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Holocaust vs. Eating Meat

Sara Lazarovska's picture

I don't know why, but the thing I keep thinking about from The Lives of Animals is the way Costello began her talk: with the information about the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Maybe this is because I worked with the Jewish Community Center in Skopje on a project about the Holocaust, and because my best friend's favorite museum is the Holocaust Museum in Skopje. That's why I was so shocked when Costello makes the connection between the concentration camps and eating meat. I mean, I pledged to be vegetarian for a year when I was an active member of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and I still do feel guilty when I eat meat, but I never thought of eating meat as something as atrocious as mass genocide. After all, there is a reason why the biological food chains exist: some animals eat other animals for subsistence, others eat plants. Also, why should plants not be considered living beings in the same way as animals and humans? Following that thought, would it be ethical to eat plants then too? I don't think that there is a single solution or answer to these questions. That is why I am against campaigning for a single way of life - diversity is beautiful, and it's what makes life interesting. Hence, while I do support Costello for being vegetarian, I'm not so sure I agree with her reasoning.



mijnheer's picture

Plants are not sentient

You ask, "why should plants not be considered living beings in the same way as animals and humans? Following that thought, would it be ethical to eat plants then too?" Plants are sensitive to their environments in remarkable ways, but plants are not sentient; i.e., they have no subjective awareness. A plant is some-thing, not some-one. Nothing you do to a plant can possible make any difference to the plant from its point of view, for the simple reason that it doesn't have a point of view.

But let's suppose, just for the sake of argument, that plants are sentient beings, after all, who care about what happens to them. Since the animals that meat-eaters eat, eat lots of plants themselves, and since a vegetarian diet therefore requires the consumption of far fewer plants than a diet that includes meat, the moral imperative to abstain from meat would be even greater.

Sarah Cunningham's picture

welkom mijnheer

maar... Saying that plants are not sentient does not make it true. Can we assume that our own way of being sentient is the only one? There are a number of very smart people who say otherwise: I recommend Stephen Harrod Buhner, an eminent and experienced American herbalist. His book "The Secret Teachings of Plants" is a good place to start. 

mbackus's picture

While I do agree that the

While I do agree that the moral implications of mass animal slaughter can be comprable to the holocaust, I think the importance of the distinction lies in the questions posed by Claire and the "immortal souls" of all animals, inclusive of humans. In the situation of the holocaust at first the comparison seems completely out of line. How can you compare the ethnic clensing that took place to eating meat? Once that initial shock is overcome and you begin to think about animals and feeling and soul bearing being like humans it is a little more believable. However I thought it was a shocking comparisong for her to begin with, but that seems to be what she is going for in her speech; shock value. The question I have now, is how useful is shock value at conveying something as grave as this? People are initially caught off gaurd, and then they are numb to it or forget. Is that what we want? Does that really work to effect lasting change?

Sarah Cunningham's picture

the holocaust analogy

It seems to me people are so busy being shocked by the holocaust analogy that they can't seem to look at the obvious ways it is valid, or accurate, and the ways it is invalid, or inaccurate. The holocaust is morally worse than slaughtering animals for food, because its main motivation was extermination; the use of humans for experimentation or body parts was secondary; whereas the slaughter of animals for meat at least does not operate for purely destructive reasons: the main reason is for food. On the other hand the holocaust is morally equivalent  to the slaughter of animals in that both are callously cruel to living creatures, animals and humans alike, who suffer pain and who do not wish to die; and because it deadens the moral sense of the executioners, the beneficiaries, and the bystanders to the whole process. To me the whole question of whether animals are intrisically worth as much as humans, because of their supposed lesser consciousness, is both offensive and beside the point. If we say that we cannot imagine what it is like to be an animal, how can we possibly judge what their consciousness is or isn't? That we automatically, and almost unconsciously, assume superiority is part of the moral heinousness of the situation. That a human feels insulted or degraded by being equated to an animal is part of the problem. 

By the way, I am not a vegetarian, but I do not eat factory-raised meat.