Meat Hypocrisy

After the appearance of a news story out of Canada this week, the media are once again covering seal hunting. Most of the coverage I’ve seen or read has seemed relatively fair, save for a subtle ethnocentrism that would probably go unnoticed to most westerners.

I want to address the underlying assumptions that seem to be fairly common in commentary on the topic among blog commenters and non-journalist media personalities. The idea of eating seal meat is treated as an absurdity, an obviously disgusting idea: something that only a barbarian would do. Yet most people think nothing of the meat they consume or how it is procured.

Seals are somewhat exotic to most Americans, and when we do see them, it is at places like Sea World, where they are presented as pets doing tricks. They’re cute and cuddly and very amenable to anthropomorphizing, so eating them is to many people considered immoral, similar to how most people in this country react to the idea of eating dog or horse meat. But we’re used to thinking of cows, pigs, and chickens as food, and most of us never think of them as anything else.

If you probe at this more deeply with people, they cite the seals’ intelligence, trying to rationalize the inconsistency of their ideas. But pigs are very intelligent animals, and could probably be trained in ways comparable to seals. Then they start in on the cruelty of the hunt. Sure it’s cruel: killing animals for food is never rainbows and sunshine. It’s brutal and bloody. We have yet to breed an animal whose only desire in life is to be dead on our plates, a la the pig at Milliway’s pitching his own meat, and I personally find hunting a lot less deplorable than factory farming in many ways.

Before people express disgust at other groups’ practices, I wish they’d take a look at the things they take for granted in their own lives.

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  1. Hello Hypocrasisy, nice to see you again. We’ve been round and round so many times. You always show up to punch me in the nose. I keep trying to beat you and thing I realize I’m not as strong as I need to be.

  2. Right on.

    I wish rich white people who have no idea what they are talking about would leave the frigging Canadian aboriginals alone.

    This crops up around here every few years or so and every few years rational Canadians have to defend against an onslaught of lies and bigotry associated with the cute precious seals. Food production is not happy fun time, it’s for survival and sustenance. What’s inevitably more disgusting than the hunt itself is people who have everything they need in the world interfering with something they don’t understand (and in the case of PETA doing so in a ridiculously pointless way) and destroying a local economy.

  3. “a la the pig at Milliway’s pitching his own meat”
    Correction: it was a cow, not a pig.

    I never ate anything “exotic”. But I’m quite curious about ostrich meat.
    Oh, and babies. You can’t be an atheist without proving some this delicacy.

  4. When I was in highschool my anthropolog class went to a lecture at Bowdoin College by a man who worked with the Inuit and he talked about eating seal meat. He said it was quite good and was disappointed that restrictions on importing it meant we couldn’t have any at the party afterwards. I would have liked to try it because the other foods we had like the caribou meatballs were very good.

    It is very much a case of not wanting to eat things that are cute and cuddly. How many americans do you know who’ve eaten rabbit? Couple generations ago no one thought twice about eating a bunny but we’ve turned them into children’s pets so many people couldn’t bring themselves to eat one.

    I’m not immune to emotional prejudices about eating certain animals. Dogs and horses are high on the list as are my beloved cephalopods but I’m open to eating most other creatures at least once.

  5. Oh yeah, forgot to add that I wouldn’t try to stop others from eating anything they wish within reason. I do draw the line at endangered and threatened species and also needlessly cruel raising/slaughtering methods.

  6. I could never figure out how seals got such a cute and cuddly reputation. Sure, they are smart and cute as most dogs but they are mean and vicious carnivores. They eat penguins in one gulp, ferchrissakes!!!

  7. Okay, well if you put it that way. I have personally killed, cleaned and eaten, rabbits, squirrrels, turtles, fish and various birds. I have raised for slaughter and then transported to the slaughter house, pigs, sheep, goats and cattle.
    My time in the reserves took me to places where I ate dog. After high school I was in France and I bought prepared and ate horse. I have eaten some things that I don’t know what they were but I am sure some of them were very large insects, lizards and snakes. I have never refused to try something that someone has presented me since I was a little kid. Oh, deer. I’ve eaten deer. I have long held the view that we should know what goes into providing us the food we eat. It doesn’t appear magically at the supermarket. Oh, I also enjoyed all of those creatures that I ate.

  8. Where I grew up, seals and rabbits are commonplace, something you see all the time. As a result, I don’t really see them as cute and fluffy. Apart from the little baby seals of course.
    But even they’ve got a nasty set of pointy teeth that they are not afraid to deploy.

    As a result, I’d happily eat a seal (probably not a whole one), assuming it was sustainably sourced. I didn’t much like rabbit but that wasn’t cuteness related. Reindeer was tasty and everyone knows they pull Santa’s sleigh.

    Whale wasn’t very nice (I didn’t know what it was when I tried it), which is fine because I’m quite content to leave them where they are.

    I think the most convincing argument against meat consumption is the inefficiency compared to vegetarianism. Although that said, this argument does reduce quickly to my subsisting on a diet of tasty nutritious fungal broth.
    It’s a slippery slope!

