Humans are and have always been predators as far as we know. Nowadays, humanity has become vainglorious in thinking that it has “evolved” from its predatory nature, so much so that many have started thinking that it’s a good idea to deny our meat eating habit and cravings. On the surface it might look like we have wandered far from our origin by practicing our so-called civilized life-style, but the fact is that, statistically, most people still like and enjoy eating meat, so the question is if humanity really has changed that much. Can we really escape our own nature, developed through millions of years of evolution? Can nature be dismissed like that so easily?
If we displace and suppress the predator in ourselves, won’t it just bite us in the back? Won’t we just risk disturbing a delicate balance in nature, which has always been there? Perhaps we rather need to acknowledge what we really are in order to be able to cope with it in a more controlled fashion, and thus save ourselves and the world.
If we don’t realize who we really are deep down and start acting accordingly, our self-denial might cause disruption of the natural cycle of life in which we take part. In fact it could result in an ecological disaster. The ironic thing is, that those with the best intentions, who see themselves as the most nature friendly and life preserving people, might perhaps end up putting nature in the most danger, without even being conscious of it. Let me explain how.
Nature is about transformation
It’s thought provoking how fear of death, pain and injury is a common denominator for all human beings and animals. Nothing wants to die, if it can escape it. All life has a strong will to live, and all living beings will do anything possible to survive. Strangely, it is the same will that urges animals to kill and eat each other.
It’s quite interesting that everything works this way. It seems that everything that lives, lives off of other living things – plants or animals. Everything dies and is reborn in this cycle. The universe feeds on itself. But why does nature function this way? Why do we need to kill other living beings in order to live? Why can’t we just eat dirt and/or cadavers, so that no one has to suffer or be killed?
Nature is not about moral or ethics. It’s all about transformation – transformation of energy – to keep the cycle of life and death going. So far it has been like this for billions of years – long, long before any humans walked on earth. That’s a fact.
American Indians, for instance, are said to have understood and accepted this natural cycle of life and death. They knew that natures’ balance depended on it. You don’t take more out than you put in. They hunted animals sustainably, and they thanked the Great Spirit and the animals for giving their lives so that the people could survive. The same still applies to the peoples of the High North – i.e. people living in the vast arctic and subarctic areas on earth with little or no arable land. They still have no other choice than to live off of the natural resources at hand, which among other things means: killing animals to survive.
Animals measured by “cuteness-factor”
But in later years these ancient ways of life seem but a faint memory of a distant past for most modern people. Our world has become more and more artificial and technology-based. Technology has made many peoples’ lives so efficient, so comfortable and so protected, that we do not longer feel the same responsibility for our own survival – not in the sense that we, personally, have to grow our own vegetables or go hunting for our own meat. The system takes care of that for us.
Thus, “animals” are not something most people think of like something you hunt and kill in order to eat. Killing is something we only do to each other in wars – or for fun on our computer- and TV-screens. In fact, we are quite obsessed with blood-dripping violence in the computer games we play and the films we watch. One could ask: Why are we so obsessed with violence and blood? Why all this scare-mongering in our media and entertainment? What does it tell us about ourselves? Could it be that we need to find artificial ways to thrill and scare ourselves, now that we no longer experience it so much in a natural way?
In most people’s world today, animals are no longer seen as hunting prey, but something you either keep as your pet to keep you company – or something you watch for entertainment in a zoo or in TV, where animals are measured by their ‘cuteness-factor’. Animals in general – at least mammals – have become more and more human-like in our view nowadays.
People have become so alienated from the old ways of life and so ‘disneyfied’ in their thinking that they have almost displaced the fact that animals still are just as much a food source for humans as they’ve always been. But how can you blame people for thinking this way if they almost only are presented to animals as pets in their daily lives and never see how the meat on the table really gets there? Admittedly, it must be difficult to see the connection between one’s cute pet and the packaged meat from the supermarket refrigerators.
Humanity has an insatiable lust for meat
People see this development in our thinking as “evolvement of the human kind”. But the fact is that we’re just deceiving ourselves. We fail miserably in facing reality. Even though many of us might not be able to accept it, we can’t deny the fact that most human beings are still meat-eaters, which means that we, basically, still are predators. This alienated fantasy-like reality we have created around us hasn’t changed humanity’s cravings for meat, only sensitized people in such a way that most of us are not able any more to kill anything, nor see animals being killed.
How can we bring ourselves to harm any animal when we project ourselves into them and identify with them? We know that we don’t like pain ourselves and that we don’t want to die, so why would the animals? It feels somehow “wrong” to kill these innocent beings. We don’t like the fact anymore that any living being has to loose its life in order for us to eat it. The problem is: we still love the taste of them, don’t we? So what do we do about it? How do we cope with the fact that in order to satisfy humanity’s insatiable lust for meat we actually need to breed animals in the billions, just to kill and eat them?
