June 17, 2000 11:08 AM   Subscribe

Sigh. Apparently it's cruelty when humans hunt and eat "animals," but not when other "animals" do it to each other. (Basic biology flashback: humans are animals!) This is what happens when a species supersaturates its environment. Biological imperative begins to collapse and such furiously futile exercises as "pro-rat protests" are perpetrated in the name of something called ethics (not to mention free publicity).
posted by highindustrial (17 comments total)
Yeah... and I suppose it wouldn't be considered cruelty to humans to let them starve to death.
Some people are so stupid it scares me.
posted by Bane at 11:13 AM on June 17, 2000

Do what I do: Every time PETA makes the news by embarrassing themselves, treat yourself to a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. ;)

posted by aaron at 11:18 AM on June 17, 2000

To me, it's very simple. It's cruel to inflict pain on any creature that can feel it and experience it as pain. We're not 100% sure that all mammals feel pain as we do, but it's a good bet.

It's cruel whether or not the pain is being inflicted by a human or another animal.

I'm not suggesting that we try to stop animals from hunting and killing each other. I'm not even suggesting that we stop humans from eating meat. I'm just trying to "call a spade a spade."

I've never understood how something being "natural" or "biological" should give it some sort of special status--especially when we're talking about ethics.
posted by grumblebee at 11:57 AM on June 17, 2000

Well, my problem with it being cruel to inflict pain on any creature that can feel and experience it as pain is that plants can do this. Injure one plant, and all the plants around you begin to react in subtle but very real ways, as the plant you've cut releases warning chemicals into the air. Unfortunately for the plants (the only non-parasitic beings in the world) they can't move fast enough.

I don't think it's cruel when a lion kills an elk. I don't think it's cruel when a bouncer tosses a drunk into the street. To me, Cruelty is all about intent. Am I hurting you because I must? Then it isn't cruel. Am I hurting you simply because I can, or because I enjoy hurting you? That's cruel.

Example #1 - A friend of mine got a fishing hook embedded in her palm. I cut the head off, opened up the cut, and removed the barb. This caused her additional pain, but no one would argue that it was cruel. I was hurting her in order to avoid more pain later.

Example #2 - Back when I was a bouncer, if we caught anybody trying to use GHB or Rohypnol in our bar (which already skated the line of legality by waving at really bad fake ID's) we were encouraged to take them out back and beat them into the street. I was very good at this, and in this instance, it was very cruel. I didn't care about the people they hurt, merely about taking the opportuinity to beat someone up with impunity. This was cruel.

That's my definition. My father is a very cruel man in many respects, but as far as I'm concerned the way he hunts is not one of them. He uses a handgun, and makes two kills a year, both by headshots and both of which he and his new family eat. The animal dies almost instantly, there is little wasted meat, and while a handgun is illegal it certainly doesn't have all the stopping power or targeting ability of a hunting rifle. The way others hunt...shoot it with an arrow, trail it as it slowly bleeds to death, then finish it off with a knife and tie it to the roof of your car so that you may cut off its head and display it...I see that as wasteful and cruel.

So I don't agree that animals are, or even can be cruel. Only mankind, and perhaps our close relatives and cetacean rivals, have the brainpower to be cruel, because only we can display intent. But that's just my take on it.
posted by Ezrael at 12:17 PM on June 17, 2000

Per aaron's suggestion:
To go along with all the "drinking games" ("Take a drink everytime Regis asks: "Is that your final answer?"), this could be the official "PETA Eating Game"...
But focus your carnivorous choices on the subject of the stupid protest: Beef- Double-burger; Dairy- Extra-cheese pizza; Rat- (from the famous urban myth) Kentucky Fried Chicken!!
posted by wendell at 1:35 PM on June 17, 2000

I'd state my opinion on the matter, but I think Ezrael has already done it for me. Killing anything and eating it isn't cruel, unless you torture it first. It's called "survival" (not really a pun, and still not intended), and it's what we need to do to survive. To all of the PETA people who most likely aren't reading this, get a life!
posted by deckard at 3:57 PM on June 17, 2000

As a vegetarian (but not an animal's rights advocate) I have got into many arguments over exactly what should and should not be eaten/killed etc. My own view is that it seems "odd" to kill "animals" but not "plants" because the former seem more sentinent. There are difficulties in an exact definition, but there are practical advantages in having a distinction like "vegetarian" that's easy to understand even if it's not perfectly reasoned (would you eat slime mould? etc).