  9. I can’t help but remember Joseph Banks’ quote about having eaten his way further into the animal kingdom than any person in history.

    I have recently been reading In Search Of Moby Dick, and the author goes out with various Polynesians as they hunt manta rays, whale sharks, and even whales up to a certain size. Astoundingly, often they don’t use harpoons but literally jump or dive down to and stab a large hook right into the animal. Contrast that with our own antiseptic separation fomr food sources. My initial raction was to find it a bit shocking, but my own inherent bias and hypocrisy did occur to me. It’s hard to get past one’s own prejudices. Where I can’t help but draw the line though is endangered species, does a native people have the right to eliminate the last of a species? Even if so-called developed culture may be reponsible for pushing the species to the brink in the first place?

  10. I have no problem with eating any animal as long as you can be as humane as possible about the whole process. My grandfather was a hunter and that’s how he supported his family…they ate whatever he could get.

  11. Jared Diamond discusses seal meat in his book Collapse, in the chapters about the Greenland Norse. They didnt think well of seal meat, too, and tried to avoid eating it. Instead they tried to base their nutrition on the animals they brought from Iceland/Norway for the same reasons we eat cows and pigs (well I don’t, being a vegetarian) but not seals. The Greenland Norse eventually died out…

  12. Everyone should take at least one anthropology class, but I’m biased. :) I bring this meat topic up to my cultural anthro students, and it’s generally a lively discussion. It’s a good way for students to explore ethnocentrism.

    Back when I ate meat, I tried rabbit, squirrel and venison (the first two were pretty tasty, the latter, not so much). I’ve got no beef (*heh*) with people eating meat, but I do object to industrialized animal production on ethical and environmental (as well as other) grounds. Locally produced, hunted, wild-caught–all those are great things–eat up. I just don’t want to eat it. :)

    And I want to echo the point made by Gabrielbrawley: too many people, especially in the US, are too separated from the origins of their food, especially the meat.

  13. @GabrielBrawley
    All these delicious meats, no Long Pig I hope.
    I would probably find dogs and cats hard to stomach, even though I know it makes no logical sense.

  14. Argh, I hate anti-seal hunters. Not only is seal meat important food for the Inuit, it’s incredibly important for their economy. They don’t have the luxury of being able to raise cows and pigs and chickens at mass scales in those temperatures, let alone grow food. Anyone who’s ever been up there can confirm that it costs a *lot* of money to send food up there, so they do the best that they can.

    PETA would be better off putting their money where their mouth is and use it to offer alternative food sources to the Inuit if it means so much to them.

  15. @Jen: His involvement in a pig slaughter in Portugal was also informative. Anthony has little patience with the pretentions of many elitist consumers and veggies.

    Love Bambi and Bullwinkle, enjoyed croc, kangaroo and ostrich. I’d have no problem eating an animal that was well managed and whose population numbers were not at risk or depleted. The absence of natural predators in my state has made deer hunting essential to the health of the herds. And given what I’ve read about seal populations I wouldn’t have any issue with giving it a try.

  16. @polomint38: Well I ate a few things in Korea , scratch that, almost everything I ate in Korea was a mystery because I didn’t go to the english speaking restaurants but I am almost 100% certain that I ain’t eaten no people. Well a few women but they were asking for it.

  17. I’ve known some vegetarians but not many. The ones I have known didn’t do it from a ethical posisiton, they just didn’t like the taste and texture of meat, they ate a lot of beans and were cool with eggs and cheese and milk and never gave me a hard time for being an omvitarian. Haven’t known any vegans but from what I have read they seem to be fronting, it is cool in their circle.

  18. I agree that it’s hypocritical, and I think peope should be better informed about how their food gets from animal to plate. I’ve tried all kinds of ‘exotic’ things some of which I liked and some I didn’t. Seal doesn’t sound appealing because I suspect it would be similar in texture and consistency to duck, which I don’t care for at all.

  19. My sister moved to Australia about 6 years aqo and works for the Queensland version of child protective services. For a reason that I am still not clear on it was decided that they would take a group of aboriginal children on a camping trip in a wildlife refuge. These were children of parents who had deliberatly turned their backs on the 20th century and raised the children in traditional aboriginal fashion. None of these children had ever worn shoes before. When they got their first pair they wouldn’t take them off, not even to sleep. During the camping trip the kids, I think the oldest one was 10 left camp and the CPS workers didn’t go with them. The kids found out that animals in a refuge weren’t nearly as afraid of people as regular animals. So they killed several of them. The CPS workers didn’t know what to do but the kids did. They cleaned them, started a camp fire and cooked and ate them. I love that story.

  20. Just after high school I was sitting down reading an article in a National Geographic about the culling of over populated areas of elephants in Africa, and how they served the meat at game reserve restaurants (or something along those lines; it was a long time ago). I explained this to the friend I was living with at the time, and said how I would like to try elephant meat. Her response was a horrified screech of “OMG what’s wrong with you, would you eat a person!?!?!”.
    I just didn’t have the words for an appropriate response. Though it did open my eyes to what a pretentious, uninformed, hypocritical hippy-type she was.

