Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cecil the lion, should we shut up about this?

Unless you live in a cave (with no Wi-Fi), you most likely know about the case of Cecil the lion, who was recently killed by an American trophy hunter in Zimbabwe. This has caused a lot of (out)rage among people online, with pretty much everyone and their grandmother screaming for the death dentist's head on a platter for what he did.

Well, not everyone. There are folks, like this individual here, who think that we should just shut up about this whole Cecil business. According to him, there are simply much more important things in the world to concentrate on than one lion's death. He also thinks that we are being hypocritical by focusing on this one animal's death, when countless other animals are suffering and dying all around us.

Myers' initial argument that we should concentrate on more important things betrays the lack of empathy typical of those who don't really give a rat's ass about animal suffering, or simply feel that this suffering can't possibly be as important as our own. He himself drives this point home near the end of his article. Even if we do, as he writes, have "thoughts and emotions and feelings far more complex than those of Cecil", we should not downplay animals' feelings. We are indeed more complex than (other) animals, but the fact that we share with them a desire to live, as well as an ability to feel pain, fear, happiness, sadness, etc., should be reason enough to respect these animals' lives. We are all sentient beings, something Mr. Myers doesn't really understand.

He pokes fun at the term "whataboutery", but still engages in blatant whataboutery. He defends this by saying that there are indeed levels of importance to what we get involved in (see my paragraph above), but his argument falls short. Many would argue that helping kids suffering in an orphanage is more important than helping an elderly lady cross the street. Does this mean we shouldn't help the elderly cross the street? One does not necessarily have to forego being an ethical person on a small-scale, just because there are large-scale ethical issues out there.

This brings me to his second major point: the hypocrisy of people who say that they care about the killing of one animal while ignoring the fact that other animals are killed in all kinds of horrible ways every day. On one level, this is correct. Animals are hunted and killed every day. Millions of animals suffer and die every day to wind up on our dinner plate, or to provide us with eggs and dairy. Many of the same people that claim to care about Cecil don't really care about any of the other animal suffering that goes on around them, and that they sometimes actively (or even more often passively) participate in. This is very unfortunate. Now if Mr. Meyers actually cared about animals, then this argument would have had some force. The way it stands, however, instead of encouraging people to use this flood of empathy for Cecil as a springboard to maybe start thinking about other animals and how unfairly we treat them, he simply states that animal suffering is par for the course, so we should just accept it. As he puts it, animals are "killed and cooked, plucked out of rivers and chucked back, shot out of the air, run over by cars, and nobody bothers to even name them, let alone mourn them." He seems to be OK with the admittedly callous relationship many (though not all) humans have with animals, which is probably why he offers no remedy to the problem. This is not really surprising, since the lazy and selfish "that's just the way things are" approach is still quite prevalent in society.

I am not a fan of bandwagons. Still, I was, like millions of others, moved by Cecil's story. I like the fact that so many people care about this lion, and hope that at least some of them will see beyond his "celebrity" status and realize that this is an ongoing problem, one that we have to address. Many beautiful wild animals are shot and killed by unethical trophy hunters. Many beautiful farm animals are needlessly killed daily to feed our addiction to meat. Although things are slowly improving, we are still a long way away from treating the animals with whom we share the planet fairly. Ultimately, Mr. Meyers get the most important thing wrong: this is indeed a very important, complex issue. One that will hopefully get some of us on the right path to treating all animals better.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

So you like the taste of meat?

Many people who say no to veganism & vegetarianism do so because they claim to love the taste of meat too much and can't live without it. If you have eaten meat your whole life, it is easy to feel this way, but there are a couple of things you should consider before taking that next bite.

The argument that "it's all about the taste" kind of dies when you think about the taste of our own flesh. Ethics of cannibalism aside, we can, indeed, eat human flesh, and several well-known cannibals have confirmed that it is quite tasty, comparable to pork, beef, and even veal. Again, I'm obviously not advocating cannibalism, just stating the obvious that it's NOT all about the taste, that there are ethics involved.

Sure, you might say, but we are not going to cannibalize ourselves, - that's why we have to eat other animals, and they DO taste good. This is where our ethics should kick in, and we should remember that while humans are indeed different from animals (especially in our higher intelligence), we also have a lot in common with them. The animals that make up our diet are sentient beings, who have the ability to feel emotions (both happy and sad), and to suffer and feel pain much like we do. This alone should be enough to respect their lives like we respect the lives of other humans, and to say no to eating their meat, no matter how tasty it is. At this point, many will either deny that these animals are sentient in order to put off admitting the indirect cruelty of eating their flesh, or simply admit that they're selfish individuals who are willing to sacrifice the life of an animal for their own pleasure.

Much of the blame for our ambivalence lies in the smoke and mirrors act of the meat and restaurant industries. The meat industry does everything so that you don't associate the meat you're eating with the death of an innocent animal, and the restaurant industry dresses it up nicely in a variety of garnishes, herbs, and spices, so that the presentation of the food becomes the focus, once again bypassing the inconvenient little fact that what you're eating is a piece of a once living, breathing sentient being.

Of course not everything that is pleasant to our minds and bodies is beneficial to us. And I could point out that saturated fats (often found in meat, dairy, and animal products) taste great, but have been linked to obesity, heart disease, and several other health issues; or that our love of meat has spawned factory farming, which is destroying the environment like few other industries in the world... but for the purpose of this post, I'd like to stick to ethics. Ask yourself the following questions: how comfortable would you be drinking coffee made by people working under slave-like conditions, mistreated and abused, and paid almost nothing vs. coffee made by workers who were treated well and paid a fair wage? How comfortable would you be wearing clothes made by children in a sweatshop for almost no money vs. clothes made by well-paid adults with employee benefits? How comfortable would you be if you knew that the retrieval of a certain product was so hard, that people actually died during the process? Would you still purchase that product? If you understand the ethics involved in the above questions, you should understand the difference between eating meat and going vegan. If you are ambivalent about these things, then I suggest you examine your empathy and try to grow it. If you are a sensible, caring individual, however, then please add animals and animal-products to your "do not eat" list.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fight for animal rights, because they can't do it themselves

People sometimes ask us, with all the suffering in the world, why do we focus on animals?

Because hardly anyone makes excuses for child abuse, and if they do, they are generally and rightfully ostracized by society.

Because hardly anyone makes excuses for rape, and if they do, they are generally and rightfully ostracized by society.

Because hardly anyone makes excuses for sweatshops, and if they do, they are generally and rightfully ostracized by society.

Because most people still make excuses for eating meat (which involves as much if not more suffering and death as all of the above), and when they do, only the enlightened few stand up for the animals.

Because although most people don't tolerate most types of violence and injustice towards humans, they both tolerate and partake in violence towards animals.

Saturday, July 4, 2015


Fruits and Veges

Nizhnyaya Syromyatnicheskaya, 5, Str 9b, 20, Artplay, Moscow, Russia

The somewhat oddly named Fruits and Veges is located inside the Artplay complex, about a 15 minute walk from Kurskaya metro station. Visually it’s a pretty hip place, - a three or four level basement with a couple of tables on every level. There’s also a small seating area outside. The food is quite tasty, although unfortunately served with the blasé rudeness much too prevalent still in Russia. The (very filling) lunch special is about 300 rubles, and the other things on the menu (falafel, etc.) aren’t very expensive either..