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Tension between vegetarian and meat-eaters

Shengjia-Ashley's picture

The book The Lives of Animals is ingeniously written and surprising compelling, although Coetzee used a lot of layers to “cover” his true feelings toward contemplation of animals.

Besides human’s cruelty toward animals, I see another “tension” in this book: the alienation between vegetarians and meat-eaters. In the books, the ageing mother’s ardent vegetarian conviction put a lot of tension on her son and her daughter-in-law. In some parts of the books, to me, it almost seemed like the mother and her meat-eating daughter-in-law had nothing in common to discuss about. However, at the end of the book, the son consoled the distraught mother, “There, there. It will be over soon.” Could it mean that the tension between the vegetarians and the meat-eaters will be over soon? As meat-eaters learn to respect animals more ardently, there will be a bridge that will connect in the gap between vegetarians and meat-eaters?



Benjamin Smith's picture

but some people pray over their meat... read on...

I am also confounded about why some vegetarians believe meat-eaters do not respect animals. SOME meat-eaters pray before dinner to show their gratitude toward the animals they consume."

Imagine there were a strong, barbaric, intelligent race of aliens, they came to our home speaking a stoccatto language we couldn't grasp using tools and devices we couldn't resist or understand.
And I'm your dad. Okay?

They rounded up our family, separated you from me, fondled your moms breasts and used machines to suck for milk, they took you to a cold cell where more strange aliens gathered around to laugh as they raped you with a cold metal mechanized dildo apparatus with a strangers semen in it cramming it your vagina to get you pregnant. Meanwhile they stuck your little brother in a cage too small to move for months so his "meat" would turn to succulent veal. Injecting little sister with artificial growth hormones to accelerate her "development".

I was strong and defiant so they took me to a colloseum to break me, they tied a rope around your my testicles, your good old dad humiliated, they whipped me and rode me around the arena to claps and howls, the cheering fervor of a bloodthirsty crowd all the while they chowed down on our old friends who had disappeared the week before in the form of hamburgers and hotdogs... And then at the end of the day they corralled me down narrow corridors with the frightened murmurs of my friends and countrymen echoing all around us to put us in crowded train cars and ship us to a foreign place a mechanized factory full of blood and death in the air the smell caking the inside of my nostrils, loud noises like a nightmare ruining my ability to grasp the concept of peace, wondering, worrying about where you are -and is my baby boy okay? What will they do to my wife? Is she being raped, killed? only to have my head clamped into a machine uncomfortably and my throat slit... and you think an alien prayer to an alien god mean anything to me or my family?

Shengjia-Ashley's picture

the inaccurate picture

Though I picked the picture from a lot of Google research results to demonstrate my point, the picture is still inaccurate and biased. Meat-eaters are not necessarily fat and not all vegetarians are thin and healthy. The picture is stereotyped.

I am also confounded about why some vegetarians believe meat-eaters do not respect animals. Some meat-eaters pray before dinner to show their gratitude toward the animals they consume. Some choose not to purchase meat but do eat what have already being proceeded (like meats in a packed lunchbox, unlike vegetarians who throw the meat out, they eat the meat so as not to waste the meat).

Serendip Visitor's picture

Some meat-eaters pray before dinner to show their gratitude towa

"Some meat-eaters pray before dinner to show their gratitude toward the animals they consume"
-so it's fine to kill innocent life as long as you have a little prayer before you do it.
No wonder the worlds in the state it is with logic like that.
The single best thing anyone can do to help save our planet is stop eating meat -
you'll live longer, you'll be healthier, you drop your C02 output massively.
Get the facts and science at with the brilliant Dr Greger...

Barbara's picture

I had the same impression of

I had the same impression of the continuous tension between vegetarians and meat-eaters. I found such relationship a little dramatic, because in reality I don't see a lot of real conflict between people with different eating habits. Usually people respect each other's choice or it could be that the vegetarians that I know choose not to eat meat because of health concern more than caring about the lives of animals. I think that this type of tension results from Elizabeth Costello's strong push of her ideas. And Coetzee really built such an conversation to make the whole text compelling. I really understand E. Costello's torture due to an idea that one cannot get over. I feel like her non-vegetarian son and daughter-in-law was not really concern about this emotion of hers because the tension of the rational part of this issue was so foregrounded, which seems a bit sad to me...

Shengjia-Ashley's picture

radical vegetarian

Yes, some people chose to be vegetarian because of health issues. So instead of “vegetarian”, I should use the word radical vegetarian or environmentalist vegetarian to clarify that the tension between a radical vegetarian, her neutral son and her meat-eating daughter-in-law.

What is tiring Elizabeth Costello, I believe is the frustration that she could not bridge her radical ideas with other people including her son, which, I agree, is tragic.