Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The different types of people who consume animal products

Among people who consume animal products you tend to see a continuum:

1)  Those who not only are indifferent to the suffering of animals raised for food but who actively derive pleasre from killing animals themselves.  Hunters say they eat what they kill, but most will usually admit the primary motivation is the thrill of the hunt.

2)  Those who don't slaughter animals themselves but who make no pretense of caring about the suffering and death of these animals.  For these people, the human desire for animal flesh outweighs the animal's desire not to suffer.  Presumably, if these people did not benefit in any way from the suffering and death of the animals, they would reject it.  Dan at Unpopular Vegan Essays has an intriguing analysis of the willingness of people who consider themselves "kind and gentle" to suspend those values when they consider the animals who end up on their dinner plates.

3)  Those who do care about the suffering of non-human animals.  They are aware of this suffering but don't want to be.  They don't want to see it or hear about it.  They actively avoid images or information that make more vivid their purposefully vague conception of what happens to animals raised for food.  Too much awareness would force them to re-consider their behavior and they are unwilling/unable to do that.

4)  Those who are fully aware of the suffering of non-human animals and who renounce it but whose renunciation is not strong enough to get them to give up their own role in perpetuating that suffering.  These people justify their behavior by coming up with gradations of cruelty.  If an animal is raised in what they arbitrarily deem humane conditions, then the suffering and slaughter becomes morally tolerable.  This acceptable level of suffering enables them to rationalize their own consumption of animals by placing themselves in a position of moral superiority relative to other people.  "Unlike those people who disregard the conditions of animals," they tell themselves, "I do care.  I insist on only consuming animals who, prior to the slaughter, lived tolerable lives."  These people, paradoxically, often become proselytizers for animal rights.  They genuinely see themselves as passionate and committed advocates.  The Animal Welfare Institute is one of many examples of people who advocate for a reduction of animal suffering but who refuse to eliminate their own perpetuation of that suffering.  You read their accounts of sumptuous pork dinners at their animal welfare conferences and you think they're making a morbid joke.  But they are completely in earnest.