  21. @edcrypt:
    Ostrich is decent, tastes kind of like roast beef, but that could have just been the result of the way it was prepared.

    As Douglas Adams once said about his various incarnations of the H2G2 series, they all end up contradicting each other at some point, and when the movie comes out (this being at the time he was in the process of writing the screen play before his SMEF* event) it will certainly contradict everything that had come before it. (I am of course paraphrasing that here because I am to lazy to get the exact quote.)

    * Sudden Massive Existence Failure

    @Gabrielbrawley: While I haven’t done any actual cleaning/butchering yet (apart from dissecting stuff in biology class in high school) I have seen how chickens are processed back when my parents raised them. It was both fascinating and somewhat disturbing. Sadly those chickens where a tad bit old and ended up not very good for eating, though they made pretty good soup.

  22. @kel: Should have responded in a way similar to my first college roommate when a young woman started screeching at him about his hunting: Yes, yes I would eat a person. (his actual response to her “Would you hunt people” was “Sure, why not” to which she responded with “Well if someone shot your mother?” and he said “Well if they shot her, they can keep her, she’s a wily one.” He’s from the UP, that’s the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for those who don’t know.)

  23. @killyosaur42: Now I’m silently weeping. I so miss Douglas Adams. I wish I could have known him. It was a kick in the nuts when he died.

    Every post I read reminds me of somthing else I have eaten. I used to walk around the Texas plains with a single shot .22 rifle and a dog when I was a kid. She was a mutt but so smart. I never taught her anything but she could do everything. We had been walking for awhile and sat down on the edge of a cow tank. It was a really nice evening and we just sat there. I shot a few frogs. Then just sat there. Wasn’t thinking about nothing. Just looking at the water. Then a bull frog the size of a big, big guinea pig hoped up and looked at me. I shot it. It hopped off. I reloaded and shot it again. It kept hopping. I reloaded and shot it through the head at point blank range, left a big gun powder burn on its head. Didn’t know what to do so I picked it up and carried it home. Got home and my city raised parents weren’t sure what to do so we pulled out a cook book and we all learned how to make frog legs, they are delicous. I eat them whenver I get the chance.

  24. Quail. I’ve tried quail before as well. And I’ve had shark, though I wouldn’t again less for reasons of taste than of preservation of one of my favorite animals.

  25. @Gabrielbrawley: Same here. I regret not at least finding his email address and sending him a note, I know for a fact that at the time it was publicly available (or at least there was a public facing version of it, this being before spam became the hassle it is today). He was/is my favorite author of all time.

  26. @killyosaur42: When my sis was in college she got drunk and called several people in the london phone direcotry with the name Douglas Adams trying to tell him personally what a great man he was. All wrong numbers. Given the chance I would love to tell him how great h e was. So should I try to fawn all over Neil Gaimen?

  27. @Gabrielbrawley: as you probably have figured out by now, neil gaiman is the unofficial official author of the skepchicks. living near the same metro area as he does, i frequently have the opportunity to fawn all over him. i love that :)

  28. @tiger kitty: That’s how I feel, too. It’s not WHAT I eat, it’s how what I eat was treated, for me anyway. After all, you are what you eat, and you are what what you eat eats, too.
    I mentioned the other day that I’d once had a venison hot dog and my co-workers got all judge-y about and and I’m like, “that deer had a happier life and a far more sanitary death than that torture burger you’re chowing down on right now.” Of course, I didn’t say it quite like that.
    I’m not averse to trying new things, but I do have a problem eating critters I ever had as a pet. Hence, cats and dogs and ducks and goldfish and frogs are out. Crocodile’s out, too, ’cause I had it once and it was gross. Squishy. Like calamari. Which is out, too. ‘Cause it’s gross.
    All bets are probably off, though, come the apocalypse. Come the apocalypse, I’d probably eat your face.

  29. @carr2d2: You know I’ve been kicking around the idea of moving up to Minneapolis St. Paul some day. What with John Sandford and Garrison Keilor and 3M and all. Now, with you and Gaiman. Oh, god, I just had a nerdgasm all in my pants.

  30. @carr2d2: Right on. I kill my own meat when I can but it’s sure a lot easier to get in a store. I think everyone who eats meat should try butchering their own meat, just once.

  31. @Gabrielbrawley: it’s a great city. plus, lots of deer to hunt. (see what i did there? ;)
    and fish to catch…which i may be doing a bit of this weekend. there is something i find so satisfying about catching, cleaning, cooking, and eating a nice fish dinner.

  32. Having grown up on a reservation myself (Navajo), it always amazes me the way most of the left think about native people. They have this image of peaceful happy people leaving in harmony, but when the natives behavior doesn’t match their preconcieved notion, well it’s the natives that are wrong ’cause we know how they’re supposed to behave better than they do.

    They’re people just like us, damm it, with just as much right to look after themselves.

    Case in point, I was watching a documentary about an American Indian tribe with some fellow college students. I don’t remember which tribe, but they were ranching bison. Everyone thought that was great, they were getting back to their roots. But when they shot one and eat it, all hell broke loose. That just wasn’t “the right behavior” at all.