Live in blissful ignorance
We have this romantic idea of cozy farm life with cows grassing peacefully in the sun on green fields living happy lives, but in fact nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that mostly everywhere, farming has become a cold-hearted mass-industry, where billions of animals are seen as nothing but ‘products’, kept in slavery in huge animal farm factories, out of our sight, often under holocaust-like conditions, living a miserable life, never seeing the light of day, force-fed with food totally unnatural for their kind, and forced to reproduce in unbelievable numbers. As soon as there is enough meat and fat on their bodies, they’re put on assembly lines in endless rows only to be killed mercilessly in abattoirs far away, where any access is strictly prohibited for outsiders.
And why is that? Why do we keep the meat producing process out of the public eye? It would seem that we need to protect ourselves from really realizing how truly horrible we are to animals, because we don’t dare to look ourselves in the eye. Our self-deception is phenomenal. We don’t want to be confronted with these “dark” sides of humanity. The system we have created helps us to do like ostriches: Stick our heads in the sand and live in blissful ignorance and indifference.
The magnitude of the cruel mass slaughter of animals worldwide is almost unimaginable. It seems that most people are unable to realize how much pain our modern way of life really inflicts on each single, individual animal among the billions we kill. What would happen, if we really had to face to witch degree the human race exploits animals and how much animals suffer for our sake? Would we really change our ways – or just learn to live with the guilty conscience?
Who is more “evolved”?
Many people turn to vegetarianism or veganism to ease their guilty conscience, but most do not. Since there’s not much many feel they can do about the way the world is organized, people think they have no other choice but to go with the flow. It’s easy, because we’re not the ones killing the animals, others do the dirty job for us – so we forget our own responsibility in the big picture.
But then… from time to time it happens that some people come across an animal slaughter in plain sight – or in gory pictures or videos – where people still slaughter animals the ancient way, out in the open. It is very likely to happen in small pockets of preserved cultures that haven’t fully adopted the industrialized mass-exploitation of animals yet and therefore don’t hide their meat producing process away from the public eye. Experiencing these practices is so shocking to some of the unprepared spectators that they become horrified and outraged: “You evil mass-murderers!” they shout out loud. “This atrocity doesn’t belong in the 21th century! Why don’t you evolve like the rest of us!”
Those “primitive cultures” carrying out these slaughters, do it like it is the most natural thing to do, and seemingly without any guilty feelings – and that is highly provocative, especially for those who never could bring themselves to harm any animal (which includes most of us). So we regard ourselves as “more evolved” and “morally superior” to these heartless people.
Discriminating distinctions between animals
But are we really? Do we really think that just because we don’t have blood on our hands personally, that we are any better? Is our own culture’s mass-exploitation of the animal kingdom really more ethically acceptable? Isn’t the highly industrialized mass breeding and killing of animals, in fact, even more sinister and perverted? Talking about seeing “the speck in your brother’s eye”, but not noticing “the log that is in your own eye”…
To justify ourselves we start to make more or less absurd and discriminating distinctions between animals – as if some animals are more worthy and more deserving of our care than others. Mammals most like us are definitely on the top of the list, because they are the “cutest”. But we still eat mammals, also intelligent mammals.
Why would we think it is okay to eat one kind of mammal, but not another kind of mammal? A life is a life, isn’t it? Why would the life of, for instance, a domesticated animal be less worthy than the life of a wild animal? Isn’t the only difference that domesticated animals are just unlucky to have been born into a century where mass breeding, exploitation and enslavement of these kinds of animals has developed to the most extensive yet in human history? But does that make it more “natural” or ethically acceptable to kill and eat these animals?
Hopeless alienation from our natural selves
What is really happening here? one might ask. Is it that we – in our quest to eradicate all evil in this world – have become so disgusted with the reminiscences of the predator in us – our own nature – so when we see others outplay, what we don’t accept in ourselves anymore, we get angry? Are we, in fact, just projecting our anguish and frustrations over our own hopeless alienation from our natural selves, onto others who represent, what we hate to admit is part of our own nature as human beings? Very conveniently for us, these incidents open a vent through which we can unleash the steam, we’ve been holding down.
Bottom line: Many are so uncomfortable with the fact that blood has to be shed in order for us to get meat on the table that we are now defying and challenging the laws of nature and trying to find ways out of this ‘vicious’ cycle of life and death, which for billions of years was natural.
The first idea that comes to mind is this: Why don’t we all just eat plants? What if we became vegetarians or vegans, all of us. That would solve the problem, wouldn’t it? No. That creates other problems, besides that it goes against millions of years of evolution. It doesn’t restore the ecological balance in nature that the modern farming and agriculture practically has destroyed. And it makes life impossible for all those people living in arctic, subarctic and high altitude areas with no other survival means than to hunt in the wild or to breed livestock.
