Is being vegan naive?

Or are meat-eaters delusional?

When a person at the supermarket puts lamb chops in their shopping basket, are they oblivious to the fact they are buying the flesh of a baby sheep? Nope. They understand.

But it’s ‘normal’ to eat meat. It doesn’t feel wrong — it doesn’t even feel special, it feels mundane. Eating animals is seen as a practical reality of life. It’s pragmatic - the way things need to be - because humans eat meat.

What is interesting is the way that same misguided pragmatism often evaporates when people see animals being treated in ways that don’t fit their view of how the world should work.

For example:

  • When animals that are meant to be companions are served up as food, like the Yulin Dog Meat Festival.

  • When animals destined to be killed anyway are abused, like when footage of cruelty to Australian cattle by Indonesian abattoir workers resulted in public outcry and a government ban on live exports.

It’s not just vegans that get upset by these kinds of things. Regular meat-eating folk care about these issues. Because those ways of treating animals are not considered ‘normal’ and are able to be seen as barbaric and unnecessary.

Why is the cruelty that allows a person to eat eggs, milk, and meat necessary, while other kinds of cruelty are not?

Let’s examine Australia’s live export debate in more detail. Does the fact a cow is beaten and taunted matter if that cow is destined to die? From the response of the broader community—when exposed to evidence of this behaviour—it seems the answer is yes.

A vet who helped ‘blow the whistle’ on conditions for animals exported alive to be slaughtered in other countries, revealed that cattle and sheep loaded onto ships were subject to overcrowding that caused suffocation, animals drowning in faeces, as well as animals being forced to stand on hard floors for weeks on end resulting in terrible leg injuries.

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Generally, people believed this shouldn’t be happening. In fact, many were outraged.

Most people believe a farmed animal should be treated humanely. The real question is, where does the requirement to be humane start and finish?

The truth of animal agriculture is that animals suffer everyday.

It’s widely understood that a number of cows, sheep and pigs put into trucks or trains for the trip from the farm to the slaughterhouse suffer and die from suffocation, dehydration, heat stroke, broken legs and other causes.

So why is it rational to be upset about animals exported to another country, but not care about the animals that end up as meat on your own supermarket shelf? The short answer is it is not rational.

When the problem directly affects people’s immediate way of life — that’s when ‘pragmatism’ seems to kicks in.

If the animals we eat every day are suffering before they get to the supermarket, it’s just a necessary fact of life. They’ve been raised to be food. They have to go to the slaughterhouse. It’s just a small part of their lives. What’s the alternative?

Up until the point we have to be ‘realistic’ about an animal’s true purpose, they can be treated humanely. But when push comes to shove, for most people, they are considered products and they have to die so that people can eat meat.

In fact, human desire for meat is so great that we will chop down trees just to grow grain just to feed livestock, which also require enormous amounts of water, and cause significant erosion, water pollution and greenhouse gases.

Is this the best way to use grain when world hunger is a real issue? No.

Is this the only (or even ideal) way for humans to get protein? No.

Is this the best way to use our environment, our water and precious natural resources? No.

Is there any conceivable way that this approach could sustain all of the human population, should they have the same desire for and means to afford meat? Not a chance.

So, in what way is this realistic? It’s completely unrealistic. But it is ‘normal’.

The desire for animal products far outweighs any rational sense of whether the means to produce them on a large enough scale to feed our growing population is humane, ethical or sustainable.

It’s not naive to consider the dead animals when you see the butcher’s wares and reflect, for a minute, on the truth that this animal did not live or die naturally. It’s only purpose was to exist for a human’s eating pleasure, and that involves a certain level suffering and environmental damage.

What’s the alternative? Allow yourself to care. Be honest about the consequences of your food choices. If you don’t want to contribute to cruel and unsustainable practices, choose a plant-based vegan diet.

Be kind. Like a boss.