  33. I’ve eaten caribou, moose, rabbit, antelope and venison, and they were all delicious. I’m also quite partial to lamb and have an interest in trying veal. And I own garments made of fur, though I mostly don’t wear them because they’re too warm for the climate I currently live in.
    Can you tell my mother was raised on a farm and I lived in the Canadian North as a child?

  34. Honestly, I side with you. Long I have had to experience similar rationalizations from the religious crowd here Israel. In debates with friends and rabbis, it has been claimed countless times that the Jewish Shechita is the most moral way to kill an animal, and the people who claim that are freaking deluded. I’ve witnessed Shechita, and it’s disgusting to the point of puking. Animals certainly don’t enjoy it, and they suffer greatly. Hell, they can’t even get sedatives if the Shechita is to be done in accordance to all the rabbis’ opinions.

    Conclusion: Let us enjoy our meat without thinking about how it got to the plate. If we would do that, it’s granted we won’t eat it.

  35. The first time my father took me hunting (can’t remember if it was squirrel or rabbit – we used to do both), he talked me through cleaning the animal afterward, and we ate it. He said if I was too squeamish to clean and eat it, then I had no business hunting.
    Other than strict vegans, anyone who objects to hunting is a hypocrite. Animals that are hunted live a far better existence than mass produced poultry, for example.
    As far as the type of meat goes, that’s strictly cultural. People need to think in terms of being raised in a different part of the world. Americans think cow’s milk (after the first year of life) is the only acceptable milk to drink (other than maybe goat’s milk). But different cultures drink milk from indigenous mammals – yak, reindeer, horse, camel, etc.
    Remember, if Ben Franklin had had his way, the turkey would be our national bird instead of the eagle. We think nothing of eating turkey, but think of how things would be different if Franklin had prevailed.
    (BTW, I love Anthony Bourdain – thanks for the link.)

  36. @Ido Hadi:

    Conclusion: Let us enjoy our meat without thinking about how it got to the plate. If we would do that, it’s granted we won’t eat it.

    actually, i tend to think that if you feel this way, you shouldn’t be eating meat…but obviously that is a very personal choice. i spent 8 years as a vegetarian for this very reason, but started eating meat again once i came to terms with my place in nature. whether that’s right or not is up for debate. i do find peter singer’s arguments on the subject interesting, though i’m not sure i agree.

  37. I often see people talking about chinese how people are despicable because they eat dogs. I’ll recommend this article to them.

    Argh, yeah no Long Pig. That’s probably why I love reading his stuff, but no one can disgust me more than Mr Ellis.

  38. When a respected elder died, at our potlatch the marine tribe brought a seal. We are inland people, mostly eating moose, caribou, elk, deer, reindeer. So it was a treat to have the seal brought to the potlatch.
    My fellow natives who are marine use all the parts of seal, all the time. The seal hunts are bloody and yet serve a purpose in the community. Fresh seal is a treat – as seen on the YouTube.
    When I was a vegetarian my fellow Alaskans said it was because I was a “bad hunter.”
    Now I believe it is wrong to take baby carrots from their mothers

  39. It should be pointed out that there are two seal hunts. Most of the non-PETA criticism (Humane Society, EU, etc) involves the commercial hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This is a rather different matter from people hunting for food.

  40. @carr2d2: I went through a similar experience. Once I could get free range chicken (back when it meant something) I went back to eating meat so I could feel more connected to my food. Now living in Vermont I actually know most of the people who grow my food which is cool.

    I’ve been wondering lately how many vegetarians would give up dairy if they realized that all cows have to give birth each year in order to maintain supply. I’ve realized that PETA’s campaign against veal has actually ended up making it worse for the calves that are born. Now dairy farmers get $5/head for them and most of them still lead miserable lives until they end up in pet food. I’m able to find free range organic veal in my supermarket and try to buy some at least 1-2x/month to support better alternatives for these calves and to watch people’s faces when I say I had veal last night.

  41. @Ido Hadi: “In debates with friends and rabbis,”

    Heh, I initially read that as “friends and rabbits”@polomint38: I don’t know…I only eat terrestrial herbivores (what goes on in the sea is none of my business, it’s mostly all delicious). I’ve seen what cats and dogs eat and imagine that THEIR meat would be “gamey” beyond the pale. Also, and this is totally just a guess, wouldn’t there be more chance of disease? Not sure why I think that.

    @revmatty: I also agree that people ought to know more about their meat…but an argument that drives me BANANAS is the “well, if you can’t kill it and dress it yourself, you have no business eating it”. ORLY? So, if you can’t/don’t want to sew, you have no business wearing pants? If you can’t synthesize nutritional supplements in your own personal lab, you have no business taking them (touche, vegans!)?

  42. @latenac: RIGHT ON!

    I’m so sick of the extreme-o position. I’m 1000% for sustainably farmed, cruelty-free animal products (in fact, I just had a burger from a restaurant all about that yesterday. $6.00 vs. $2 at McDonalds..). And I’m willing to pay much more (and eat them less frequently). It drives me nuts when people assert that the very act of animal husbandry is inherently cruel.

