Both of these books work to bring the animal and women’s rights movements together to see the similarities between the types of oppression they are fighting.

Among the many new things I’ve learned from reading Adams’ books, I learned the other day that hunters are more likely to be domestic abusers. While, this was no surprise to me, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about this data before. I was also surprised when, upon telling people this somewhat obvious fact, there was a lot of hesitancy and discomfort in response. People are quick to say: Well, not every hunter hits their spouse and/or children. That’s true, but that wasn’t what I was asserting. The fact remains that it is a risk factor and a red-flag for women to look out for when finding a partner.

This new information and the reactions I got regarding it, led me to think more deeply about the ways in which our society categorizes animal abuse. I can’t think of anyone who would openly claim to support animal abuse, yet the vast majority of human beings take part in it every day. You might find yourself disagreeing at this point, and if so, I’d like to ask you how you define animal abuse. Wikipedia defines animal abuse as: the infliction by omission (neglect) or by commission by humans of suffering or harm upon any non-human animal. The Humane Society’s definition says animal abuse, “encompasses a range of behaviors harmful to animals, from neglect to malicious killing.” It goes on to clarify: Intentional cruelty can run the gamut from knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter, socialization or veterinary care to maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating or killing an animal.

You’ll notice that these definitions are broad and include the majority of interactions that the human race has with our animal brethren. (I am including the eating of animal flesh as interaction, although most people would not consciously consider eating a hamburger to be interacting with an animal.) Hunting certainly falls into the category of animal abuse by these definitions, does it not? Animal abuse definitions are not offering exceptions based on “intention” or “purpose” of the abuse. You’ll notice that there is no footnote indicating that these things are okay if we consume or display the carcass of the animal afterwards.

It never ceases to amaze me when the internet goes wild about the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, while in the same day, the same people will sit down to several meals of meat. How is a dog different than a pig or a cow? It’s not intelligence. It’s not friendliness. It’s not inherent value as a living being. It’s simply a difference in cultural brainwashing. Realizing this makes the opposition to another culture’s meat eating practices, while excluding our own, problematic if not outright racist.

However, getting back to the issue of animal abuse as a warning sign for violence towards other humans, I’d like to know how psychologists would explain this connection, given our culture’s general acceptance and inclusion of daily practices that cause harm and death to animals. It seems like most people know about the early warning signs of future serial killers, pychopaths, sociopaths, etc. One of the main ones is torturing or killing animals.

If the psychological issues that these warning signs reflect are lack of empathy, violence, aggression, lack of impulse control, and the like, I don’t know how we would be able to make distinctions between these random acts of animal abuse and culturally acceptable forms such as hunting and meat eating. If, on the other hand, the psychological problem that animal abuse in childhood reflects a disregard for socially unacceptable acts, then I can see that distinction making more sense. Although, I don’t believe that is the case.

Whether we realize it or not, I believe there is evidence for negative social outcomes in regard to all forms of animal abuse, even if it is condoned by our society. There is more and more data coming out every day about the detrimental mental health effects of working in a slaughterhouse. Many workers have even developed PTSD from these jobs. Slaughterhouse employees are also, unsurprisingly, more likely to commit acts of domestic violence. One researcher even discovered that towns with slaughterhouses have higher crime rates in general:

Amy Fitzgerald, a criminology professor at the University of Winsor in Canada, has found a strong correlation between the presence of a slaughterhouse and high crime rates in U.S. communities. One might object that a slaughterhouse town’s disproportionate population of poor, working-class males might be the real cause. But Fitzgerald controlled for that possibility by comparing her data to countries with comparable populations employed in factory-like operations. In her study from 2007, the abattoir stood out as the factory most likely to spike crime statistics. Slaughterhouse workers, in essence, were ‘desensitized,’ and their behavior outside of work reflected it.

The Green Star Project

Ultimately, the age old saying, “violence begets violence,” holds true. There is no way to escape this simple fact. Whether you choose to identify it as such, hunting animals, as well as purchasing their bodies from the grocery store, is violence. It will negatively affect you and our society regardless of how hard we try to blind ourselves to that truth. Karma has never appeared to me so clearly as with the results of eating animals. The human races’ mass scale animal abuse has and continues to contribute to all of humanity’s ailments whether they be illness such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, global warming, racism, misogyny, domestic violence, or crime overall.

