As an omnivore, I’m probably going to be told that I can’t talk like this, yet I’m going to anyway.
Lately I have been getting the feeling that proselytizing vegans are the more artificial of our species, and have their mental roots in some good old-fashioned monotheistic fundamentalism.
It seems that they are inclined to view the eating of meat as somewhat grubbier than the eating of plants – and this is leaving out entirely the question of factory farming and intolerable conditions for our meat animals, which is an important point on its own but which does not seem entirely to inform the evangelical zeal of many vegans and some vegetarians.
I have a huge issue with how we raise much of our meat, but those objections could be equally raised with regard to how we farm our plants. As long as I want to remain incarnate, I have to eat.
In all of nature, humans are the only ones who profess an emotional objection to meat-eating. This tells me that we are losing, or have lost, our connection to the Earth in a fundamental way.
The bird pulling the worm out of the ground has a very good idea of the habits and living conditions of worms. The tiger knows precisely how her prey will react to the sight of her. That is how they feed – by knowing, in an un-intellectual manner, what it means to be the prey animal. The skin mite has an appreciation of my body which I could only dream of consciously matching.
This behaviour is also known as empathy.
Many of us humans no longer have empathy with the living creatures – animal or plant – which we consume.
There is a slight but noticeable tendency to consider all “cruelty” as Bad, and all sympathy as Good, in a dualistic moral set we seem to have inherited from the Middle Eastern religions.
For me, sympathy is a shallow and painful version of the knowing of another. Empathy, or maybe compassion, is the real McCoy.
So before you pick up your knife and fork, it would help to pause for a moment. Become the animal or plant whose substance you are about to ingest. In all its terror. In all its resignation. In all its knowing of the reality of the Web, which is not a chain or a pyramid, but something vastly more complex.
Do not remove yourself from its environment. It is all we have, really.