  43. @whitebird:
    It drives me nuts when people assert that the very act of animal husbandry is inherently cruel.

    I also dislike the argument that we shouldn’t eat cows, pigs, goats, etc., all the domesticated animals, and let them run their free, natural lives instead. There aren’t free natural Jersey cows or Bantam chickens- if we stopped raising them for our consumption, they’d go extinct, just like all the other breeds of cow and chicken and rutabaga we stopped farming. Our cows are nothing like their wild ancestors; human farms are their evolved niche. I think we have an obligation to treat our domestic animals well – most modern humans owe our lives and culture to domesticated animals (and plants), and they depend on us for their existence.

    My bachelor’s was in agroecology, so I’m fascinated by the symbiosis between farming people and their livestock and crops. Our relationship with our food though has become so exploitative that I think too many people don’t realise that exploitation is the wrong way to think about one’s food, and extend their weird exploitative mindset to other people who still have the proper respect for their food and their place in the world.

  44. @whitebird: well, the argument against eating carnivores has to do with bioaccumulation of heavy metals as you go up the food chain. i’m not sure how much of an issue this is, but that is what i usually hear cited.

  45. Aren’t these the baby harp seals, killed solely for their fur? If so, that just isn’t ethical, I think.

    While we no longer eat meat in our house, I have killed plenty of my own meat over the years. And I can tell you for sure, those animals did not want to die.

    I really think there’d be a lot more vegetarians if meat wasn’t in such pretty vacuum packed packages so easily available.

    But, to kill an animal solely for it’s hide? I suppose to that animal being killed, it would be no comfort to know whether or not it was to be eaten.

    Anyway, not vegetarian for emotional reasons, but ecological reasons. Arable land that is used to grow fodder for cattle can grow food for people. Too much energy and waste goes into each kilo of meat from a 500 kilo cow.

  46. @The Skepdick: no. they aren’t killed solely for their hide; at least not among the inuit. it is my understanding that no part of the animal is wasted. if they were, would it be unethical? well, i guess it depends on the situation. if they were being killed by privileged people for fashion purposes, probably yeah. if we’re talking about a less “civilized” (i use the word sarcastically) group of people in a cold environment who need the hides for warmth, well, no, i don’t think that would be unethical.

  47. @SaraDee said:

    …if we stopped raising them for our consumption, they’d go extinct, just like all the other breeds of cow and chicken and rutabaga we stopped farming. Our cows are nothing like their wild ancestors; human farms are their evolved niche.

    That is such an important point that so many people are completely unaware of.

    In’69 my family moved to a farm in the Ottawa Valley (Ontario, Canada). We raised chickens for eggs and meat, pigs for meat (home fresh bacon, peeps!), geese for eggs, and cows for meat and breeding.

    A family friend, who had just spent a year or so in India, came to visit and was horrified by our raising and eating cows. He gave me a several day’s long lecture on the cruelty of eating cows and waxed long on how cows were so wise and wouldn’t treat each other with such cruelty, and were afraid of people because they could sense that we ate them and yadda yadda ya.

    Well, to make a long story short, I ended up mixing hamburger from one of the cow’s offspring into the daily grain feed for several days and fed it to the cows just to show this guy how wrong he was.

    The cows were as thrilled as usual with their grain (it also had chocolate in it to help fatten them up, and they’d run like giddy goons when I filled the trough).

    And yes, of course, it didn’t work. We all know how fundies rearrange reality to suit their own vision. I don’t remember at this late date how he rearanged his.

    On a related note, I do not fully understand the argument that raising/killing farmed animals is unethical or wrong. Farmed animals would not even exist if they weren’t used for some anthropomorphic purpose. Some of them would almost certainly have gone extinct, e.g. cows, some of them would be dwindling in the wilds, e.g. wolves, rhinos, etc. What is the logical, rational, non-emotionally biased argument against raising, farming, killing, using any animal?

  48. @The Skepdick: “Aren’t these the baby harp seals, killed solely for their fur? If so, that just isn’t ethical, I think.”

    Like Carr2 said, I find it very suspect that a perfectly good baby seal carcass would only be used for its fur…and even if it were, so? Why is it more “ethical” to use as much of the carcass as possible? I would say it’s more economical.

    “And I can tell you for sure, those animals did not want to die.”

    No offense, but, duh, no animal “wants” to die (except for suicidal humans, I guess). That species wouldn’t last very long in this world. What’s the argument? I’m sure that the animals “don’t want to die” when they die whatever death they do…sometimes I think that people forget that everything dies (and btw, a swift kill is more humane than starvation or disease, two popular ways of death in the wild if not preyed on first).

    @SaraDee: “There aren’t free natural Jersey cows or Bantam chickens- if we stopped raising them for our consumption, they’d go extinct, just like all the other breeds of cow and chicken and rutabaga we stopped farming”.

    Yup. Good point about the rutabaga, too. People (many the same who decry animal product consumption, apparently) freak out about “GMO”, but, hello, isn’t ALL agriculture, to a certain extent, genetically modifying? I’ve heard that wild apples are essentially inedible compared to what we’ve come up with in the last few thousand years.