I want to separate that - being a vegetarian - from views like the link above. For me, being veggy is one small decision in a complicated world. Something I choose, not something I want to force down the throats of others (so to speak :-). In a world where we continue to kill each other at an alarming rate, vegetarianism and animal rights seem fairly trivial.

Does that make sense? I feel vegetarianism gets bad press for being linked to silly extremism. It needn't be. You can be a relaxed vegetarian with pride! (If own-site links are unacceptable, site owner, feel free to remove this - I won't object at all - but this link gives more details).
posted by andrew cooke at 3:22 AM on June 18, 2000

See, Andrew, your position I have no problems with at all. I don't even especially mind it when someone attempts to rationally convince me that vegetarianism or pure vegan dietary habits will in some way benefit my health.

What pisses me off is shit like this. The blanket assumption at PETA that if I do not share their view, it is because I'm a chimpanzee who can't comprehend them, when in fact, I am on the average a fairly intelligent and rational human being capable of being convinced. I dislike pandering to what is assumed to be my weak spot rather than cogent argument.

I freely grant that, in many cases, the human omnivore functions better on scanty meat, and that it is possible to do without it entirely and not suffer in health in the slightest (although I do think that pure vegan living is unhealthy...lacta-ovo vegetarianism would seem ideal to me), however, I think the whole argument misses some of the viscerality (no pun intended) of meat consumption.

When I eat meat, I do so as someone who has hunted, someone who has worked as a knackerer and been inside slaughterhouses and has killed, dressed and butchered his own meat. I have smelled it, felt it, known it inside and out. I do it knowing full well that I am a dealer of death, and indeed, it is that transaction that interests me. Since this thread began with a discussion of cruelty, I think it appropriate to take it to this somewhat dark corner of my soul. I warn anyone reading that it gets somewhat disturbing from here (if you aren't already disturbed) and you may wish to spare yourselves.

I am a very angry human being. The reasons why are unimportant, although thanks to more therapy that I can recount I do know what they are to a degree. If I were not intelligent enough to analyze myself, and compassionate enough to feel for others, I would probably be labeled a sociopath, but I avoided that emotional cul de sac. However, I eat meat because of the totemic-spiritual aspects of the act of eating something else, of absorbing it, of knowing that it died and I have not. I eat meat because of the emotional transferance that happens inside me, the lightening of my anger, the better him than me sensation.

I eat meat because I have to hurt something or I will go mad. That sounds sick. That is sick, I know. Being Father's Day, it's very appropriate that I admit that. (I know, I said I wasn't going to play the blame game. I lied.) But I can't function in the hideously cramped, painfully hyperkinetic, smelly noisy bedlam of the world as it is, swollen with humans, if I don't indulge that cruelty. I stand before you covered in blood. I am, in fact, the werewolf PETA decries, and my only question is this:

Would you prefer it was people? I used to go out to bars and pick fights with skinheads twice my size (and I'm six two and two sixty-five, so imagine) in order to exercise this demon enough that it would lie tame in my head. I have been trained from the time I was eight years old to kill things, and I'm good at it. I grew up in a household that was basically a survivalist camp, where we grew our own food (animal and vegetable) and yes, killed and ate it. My family still believes that Armageddon is coming in their lifetime. I am wired to be violent, and it is only though the use of my mind that I have managed to overcome most of that programming. But I have not overcome it all, and I need to find ways to let it out. Eating meat does that for me.

