Have I learnt nothing from my various philosophical run-ins with religious zealots? Extremists of all persuasions issue decrees and dogma, not reason and sound debate. They are best avoided. Despite knowing this only too well, I was recently drawn into a Facebook discussion about a very topical animal welfare issue – sow crates. I will not name the host organisation because I admire their work and have no wish denigrate them in any way. It was a minority of militant hangers-on that I fell afoul of and with whom I take issue here.
Initially I only posted in defence of another contributor who had been accused of ‘murder’ for advocating the consumption of free-range pork as opposed to no pork (or meat for that matter) at all. Here is what I actually said:
”Murder…really? Are we still rolling out that old chestnut? Human evolution has largely been driven by a need for animal protein, which due to our physiology is the most practical source of the calories required to build muscle and fuel thought. Murder and following one’s dietary imperatives are very different things indeed. I strongly advocate a boycott of conventionally raised pork, but not meat altogether. The only reason such deplorable farming practices continue is because consumers tolerate them. Farmers are essentially business people and you cannot expect them to do anything that isn’t profit driven, especially if it is above and beyond what the law requires. Conventional pork farming as it stands is more economical than free range, and it is perfectly legal. I don’t like it either, but then I can afford the alternatives. Many consumers cannot.” Nothing very profound there, but a valid enough opinion, I thought.
The responses which followed reminded me why legitimate liberal causes have such a tough time winning conservative support and affecting significant change. Time and again they are hijacked by ill-mannered and ill-informed attention-seeking idiots.
To capture the general spirit of the many, many angry responses my post received; I too was accused of murder- never mind that word being a legal term, not a general behaviour. My accusers would settle for nothing less than a meat-free future, and argued that all thoughts and actions to the contrary were inherently cruel, nay evil and abusive. They dismissed outright contemporary (and very, very strongly supported) evolutionary theory, and raised bizarre claims about our species gastric prowess, such as:”Humans can digest anything (including cardboard) but that doesn’t mean we should” and “Are you comparing yourself to a cheetah?” Ummm, no we can’t and no, quite clearly I am not.
This left of left-wing bovver-boy attitude is the (humanely euthanized) albatross around neck of so many worthy causes. I consider myself to be pretty broad minded, left wing and even reactionary at times. I’ve avidly supported workers’ rights, gay rights, women’s rights, animal rights and so on all my life. Always will. However, I learnt a very long time ago that shouting at people really doesn’t achieve much. Eventually they stop listening to anything you say and your moderate supporters (i.e. the majority of your supporters) drift away. All that remains is a small, Leighton Smith-baiting, braying minority. As much as any cause needs an advance guard willing to take risks and grab public attention, eventually reason and intelligent debate must prevail.
I am passionately committed to the welfare of farmed animals and the implementation of humanely driven codes of practice within the meat industry. However, I eat meat. I like meat, and that’s not going to change. Does that make me a traitor to the cause? Is this an all-or-nothing debate, and if so, are there enough true-believers to actually affect any meaningful change?
I object to being painted as a murderer simply because I choose the default human diet and I fear for the future of farmed animals if they are only to be championed by inflexible, cause-killing bullies.