Lou is dead now. I see his death in an endless loop in my head; I feel the fear and confusion he must have felt when he realized he was being murdered; I perceive the terror that was inserted into his body by those who killed him. It’s called empathy, and I have it for him as well as all of the other cows who are murdered for whatever baseless reason humans contrive. That kind of empathy leads to a kind of grief and anger that can be hard to handle. But certainly no harder than what the animals have to bear.
Personally, I do not believe Lou was euthanized. However, whether he was slaughtered or euthanized, he was still murdered – and his death is a direct result of human supremacy.
Other folks refer to this dynamic as speciesism or human exceptionalism, but the idea is pretty much the same regardless of the name you give it. This is the belief that humans are superior to all other forms of life on this planet, and, as such, are not just allowed, but virtually honor-bound, to do with others as we will.
While some of us recognize this destructive phenomenon for what it is, and seek to correct it, happy meat “farmers” deny they’re human supremacists. They like to say they honor and respect all of life while they trample upon it. Because they can’t bear to give up those tasty little morsels of flesh in their mouths – or because they can’t bear to find another job – these “farmers” talk a good talk about holding to a level of environmentalism that exceeds everyone else’s. They claim to love life on the one hand while they bring it to an end on the other. They profess that there exists such a thing as humane murder.
In short, they’re liars. They lie to themselves and they lie to everyone else.
In contrast, when we were located on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, we encountered factory “farmers” all the time. Perdue holds sway there – it was founded about 20 miles from where we had our sanctuary – and so chicken houses weigh heavy and numerous on the landscape. We learned a lot in our ten years down there, including one thing that, to me, is perhaps the most valuable lesson of all. Because most of these chicken “farmers” whole-heartedly believe in the supremacy of humans, they don’t have to play any mental tricks on themselves. They know it’s all right to “process” 20,000 or more chickens every six weeks, largely because it means a paycheck for them, and they will be happy to tell you that right to your face.
For them, it’s not about moral righteousness or seemingly deep ethical deliberations, because it doesn’t HAVE to be about these things. They’re honest enough to own their desires, and so they don’t have to create elaborate mental mazes to contain them. They want a paycheck – they want to grill something out in their backyards and it ain’t tofu – and they don’t give a shit about the environment or global climate change or sustainability.
They want what they want, and they’re honest about it.
I’m not excusing or justifying their actions. I’m simply pointing out the difference. Factory “farmers” tend to be more honest about their motivations for doing the things they do than happy meat “farmers,” even though they all do the same thing: use and murder animals.
Because they are lying to themselves, these small producers need to include you in that same lie. They need you to believe that you’re doing something good. You are righteous, you are smart, you are helping the environment. You are better than those (poor, unethical, working class) people who eat factory farmed flesh. You are actively helping the planet by eating flesh, eggs and milk from small-scale animal “production.”
They tell you these things and they need you to believe them. But they are lies.
Perhaps you have begun to confront this notion that humans must put tasty morsels of flesh in their mouths in order to survive. Perhaps you have begun to suspect that humans should not reign supreme on this planet after all. Perhaps we should actually share this planet with everyone else, you might be thinking. Perhaps we need to rethink our dominance, in every regard, and back off the numerous ways we tromp on others. Perhaps there is part of you who agrees that humans haven’t done such a bang-up job of things. Perhaps you wonder if other creatures might like to live their lives without undue influence from members of the human species.
Perhaps. If there is even a shred of a doubt in your mind telling you that you don’t deserve to live as if the whole planet exists for your own pleasure, then ethically, you need to think seriously about switching to a plant-based diet.
If you regard the struggle to save the lives of Bill and Lou from a NON human supremacist perspective, then what you see is a struggle to save the lives of two people. Not property. Not objects. People who don’t happen to be human. People who are two of billions of other people, all of whom are murdered every year to satisfy human desire. People who know it doesn’t matter if they’re murdered in an AWA-approved slaughterhouse or a regular-old killing factory, because dead is dead.
Bill and Lou are people who would prefer to live – and live unencumbered by human desires. Too bad one’s gone already. Can we save the other?