When I ate meat, if someone had asked me if I liked animals, I would have answered “yes!” After all, I loved playing with the dogs and cats I met, I loved feeding squirrels and birds with my grandmother, and I loved watching animal documentaries with my dad.
However, in order to eat animals, someone has to tear them away from their families and butcher them – this is something everyone knows, even if they don’t know the details of how it is done, and I knew it too. However, I still ate meat. What enabled me to do this? What could allow others to do the same?
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Brazilian stuffing from the supermarket
Scientists have studied this conflict between caring for animals and killing them to eat them. This phenomenon has been called the “meat paradox” by researchers from the University of Kent and the Free University of Brussels, Steve Loughnan, Boyka Bratanova and Elisa Puvia.
And we generally take care of the animals. This is why countries have laws protecting animals, why Animal Cruelty Prevention Societies (SPCA) and other animal welfare groups exist, why there was such national outrage when the tigress Avni was killed, why the global horror when Cecil the lion and later his son Xanda were killed by trophy hunters in Zimbabwe, and that is probably why you are reading this book. In fact, many of us find it wrong what must happen to animals to produce meat, at least in principle, as little as we can know, even if we eat meat.
A prank that was set up in a supermarket in Brazil, in which a man posing as a butcher offered free samples of fresh pork sausage to shop customers, proves it. Buyers visited the counter, ate and admired the pork. Then the butcher would offer to do more, but to do this he would take out a live piglet and put the animal in a machine that seemed to instantly grind it and turn it into fresh meat. In fact, another prankster was sitting in the machine and safely picking up each baby pig. Although customers simply ate pork, they were dismayed when they thought a live pig was about to be killed. One woman spat pork out of her mouth, others begged the butcher not to kill the young pig and even tried to physically stop him. Neither of them picked up another free piece of fresh pork that they had eagerly eaten before seeing the live pork. If you were one of the clients, what would you have done?
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Classification of species according to their moral value
While many of us are confused by the idea of slaughtering any animal, several studies have shown that people who choose to eat animals are inclined to reject the idea that animals are capable of emotions. complex and are likely to draw an additional line between the emotional capacities of animals usually used for food (such as chickens) compared to those not generally eaten by humans (such as parrots). Both are birds, but the findings of these scientists indicate that people who eat meat are inclined to believe that parrots can feel more deeply than chickens, even though there is no scientific support for such. point of view. Refusing to recognize that animals, especially animals used for food, have the ability to sense deep emotions, seems to leave many of us dismissing what happens to them in food production.
Through studies by Loughnan and his colleague Brock Bastian of the University of Queensland, the couple describe how vegetarians tend to compare to meat eaters by thinking about the mental faculties of animals when they are told they will be. you are beautiful. Vegetarians did not change their take on this animal’s keen sense when they were told that an animal, like a lamb, was intended for slaughter. When meat eaters were told the same thing, it turned out that they generally reduced their view of the animal’s mental abilities. According to researchers, this can be a “defensive way” to allow us to consume animals without too much guilt or remorse.
Another experiment shows that the simple act of categorizing an animal as “food” affects the way most people perceive animal rights. In this study, the researchers presented a tree kangaroo to the participants, an animal with which the participants were unfamiliar. They were given general information about tree kangaroos and then told that the animals were to eat while others were not. Those who were told the species was food significantly viewed tree kangaroos as deserving of less concern than other participants.
Labeling an animal “friend” also has an effect, but the opposite effect – it tends to increase our respect for the friendly species. This label of animals as ‘friend’ versus ‘food’ and the psychological effect it has on how we perceive them afterwards is surely what has helped me, when I look at it in hindsight. , simultaneously loving animals such as dogs and cats, and eating animals such as cows. , chickens and pigs.
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If this is the effect a study had on people’s minds, imagine the result of being repeated over and over again, as we usually are from a young age, that certain animals are destined to ” food ”by authority figures, such as our parents or members of our community. or people we want to be accepted by, like our friends. What if these individuals had instead classified these same animals in the “friend” category? Would we have thought differently?
Today there are a lot of vegetarians and vegans in the United States, but in the 80s and early 90s the repeated messages most people gave me as a youngster were speciesist: animals like cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and fish existed only to be eaten and animals like dogs and cats are friends. In other words, some species are more worthy of respect than other animals simply as beings. Indeed, although I happily ate what I considered to be the “food” members of the animal kingdom, I would have eaten my own foot before eating a dog. If we are raised in a carnivorous family, or if our families engage in rituals or customs that involve killing or eating certain animals, something similar is usually the repeated message we hear too.
This excerpt from A Moment of Taste by Poorva Joshipura was published with permission from HarperCollins India.
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