We will never be able to accomplish world peace if we continue to sit down to dinners of corpses each night. Humanity supports itself through suffering, domination, and death. How then can we still wonder why there is so much hatred and violence in the world? It is there because we perpetuate it every day, because we have already closed our hearts to those most vulnerable.

Truth! #govegan #vegansofinstagram #mercyforanimals #loveanimals #repost  @pauline.dagonneau ・・・ For the animals ❤️

Asking the Wrong Questions

As a vegan, I am endlessly asked questions about my lifestyle. Even though I find them aggravating and tedious to answer over and over again, I always try to stay friendly and informative. After all, while I’ve answered these questions a million times, it may be the first time the person I’m talking to has had the chance to ask anyone.

For example, a coworker asked me roughly, “Isn’t it difficult to be vegan?” Frankly, the answer is no. It might be somewhat challenging to adjust to at first, as any lifestyle change would be. But after a few months it is ridiculously easy. It’s not even something I have to think about. Especially now when there are so very many vegan options available. Even without those “fake” meats and replacement foods, you simply learn about all the naturally vegan dishes other cultures have been enjoying without even thinking to label them “vegan.” It’s just food. People seem to forget that the majority of everyone’s diet, vegan or not, should be mainly fruits, grains, and vegetables anyway.

After getting flustered and anxiously trying to express all of this in a clear concise way, it dawned on my just how irrelevant this question and it’s answer really are. Whether the answer is yes or no ultimately does not matter. The right question is whether or not it’s worth it. No one ever asks that.

I think from now on I am going to start redirecting those who question me toward the more important questions rather than directly answering the ones they ask. Even if veganism was hard, I’d still choose to be vegan. I mean, like I said, it was hard in the beginning and I wasn’t aware back then that it’d get easier. Whether or not it’d be easy had no bearing on my decision to change my life. I changed because it was the right thing to do. It was the only way for me to live in accordance with my morals and core beliefs. It was the only peaceful, compassionate path forward.

How ludicrous it seems to imagine justifying the continued abuse and slaughter of animals because it’s just easier that way. Human beings are always so focused on themselves. It is hard for most non-vegans to wrap their heads around the idea that I would happily “inconvenience” myself, completely change myself and my way of life, in order to save the life of another or even just relieve some their suffering. That’s an easy choice. I’d be vegan even if it only helped a single animal.

Some people even falsely assert, “Those animals are already dead. It won’t change anything whether I order a burger or not.” This also baffles me. Besides being disingenuous (most people understand supply and demand), it simply doesn’t matter if it truly changes the world or not. For instance, just because you don’t abuse children, doesn’t make child abuse disappear. Does that make it okay for me to abuse a child? Even if that particular child will be abused by someone else anyway? Of course not! There are many horrors that exist in our society and in our world. That does not make those horrors acceptable or morally okay.

I could go on to dissect all of the common questions we vegans know so well. In the end, we get so distracted by answering the question, trying to defend our beliefs, making veganism look appealing, and dispelling misconceptions, that we don’t even realize how irrelevant the question and it’s answer really are. In the future I am going to try my hardest to remember this when asked these questions. Rather than rattling off facts and figures that, let’s be honest, are pretty much ignored, I am going to ask my own questions in return.

I hope by doing this, I’ll actually be able to spark some genuine contemplation on the topic. I know my past responses haven’t been making the impact I have hoped. Besides, it’ll be much more interesting for me than repeating the same facts, which fall on deaf ears, again and again.

I’ve never been able to understand why knowing that animals suffer and die isn’t enough for people to be inspired to end that, to stop participating in such cruelty, such violence. It’s really that simple. Suffering, violence, and death are awful. Producing meat and dairy requires violence, suffering, and death. We do not need to consume these things to live or be healthy. That should be all anyone needs to know. That’s all that truly matters.