No escape from guilty conscience
Does it even solve our ethical dilemma? It might just lead to further questioning, for on the other hand: What makes us believe that it is okay to kill and eat one kind of living beings – like plants – and not another kind of living beings – like animals? Do plants not have the will to live also – just like the animals? Just a thought. They have no chance to defend themselves. Is it okay for us to take advantage of that? I wonder what would happen, if people found evidence that showed that plants do also have something that resembles sensitivity, feelings or even some kind of intelligence. Some really do believe that. Maybe we should eat only ripe fruit that has fallen onto the ground and is about to die anyway…
Or what if we – as the intelligent beings we are – found ways to just eat food that was a 100 % synthetically produced? Would that really change anything? Isn’t it just another side of the same coin? Isn’t it all just about trying to find a smart way to escape from our own self-created guilty conscience over the fact that our bread is the death of another?
In summary, it’s hardly possible to live up to the ‘moral standards’ some people have developed today. It seems almost impossible to eat anything without feeling guilty or bad about it. But if we really, seriously, did anything to find alternative food sources that could be accepted as 100 % ethically “correct” today, wouldn’t it just be the same as to oppose the framework for how the whole ecosystem works and has always worked?
Causing catastrophe instead of utopia
What about the fact that animals eat each other, like they’ve always done? Is it also ‘immoral’ when animals do it? Why would animals have this “right” to cause other animals deaths, if humans were denied the same “rights”? It’s puzzling and mind-boggling to the absurd. If we are to be consistent, shouldn’t we also prevent the animals from inflicting pain on others and from eating each other?
But what would happen to the ecosystem if we went through with it and really tried to implement this idea? Is it possible to eradicate all “evil” – all anxiety, all pain, all death – in this world? Wouldn’t it just disrupt the great cycle of life in which plants and animals live off of each other? Won’t we just tip nature’s balance and cause a catastrophe, instead of the utopia we dream of, if we went too far down that path?
What makes us people today – in the relatively very short period, we have been around in this world since the beginning of time – so special and different that we have to change something so fundamentally natural as the life and death cycle? Is it okay? I’m just asking…
Acceptance of our role in the natural cycle
Wouldn’t it be better if we, instead of fighting against it, just realized and accepted what history has shown to be our true nature – the fact that most of us are omnivores and have no intention of becoming anything else. And then learn to live with it in a morally acceptable and ecologically sound way.
The natural cycle has already been disrupted enough as it is. If we want to restore it and regain the ecological balance, what to do? If every single human being is to live in a sustainable way in accordance with their surroundings wherever they are on the planet, it means, basically, that we need first and foremost to live off of the resources available in our vicinity – also if it includes killing of animals for their meat, because they are the only resource available some places. We might perhaps have a chance restoring a natural balance if we rely as much as possible on local food supply rather than on questionable foods transported thousands of miles from opposite corners of the world, leaving a trail of dangerous CO2 emission, often sprayed with chemicals for duration and packed in plastics, which end up in nature, poisoning our lands and oceans and threatening our health and fertility.
But if we want to live in balance with nature, is it possible to leave animals completely out of the equation, even though we would have the choice of living off of plants only? If we want to maintain an ecologically sound food production don’t the animals play an important role – together with the plants – in the natural cycle of life and death anyway? So shouldn’t they be part of this cycle as they’ve always been? Just like we humans are also? I would say, of course. Of course we should include the animals. But we don’t need to put billions of animals in small cages, feeding them in a way, that is completely unnatural to them, as we’ve seen happening in the farm industry at least the last hundred years. That is animal abuse and we should stop doing that. But to stop eating animals altogether is not the only alternative.
Instead we could keep fewer animals in open, controlled environments that resemble natural ecological systems, but are much less cruel than today’s animal farming methods. And we could also still hunt animals in the wild, where it is possible to do it in a sustainable way. We would still need to kill animals, because if we don’t kill – and eat – some of them, then we would soon face an overpopulation problem, and then nature itself would take care of the problem and kill the animals anyway – for instance, by diseases and starvation – which would be much crueler than if we just had killed the animals ourselves. Being so many of us – 7 billion, soon to be 9 billion people – we cannot avoid having an impact on the environment. It’s not that we can leave nature completely alone, unfortunately, but we can utilize it sensibly and make our influence in a sound, non-destructive, replenishing way.
Therefore we should encourage sustainable hunts and support the establishment of a diversified farming system, replacing the highly simplified industrial monocultures we have now. Instead of few enormous monocultural farms we could have many smaller, diversified farms, where plants and animals are an integrated part of a rich, local permaculture adapted to the nature of the place, where animals are allowed to roam freely, and where all resources – plants and animals – can be utilized to the benefit of all, but in a balanced, cyclic, efficient, controlled, sustainable, respectful way, without the pollution, the waste and the destruction of nature we see happening because of the modern industrial farming today, which first and foremost is driven by commercial greed. We need a better alternative. A better, more sustainable approach would give us a chance to start treating animals with the respect they deserve, allowing them to live a good, satisfying, natural life, until we slaughter them, humanely of course, for food. They might even have much better lives than they would have, if they were left solely to nature’s raw ‘mercy’.
This is a goal possible to achieve on a worldwide basis. It’s a matter of choice and a matter of mobilizing political will – and then just do it.