So I will not give it up as long as I can continue to find such a simple, beneficial way to control myself. I will continue to thank the meat for giving its life that I may live (the way my ancestors on both sides of the Atlantic always have) and I will continue to eat it, because as a rat living trapped in this tiny cage with all these other rats, I have to bite or go mad.

I choose to bite.
posted by Ezrael at 6:41 AM on June 18, 2000

I choose to nibble.
posted by quonsar at 8:31 AM on June 18, 2000

I thought about not posting this. This debate, like the "does God exist" thing, is unwinnable. And even worse, it's easier to call people names over this. And I tend to pepper my arguments with childish name calling. I always feel silly after I click submit.

Oh well. Into the breach......

"If it had been done here [in the U.S.] in another setting, they would have been charged with animal cruelty."

Why is it that PETA folks have to be so f**cking stupid? I mean, I know that this is group of loons, but it just seems like EVERYTHING they say is not only silly, but factually inaccurate. The last time I checked people weren't being rounded up for the crime of fishing and hunting in the US.

"We have the highest regard for PETA and its cause,"

Oh, bullshit! You think they are goofy retards just like everyone else. This is part of the problem. No one wants to stand up and tell these idiots to ram their silliness right up their ass.

"It's cruel to inflict pain on any creature that can feel it"

I suppose in some utopian, happy world we could let ideas like this be a major motivating force for our actions. Unfortunately we live in the real world, and a certain amount of cruelty is going to be unavoidable. Go ahead. Take the bait. I dare you.

Is it cruel to crowd cows into feedlots and then carve them into steaks while they're dying. Sure. It's cruel. And I don't feel guilty about it. And I don't think we should stop eating meat because of it. And when people show sympathy for the poor cows I laugh hysterically. It's meat! It's food! It would be nice if food magically appeared in our fridge every morning, But it doesn't.

"We're not 100% sure that all mammals feel pain as we do"

Yes we are. They feel pain just like us. So what? We shouldn't eat anything that might feel pain? I don't get it.

"I'm just trying to call a spade a spade."

This is blatantly racist and you shouldn't say things like that.

It's just too easy for someone who thinks it's cruel to eat meat to argue that the rest of us are doing something wrong. You can't talk about it without emotions and morals and ethics coming immediately to the surface.

On one side we have people saying that it's wrong to kill and eat another thinking, feeling creature. And that sounds valid. But to me it's just totally simpleminded. We don't live in a world where we can live our lives in an ideal way. And it's totally unfair to judge other people by that standard. If you want to chase after that sort of idealism, then go for it. Just leave me out of it.

I grew up on a farm where we raised and killed our own meat. I've gutted Elk and carried it miles on my back. THESE THINGS SUCK!!!! Not because it was cruel, but because it was hard, smelly, frustrating work. Now that I have the option to get my meat conveniently wrapped and delivered to me, I'm going to use that option. Perhaps some people need to feel a visceral connection to the things they eat. I'm happier having a visceral connection to my saute pans. To the meat processing industry: "Thank you."

I've been told that meat processing industry has nothing in common with hunting and that the way animals kill for food is somehow less cruel. This is also wrong. They are all the same. The main difference is that animals don't have to listen to the vapid spewings of clods like PETA.

The above ranting will make it easy for you to label me as a typical testosterone filled male.
Which of course, is what I am. Welcome to the real world.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:30 AM on June 18, 2000

I had a really hard time getting past the part where PETA members were upset with those folks "nibbling on rat meat"... rats are creatures that usually live in environments where they have no natural predators. They're not exactly creatures worthy of my pity. Now, bats, on the other had, have gotten a bad rap by society...but that's another topic for another day...

PETA means well, but they are one organization that can really go to extremes if no one keeps them in check. If we all thought like them, man would sink to the bottom of the food chain & go extinct really fast....