    @SicPreFix: “A family friend, who had just spent a year or so in India, came to visit and was horrified by our raising and eating cows.”

    Oh, brother. I’ve BEEN to India, and let me tell you, although they might not get eaten, they certainly don’t all live in some kind of pastoral fantasy (in the cities, in which they are abundant). There is one city in particular called Pushkar, where animals are particularly sacred. No meat or eggs (or alcohol) allowed (but dairy is ok). And no animal killing allowed.

    The result? There was one donkey there who had been sideswiped by some vehicle and one side of its body was like a huge, raw wound. It was constantly braying in pain. Of course as an 18 year old foreign westerner girl, I couldn’t do anything about it but know that at least it would die sooner than later.Animal sacredness: UR doin it rong.

    “On a related note, I do not fully understand the argument that raising/killing farmed animals is unethical or wrong.”

    Me niether. I have a problem with shitty farming practices and animal abuse. I think that when people are averse to killing farmed animals, it’s some weird thing about sportsmanship that doesn’t matter at all to the animal (so it shouldn’t matter to those who are thinking that they speak for animals). What matters to animals, I think, is that they live a stress-free, protected, sheltered, well-fed life and have a death that is as painless as possible. At least domesticated animals.

    sorry for the novella. this is just a subject close to my heart.

  49. Do we feel bad when the grizzly catches the salmon for food? When the eagle swoops down for the fish to feed its young? Or the polar bear who will track and eat you without a second thought?

  50. @Vengeful Harridan (Elexina): Once I saw a Nature episode where a zebra stallion killed the (very young and cute) foal of a female that he had designs on (he might have just become the Alpha guy in the herd, the stallion I mean).

    I’ve seen the argument posited that humans are actually herbivores (FALSE!!!1!), and that it is the eating of meat that makes us “violent”. Ugh.

    The only think that the eating of meat makes me is not hungry.

  51. I agree with SaraDee here. I’m all for being as humane as possible, and providing comfortable living conditions for farm animals, but there’s nothing sacred about wild animals that makes it ‘better’ to eat them than domesticated ones. As has been said before, domesticated animals, in many cases, can no longer live in the wild.

    Totally agree with knowing the whole process of where your meat comes from, however.

  52. @sporefrog: I think it is important to know where all of our food comes from not just our meat. I really think it is a good idea to understand where your fruits, vegetables, milks, eggs, candies, snack food, etc come from and what is neccessary to get them to us. It is all hard work and it is all important work.

  53. @Gabrielbrawley: Me too; this is why I love the show Dirty Jobs. It’s nice to have a show that not only gives people doing these jobs recognition, but also shows how the processes work. I think knowing a bit about all these industries (when usually they seem hidden away and not thought about unless you’re active in a particular industry) has given me a much broader worldview, and made me think about what’s really important. Thanks Discovery Channel!

  54. @carr2d2:
    I don’t really care because I have a really strong stomach, but I’ve seen people who really stopped enjoying meat after they witnessed a Shechita. For me, it was only temporary. It took me a week to recover. I was supposed to eat the slaughtered animal on that occasion, but I obviously couldn’t. That was really… bah.

  55. @whitebird:
    With arguments such as theirs with fallacies even a 19yo like myself can easily point out, their IQ is unquestionably closer to a rabbit’s than a human. ;)

  56. @Gabrielbrawley: I agree with this, though I want to point out that it is very difficult to learn all, and in some cases even part, of this hands-on. I’d love to learn how to skin a deer, but I’m a terrible shot, fall asleep in the stand, and have a mild aversion to dirty hands, making my chances of actually doing so very slim.

  57. @whitebird: “…but an argument that drives me BANANAS is the “well, if you can’t kill it and dress it yourself, you have no business eating it”.”
    I agree. But I don’t think anyone has any business “hunting” if they’re too squeamish to dress it. Otherwise, hunting is just killing from a distance, and you’re too removed from the experience.

  58. I do find these comments very interesting. From reading the post I didn’t get a very pro-meat feeling, in fact it seemed like a very good argument for veganism. So I was amazed that nearly all the comments were decidedly pro-meat, almost militantly so in some cases.
    I’ve always understood how creationists were okay with eating meat and factory farming. Once you invent a “soul” and only give it to humans, you can justify doing whatever you want to other living things that don’t have one. But what about those who don’t buy into such ideas? What about those who don’t buy into ideas of lesser evolved or more evolved creatures. How can they justify killing something for food when it is not necessary.
    For me personally, I can’t get past the nervous system. It doesn’t matter if it’s a seal, pig, cow, tarantula, puppy, or person, I don’t want to end it’s brief life for my gain if I can avoid doing so. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s a me or them situation they’re going down, but modern life doesn’t really provide me with that kind of situation very often. For those who need to hunt to survive, it makes perfect sense, but most of us don’t. And the farms where our supermarket meat are coming from are just adding insult to injury. Not only are we assuring that their lives will be short, but that they’ll also be crappy.

  59. @Ssteppe: Agree 100%. It never occured to me that someone would hunt without dressing the kill.

