Friday, January 30, 2009

A useful purpose gives meaning to every life

There's an article in Animal Person, discovered by Bea, who's one of the most passionate advocates out there, about "agricultural speaker, radio personality, columnist" Trent Loos.  He's giving his canned speech, making churches full of farmers chuckle at his folksy anecdotes and breathe fire when he warns them of the dangers of animal rights activists.  He's talking about farm animals and he says something surprising.
Everything lives and everything dies and having a useful purpose gives meaning to every life.
I'm thinking, hold on, sounds pretty progressive for an agricultural speaker/radio host/columnist.  He's acknowledging farm animals are not merely objects to be slaughtered for human consumption but sentient beings who can actually lead lives filled with meaning.  And what gives their lives meaning?  Having a useful purpose.  Sages say the same thing.  I'm starting to wonder why there aren't more agricultural speakers/radio personalities/columnists in the ethics section of the library.  I'm reading on with bated breath.  And what is the farm animals' useful purpose that gives meaning to their lives? .... it's to be slaughtered for human consumption.

If they merely grazed all day, depression would set in.  There's got to be more to life than that.  If only they could somehow serve up pieces of their bodies to human beings, then their lives would have new meaning.  Providing chunks of flesh to be seared on the grill is the steer's version of nirvana.  Getting impregnated on the rape rack, watching her calf get hauled off to the veal auction so she can get pumped full of hormones, put back on the rape rack and artificially inseminated again is the dairy cow's version of the rapture.  Getting her neck sliced open and bled while the last bit of life slowly twitches out of her is the chicken's version of earthly paradise.

Over at Suicide Food, they've spent so much time pondering the mindset of these animals who crave self-slaughter, offering themselves up to human dinner tables and barbecues, some with stoic resignation, others with flat-out glee.  Maybe this agricultural speaker/radio host/columnist has cracked the code.  The animal seeks self-slaughter as a way of finding meaning in his life.  Having a useful purpose is what gives his life that meaning.  And that useful purpose is discovered through the transformative act of becoming the main entree at the human banquet.

I don't mean to quibble with this agricultural speaker/radio personality/columnist, but being consumed can't be the perfectly fulfilling act he thinks it is because, you see, the steer is modest enough to recognize his limitations.  He's not ample enough.  He can only provide enough flesh for a tiny handful of humans and that saddens him because he wants to serve the entire human world.  He wishes he could rise from the dead like the one in the main human religion.  "If I could come back from death to life and be slaughtered again and again then I'd be able to feed even more people and my life would have even more meaning."  Greedy steer.  How dare you desire perfect fulfillment.  A partially fulfilling life should be good enough for you.  You're only an animal, after all, not an agricultural speaker/radio personality/columnist.  More from him:
We allow everyone to talk about better treatment of pigs, chickens, cows.  And what about people?
I know I believe people deserve equal treatment.  During the debate over California's Prop 2, which would give laying hens bigger cages, I advocated for a separate proposition that would replace the window offices of all Tyson executives with cages proportionate to the size of the battery cages they use to confine their laying hens.  I think this agricultural speaker/radio host/columnist deserves a cage every bit as luxurious.  One big enough to fit his microphone and radio equipment so his folksy charm and meaningful existence-through-slaughter philosophical musings can be appreciated by all.