The Great Animal Lover Divide

animal-18218_640There are many different types of “animal lover” and a distinct divide between the vegans/vegetarians who identify as animal lovers and those who consider themselves as animal lovers, yet continue to eat animals.

Why do we value some animals more than others? How is it that we are able to define ourselves as animal  lovers, yet we continue to eat those which we profess to love? Should we get to decide which species is valuable and which is not? Or rather do animals have their own intrinsic worth, separate from our arbitrary judgement?

Essentially it is a divide between those who care for animals unconditionally, and those who care conditionally – when they get a more direct benefit from caring for their beloved pets, like companionship, touch, affection. It is easier to love cute, fluffy, adorable animals, whereas overcoming a uncomfortable, socially-accepted untruth is a lot more difficult, especially when you don’t find the animals in question as aesthetically appealing or as relatable.

Why is a chicken’s, lamb’s or cow’s life so much less valuable than a cat or a dog? Because we say so? Different cultures have different views of which animals are acceptable to eat and which not. What this tells us is that there is something inherently wrong in how we judge some animals to be very valued than others, if this changes so easily depending on your proximity to the animal, your local custom and your own individual level of empathy. This shows just how contradictory and inconsistent our relationship is with life and our fellow animals.

Why is this the case?

The main reason is a lack of self-awareness over the consequences of our actions and our direct responsibility for suffering . The simple fact that 99% of people only participate at the very end of the whole process – the purchasing – means that the hidden nature of raising, killing and preparing of meat on our behalf makes it difficult for most of us to accept responsibility – because we don’t see it or hear it for ourselves, it doesn’t concern us. Out of sight, out of mind, most of continue our meat-eating ways with no regard, aside from slight pangs in our conscience if the subject is brought up to our face.

This is the first reason why many people, who would never stand for any cruel act against any animal they were consciously aware of – that is they had some kind of basic personal connection to, be it their cat, their neighbour’s dog or a bird in their garden – still consume animal products.  They have not fully come to terms with the fact that suffering is going on all the time, everywhere, that we are collectively responsible for, but which we do not see. As a meat and animal-consuming society we are the root cause but we fail to hold ourselves accountable.

Secondly, there is the imaginary line draw between farm animals and other animals. Of course this is really a line of utility – those animals that we use for food we conveniently forget about, whereas those animals nearer and dearer to us we value more: whereas kicking a dog is overtly cruel, we figure that farm animals need to be farmed, whereas a dog doesn’t need to be kicked. This is where the divide develops.

There are countless numbers of animal lovers who still eat meat because they are ignorant of the deeper issues, fooled by tradition and denial, understandably confused by the contradictory information put out by the proponents and opponents of animal rights. After all, it is an incredibly complex issue, that we are only now scientifically getting to the depths of. Also, it takes time for ideas to grow – the notion of ascribing the word “personality” to an animal has only been tentatively pursed in the last couple of decades and so it comes as no surprise that we are overall lagging behind the truth of the matter.

We look upon farm animals in such a limited way as we suppress our knowledge of their suffering by telling ourselves it is “necessary” and we don’t look into it any further, or we actively avoid thinking about the issue. If it does happens to come up in conversation, we tend to brush it aside quickly: “We need to eat don’t we? Meat is an essential part of our diet isn’t it?”  Well, actually no, although the amount of misinformation and contradiction between meat and diet makes this ignorance entirely understandable.

I would argue that the slightly more conditional form of animal love is simply based in ignorance, not that they do not care us much as vegetarian/vegans.

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