    @SkepPunk: “What about those who don’t buy into ideas of lesser evolved or more evolved creatures. How can they justify killing something for food when it is not necessary.”

    I mostly buy into the idea that I require nutrients that, if I can’t get them from an animal source (not necessarily meat), I will have to take supplements/think way more about my diet than I want to.

    Not sure what being lesser or more evolved has to do with nutritional requirements.

    “And the farms where our supermarket meat are coming from are just adding insult to injury”

    That’s why I go out of my way to support farms that go out of their way to ensure that the animal had a non-crappy life. (And pay much more).

    Did you really read all the above comments? Most of the “militantly” pro-meat ones are just people telling what their favorite is or logical arguments supporting the concept of meat eating. Is anyone suggesting that people in general should eat more meat?

  60. @SkepPunk:

    From reading the post I didn’t get a very pro-meat feeling, in fact it seemed like a very good argument for veganism.

    you’ve appear to have read it as intended: i think either position is appropriate. my reason for starting this discussion was to point out that the vast majority of meat eaters never consider these issues.
    i think people who have a problem with how meat is produced/procured should have the intellectual honesty and moral fortitude to be vegan, or at the very least to seek out sources of meat that match up with their particular claimed values.
    those of us who choose to eat meat should have no illusions over where it comes from.

  61. @carr2d2: “i think people who have a problem with how meat is produced/procured should have the intellectual honesty and moral fortitude to be vegan, or at the very least to seek out sources of meat that match up with their particular claimed values.”
    And that is exactly what I try to do. I would be vegan, or at least vegetarian, but my dietary tastes are too narrow. My husband and I would probably starve. Sighhh…

  62. @whitebird:
    “I mostly buy into the idea that I require nutrients that, if I can’t get them from an animal source (not necessarily meat), I will have to take supplements/think way more about my diet than I want to.”

    What are these nutrients that you can only get through meat/supplements. I’ve been vegan for years, never taken supplements, and am certainly not malnourished. I find that it’s easy to get iron, b12, protein, etc by just eating a variety of things. Although I do tend to eat a lot of the vegan BLTs from the place around the corner, holy crap, so good.
    I fear that I’m sounding like a dick, I’m not meaning to be judgmental just curious.

  63. @SkepPunk: “For me personally, I can’t get past the nervous system….”

    *sort* so you just replace one arbitrary cutoff line with another. You think plants don’t ‘feel’ their injury because they took a different evolutionary path than you and so don’t have an animal style nervous system?

    Many plants have very complex systems that detect the moment they are under attack and sometimes even how they are under attack. They often respond to this by releasing various chemicals into the air to communicate the event to other plants of similar kind in the area, (Fascinating research in all this actually. The way plants work together to try and resist insect attacks and etc…).

    Still, sure.. I’m sure they don’t feel anything; or at least not anything you can remotely understand. So I guess that makes ‘killing’ and eating them much less problematic than eating meat.

    The unfortunate truth is that, as so eloquently stated by the band Tool, “Life feeds on Life feeds on Life feeds on Life”.

    Now don’t get me wrong. I could care less about your personal eating habits. I don’t have any more problem with vegans than I do with anybody else, (except when they try and moralize their position at me or pretend that there is some greater health advantage to their diet than one including meat), but I have yet to hear a single good, logical case for why I shouldn’t eat meat.

    Lots of cases based upon moralizations I don’t accept or agree with, but no good logic. So why should I give up something I was designed to eat without a good reason?

  64. @SkepPunk: I agree that the nervous system is the yardstick for what I’m willing to eat, but there is a huge difference in the brain of a trout vs. the brain of a dolphin. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a largely bullshit scale, I don’t have a line between dog and duck that I won’t cross, but I prefer it to cuteness as a guide. I’ve eaten pilot whale on many occasions. I was too young to participate in the one one hunt I was present for (it’s not a safe activity) but I did join the other kids as we wandered the beach looking for a fluke that we could slice a good whip off of. Since then I’ve used my neurological scale to stay away from whale, though I admit I never really liked it anyway.

    You also touched on the idea of necessity and that is integral to the seal issue. Despite the discussion here being mainly about Inuit the majority of hunters are Newfoundlanders of European decent. They have had a hard time since the decline of the fisheries and have had to rely more on the seal hunt than they normally would. (Some argue that the decline of the fishery is in part due to an earlier ban on seal hunting that coincided. The data does not support or deny this but IMO it is a plausible hypothesis). In most of the arguments I’ve had on this topic people are more than willing to grant the noble Inuit the right to hunt seals but deny the same rights to the simple Newfie. I find this attitude racist and I point it out at every opportunity. The actual problem most of these people have is that hunters make money of off the pelts. Money makes it wrong, and because the pelts are sold it’s fair to ignore the use of the rest of the animal.

    These people are hunting within ethical and environmental guidelines, and their right to do so should be protected (in my experience Hunters have a more practical and proactive attitude toward conservation than those of others). Hunting is one of the most basic and primal acts we have, we did long before we talked and yet we protect that right. It is part of the three F’s of human nature, Food, Fear, and Fucking. I’ve had a few of these arguments and never on any occasion has anyone given a reason for banning the hunt that doesn’t hinge on “it feels wrong”. This seems to be enough to ban the traditions of many people that need them now as much as they ever have.

