Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On vegetarians/vegans who date meat eaters

Is it alright for vegetarians/vegans to date (or marry) someone who eats meat? Can a relationship made up of someone who eats meat and someone who doesn't last?

It all depends on how serious someone is about their vegetariansm/veganism and how connected he or she is to the reality of animal suffering. I personally would never date someone who eats meat. Why? Because I believe that eating meat is ethically wrong. This belief is not something superficial for me. It permeates my whole being. A lot of my time is spent on helping other animals and improving our relationship with them. The last thing I'd want is to share my life with someone who engages in something that for me and many other true animal lovers, is simply not acceptable. This would be like the parent of a molested child going out with a child molester, or an anti-abortion crusader going out with an abortion doctor.

"But relationships are all about respecting the choices that your partner makes." Now I realize that not all vegetarians/vegans choose their diet for ethical reasons, and not all of them feel as strongly or deeply as I do about animal rights. Anyone who does feel this strongly would never use the "choice" argument. If I like the color green, but my girlfriend likes red, that's her choice, and I can respect that. If she likes Paris, but I prefer Madrid, I can respect that too. I like tattoos, she doesn't - we can work something out. If, however, she believes that murdering animals for food is alright, or "necessary", then we’d have a problem. Those like me feel that killing animals (and condoning this killing by consuming their meat) is closer, on an ethical scale, to killing other people, than it is to choosing the color of a dress, a travel destination, etc.

A vegetarian friend of mine once said that she was OK with dating an "open minded omnivore". Being open-minded is great, but this should not be used to justify causing suffering or killing, whatever species we're talking about. Hypothetically, someone like this would accept that his partner is a vegetarian, but would still continue to be part of the whole death-cycle of the meat industry. No thanks. People like me, those with a deep-seated empathy for other animals look for someone who is willing to say no to violence, to stop taking part in the death cycle of eating meat; someone who actively looks for a better way to interact with the rest of the animal world.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Is it OK to eat cats and dogs?

Generally speaking, articles about eating dogs or cats get people from "Western" countries pretty upset. People in countries like Great Britain, the USA, or Germany are accustomed to thinking of these animals as "pets" and, as such, they are often loved and considered part of the family. The fact that someone would eat these animals is seen as barbaric and disgusting. To counter these accusations, supporters of eating these animals state that this is a "cultural difference", one that should be accepted even if we don't agree with it.

So who's right? Is it OK to eat cats and dogs, or is it indeed barbaric?

First of all, "cultural differences" simply doesn't cut it as an argument. Violence and murder should be seen for what they are, no matter where they happen in the world. In the same way that we wouldn't support forced female circumcision, or sex with minors just because they happen to be part of some "culture", we should not turn a blind eye to violence when it comes to our interaction with the rest of the animal world, no matter where it happens. Some things should transcend borders and cultures. I believe that it is not OK to eat any animal, - cat, dog, pig, cow, chicken, fish, or whatever. It is true, however, that many of the people who are appalled by the fact that some Asians eat dog meat are the same ones who think it's OK to eat pigs, cows, etc., despite the fact that there is growing evidence that the animals that we farm for food are no less intelligent than many of our pets, and that they can build equally meaningful relationships with us. So, does this mean that we should just dismiss "selective" carnivores?

Not really.

While we should strive to keep hypocrisy at a minimum, we should remember that any step that eliminates violence and suffering is a good step. I am personally very thankful that I live in a society that values the life of many kinds of animals, including dogs and cats. The best way to improve our relationship with other animals is by developing a personal bond with them. This is what has happened in our culture with our relationship with dogs and cats (as well as other animals we consider pets). These animals fill many of our lives with joy, and help alleviate loneliness and other negative emotions. They motivate us to become more compassionate, more empathetic. Many of us use our love for our pets as a springboard to start respecting (and possibly loving) other animals as well, including ones our society considers "food". This is a very important phenomenon, and we believe that the more love we show for selected animals, the bigger the chance of an awakening to the suffering of other animals in general, and to the unfair way our world treats them.

Whenever we see the animals that are (or are not) eaten around the world, we should learn from this, - and the lesson here is not that "all animals are fair game", but that it is indeed possible to start with respecting the life of one species, and then, hopefully, expanding that respect to include others.