Vegetarians, of course have every right to their choice. Me? I need my big bloody steaks... I try really hard not to think about how it made it from the pasture to my dinner table. That's me, them's them... I can respect all sides on this matter.

To Brother Ezrael and other angry souls (big finger pointing back at moi): Anger is another thing I feel society has given a bad rap. It's the fire inside us all, it keeps us warm, it's our driving's the center of our humanity.

And just like fire, it requires constant vigilance and control, or else it will consume everything in it's path.

You've shared with me your pain, and as your friend I cried inside for you (compassion being another human trait), If I could, I'd so anything to take away some of that pain.

*Some* being the operative word here.

It's that same *anger* that drives you to write those wonderful, thought-provoking things that you do on your site. The fury and frustration that I saw on yesterday, literally grabbed my shirt with both fists and growled with clenched teeth and said "Listen...I got something to say, goddammit!". That's the same power that we all wield to change this world. For better or worse... it's really up to us all. It always was.

Embrace that anger that makes you who you are... don't shun it or try and make it go away. Continue to learn how to control it and channel that negativity into a powerful, positive force....

Our hands can build.... those same hands can destroy... it's all up to us, which path we let that force take us. There's *always* a time for both.

It makes us more human. Not less.

posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 12:30 PM on June 18, 2000

What about road kill? I wonder what a PETA members reaction was when driving there car or truck and they happened to have killed an animal. Anyone know how many accidents are caused by trying to avoid hitting animals?

Certainly intention to inflict pain on domestic animals is cruel but eating chicken, pig, cow, or anything else that appears along the food chain is not in my opinion.
posted by brent at 9:04 PM on June 18, 2000

Nature is amoral. Utterly, horribly amoral.

(Oh, geez, he's gone all Paglia on us.)

But it's true. Morality and cruelty are human inventions. And, by and large, we have removed ourself from nature. We all know this; let us acknowledge this.

There are some things I agree with the PETA party line on. I don't think that hundreds of bunnies need to be stuffed with oven cleaner. I don't think lab animals need to have nail polish poured into their eyes. This is degenerate cruelty. This is torture. I'm cooler with medical testing, but only because medical testing has some sort of benefit for us.

Vegetarianism? No problem with it, as long as you realize I'm still going to eat meat. Truth be told, I dated a vegetarian (okay, she fell off the wagon and started eating seafood) for two years, and it must have rubbed off because I'm eating healthier. So it ain't all bad.

But I'm going to venture a hypothesis about hardcore animal activists, the kind of people who would get upset over rats being eaten. (Rats killed a third of Europe. I think we can stand to lose a few. Unless they just target France. Ba da dum. Thank you, I'll be here all week.)

I think that they are having some sort of primordial memory. When they see an animal being slaughtered, when they see meat being torn off the bone, when they see an animal die, something inside them stirs in terror and says: This could be you. A vicious reminder that for all our evolved lobes and wundertoys, we are still fragile creatures of flesh that, thanks to our lack of natural weaponry, would not last one second in the while. We have so effectively removed ourselves from the natural world that any reminder of our origins brings us that blank state of terror. Compassion is fostered out of fear.

This is the only theory I can think of to explain why people would feel compassion for rats.
posted by solistrato at 7:17 AM on June 19, 2000


ezrael, there are parasitic plants.
posted by syn at 9:14 AM on June 19, 2000

Unless compassion for rats is a new type of political conformity, in which no creature is too low or disgusting for animal rights activists to champion. Hurrah for the downtrodden and despised and the untold millenia during which they have suffered!
posted by elgoose at 11:04 AM on June 19, 2000


True, but there are non-parasitic ones as well. That's more than can be said for the animal kingdom, or fungi, for that matter.
posted by Ezrael at 8:59 PM on June 19, 2000

"Fungi".... thanks.

Anybody want my pizza w/mushrooms?
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 11:11 PM on June 19, 2000

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