Monday, March 12, 2012

Predator Mind: How I Came to Notice It.

I've found myself increasingly becoming friends with vegans, and only one of which is vegan by necessity: irritable bowel syndrome that, to list the table of contents in the Book of Foods Which Irritate, would boggle and perhaps depress. Every other individual cites moral obligation as the deciding factor bringing up the health benefits as a secondary measure, as of something to convince an amoral person, that is someone who doesn't really believe something like a moral code exists.

Let me open by saying that I greatly respect the beliefs of anyone who came about those beliefs through a hard fought and won struggle. I would much rather associate with people who will disagree with every word that comes out of my mouth because they've had to wrestle with those issues to degrees of pain than associate with individuals who'd parrot my every thought because of some kind of ease whether group identification or because they've never had to wrestle with anything in their life. Or because it's in vogue right now. More than a few of the vegans I've come to know are that way because veganism's kind of popular right now: food guilt is this year's new leopard print.

There is thoughtlessness on both sides of the aisle. I remember when I was first confronted with the idea of animal cruelty as concerns food production: I was maybe nineteen, and PETA had launched an anti-meat campaign in which they filmed the cruelty that goes hand in hand with factory farming. Two men escorted a pig to a concrete pad (a third individual whether an informant or participant held a camera) where they proceeded to hit the pig with hammers and kick it and laugh and make jokes. One man started shocking the pig's anus with his cattle prod, and the whole time the poor thing is screaming. Then one of the men takes the rivet gun that was supposed to be the pig's release from the start and fires a bolt. The man mis-aimed and only injured the pig's brain. Now the thing is partially paralyzed, but still writhing, screaming, and seizing, and the men still laugh. Finally, another man approaches with a mallet and bashes the pig's skull in. It takes about five solid whacks, most of which fail to hit the pig square in the head, and the pig still twitches after the final stroke. I felt so fucking bad for that poor pig. Whether or not we need to eat that pig, he didn't deserve that.

Horrified, I showed it to The Most Conservative Human on The Planet, who was my best friend at the time. His response revealed a shocking gap in the philosophy of Conservative Evangelical Republican Christianity that stuck in my brain like a nine inch splinter:

"I don't really care if people are cruel to animals if that animal is just going to be food anyways. After all, we're just going to eat it right?" I have since learned not to be shocked when the religion that argues for the soul of the unborn (something I do truck with. Mostly) reduces almost all other processes to gross materialistic means. His response was almost more horrific than the video (which I made him watch).

At that time I tried to make it a habit to read one Proverb and one Psalm a day, and the next day, the kind of Synchronicity That Argues For Something More Than Just Statistical Odds reared its head, and I read Proverbs 12:10, which reads, "10 A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal,
but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel." I approached him with this verse and pointed out that a shepherd culture, such as that of the ancient Hebrews, understood that you have to treat your animals kindly, that there was president here and elsewhere that proper care of animals, even ones you intend to eat, is on par with the proper treatment of people, whether for economic or moral reasons, the point is these ancient writers expected you to take care of your sheep and cattle as well as you take care of your mother. Further, I argued, psychology shows time and again that cruelty to animals foreshadows cruelty to humans. He shrugged and said, "Yeah, I guess." That might be the moment I stopped being friends with him, but it took a couple years for that to sink in.

The pig has stuck with me, and I realized then that animal cruelty is something humans have disapproved of for thousands of years, that meat wasn't evil, but abusing meat was (and is). It made me think of the Native American tribes that purportedly thanked the spirit of the animal for dying so they could live, and then going on to use every part of the animal so its death wouldn't have been in vain. This brought me to the Judeo-Christian tradition of praying before a meal and I thought, "What if these two traditions aren't much closer than we might suspect?" I broached the idea to my family before Sunday dinner: what if God wants us to pray before each meal so that we don't forget that sacrifice is a part of life. What if he doesn't want us to "bless the food to our bodies" because our bodies will naturally do with food what they've been designed to do since the creation of bodies (whether you argue thousands or millions of years), but rather we pray to remember that this chicken, cow, fish, or pig died so I could keep living, to give this beast a brief remembrance and gratitude before diving in and to know sometime it might be me on the dinner plate of worms or even some creature like a lion or polar bear (who are known to hunt humans). For a religion that believes there is life after this one, Christianity has a hard time thinking on its own death.

To this day my family still asked that the food be "blessed to their bodies."