  65. Seems like comment #58 has been missed by most people, and I want to bring it to the forefront again, since what many of the non-PETA groups (such as the IFAW, or WWF, or various European governments) are speaking out about are the commercialized hunt for seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which are primarily hunted in the hundreds of thousands for their fur.

    Traditional hunting by the Inuit of seals for sustenance is not really problematic for me. What I find issue with is the hunting of these seals without adequate supervision by non-natives in order to turn a profit, without oversight by animal conservation groups.

  66. @Ubermoogle: Hmmm.. I really only have one metric for something like this.

    Is the ‘hunt’ being overseen to insure sustainability?

    If the answer to this question is yes, then I have no real problems. If the answer is no, then I have a whole heap of problems.

    @PrimevilKneivel: “: I agree that the nervous system is the yardstick for what I’m willing to eat, but there is a huge difference in the brain of a trout vs. the brain of a dolphin….”

    and you really hit on it for me there. I guess that if I had to draw a line; I would say that the more sentient a creature is, the greater my need would have to be for me to eat it.

    Obviously, in many cases, I have to rely on educated speculation as the the level of sentience a creature possesses, (after all.. I’ve never actually spoken with a dolphin, or a chimpanzee, or whatnot), but there are good indicators. Hmmm.. really, I guess you would say it’s not even a line for me. More a sliding scale.

  67. @Ubermoogle:
    The Department of Fisheries Office (DFO) regulates and supervises the hunt.

    I have to ask. Why is it different for native and non-natives when considering this hunt? A tradition of a couple of thousand years vs. a couple of hundred is irrelevant IMO.

    I also fail to see why a commercial aspect changes the validity of the hunt. Are people allowed to merely survive but not prosper? In fact not selling the pelts seems wasteful to me. You can preserve the meat and keep it but there are only so many pelts that can be used by one family.

    The truth is these people are not prospering, even with the commercial hunt. It is nothing more than a seasonal boost to their meager income. This is a part of Canada that has been struggling through some very hard economic times for decades. Animal rights activists refuse to accept this or simply say they should get jobs when there are none.

  68. @MoltenHotMagma
    The sustainability of the hunt is being ensured, but not in accordance with what some other groups, as mentioned before, WWF, and IFAW, would consider acceptable. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) have, as far as I can tell, ignored the two reports written on this particular hunt so far, which has been part of the impetus for Europe to ban the import of seal products from Canada.

    I’ll lay it out here so I’m not obfuscating my argument, because I think we’d agree on some points. I do agree that it does inject money into a struggling economy. I do agree that there is very little difference between Inuit tradition and Newfoundland tradition, except for a matter of scale. The difference that I see, is that it’s not economically viable as long as the ban holds up. The government would be better off just giving the hunters the cash outright than spending all the money they do on fuel, shipping costs, and the cost of policing the whole thing.

    If it were to be continued, what I would like to see would be greater policing by the DFO of the hunters (it’s a big ocean out there, and the ratio of officers to hunters is dreadfully low, given the amount of afrea they have to cover), and for the other suggestions made by IFAW and the WWF to be adopted.

    The fact that the people are not prospering, despite the hunt, has little to do with the hunt itself, and more to do with the economy of the Atlantic provinces, which is a completely different issue entirely. As you say yourself, the hunt isn’t much more than a seasonal boost, which masks the real economic issues.

  69. @Ubermoogle: I agree the prosperity of the hunters has nothing o do with the argument. I only raise the issue to dispel the notion of a “large commercial hunt” that appeals to the anti corporate nature of so many people. These are local fishermen, not “big fur”.

    I don’t know what these suggestions are that the DFO has ignored so I can’t comment on them. I do know the DFO works very hard to maintain a viable ecosystem in the grand banks. They do put a stop to a lot of activity that is harmful, but lobsters and turbot aren’t as cute as seals so they get less attention. I have faith they are doing their job well.

    I agree the EU ban will destroy the viability of the hunt but that is a separate issue. They may choose to not buy any product they feel is wrong, but that choice doesn’t make the product wrong. There is a lot of effort being put forth to ban the hunt outright, I cannot support a decision like that. As I said earlier hunting is a primal right, that if practiced in a ethical and environmentally sound way should not be infringed upon. That is how it happens, the hunters have changed their practices in accordance to DFO guidlines (they even stopped outright for a decade) but their effort is largely ignored, and instead they are labeled killers.

    I think we do basically agree, but I don’t think the government should be paying people to not hunt a non-endangered animal because others are uncomfortable with it. That sounds like a dangerous precedent.

  70. @PrimevilKneivel Well I think that, like you say, we basically agree.

    Set up regulations, make sure people are following them, and make sure it’s sustainable.

    I hold the same stance when it comes to factory farming, and meat eating in general. I share your view on the basic list of what I will, or will not eat, on the totally made up basis of how highly encephalized the animal is.

    As long as the animals aren’t suffering unnecessarily, kill and eat what you want.

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