Is Eating Meat Speciesist?

Most vegans would say yes.

Me, I’m curious as to if that is necessarily the case.

The logic seems to go that some of us eat animal flesh, and have no moral qualms because we view animals as some how lesser (through whatever criteria we use to separate the human from the animal). To be (an anti-speciesist) vegan, it seems, is to acknowledge that animal life, human or otherwise, is equal in value.

Is it speciesist of a black bear to eat a rabbit? I don’t think so. Is it speciesist for a black bear to raise rabbits for food? Is it speciesist for a black bear to raise rabbits in tiny cages for food? Or does it wait until the bear thinks it is better than all the rabbits? Or until all black bears systematically use cages to deny the rabbits their rights to fully developed rabbit lives?

Either way it is not the eating of rabbit flesh that makes a black bear speciesist. It is the material and/or psychic denial of equalness of being.

But we rarely consider a black bear a moral agent.

So can humans eat an animal and see that animal as an equal?

(Though I believe a lot of humans have/did for many years).

I turn to the idea of cannibalism. A person could engage in cannibalism without assuming the person they ate is essentially lesser. As the tagline for Cannibal Holocaust goes: “Better to rest in the warm belly of a friend than in the cold earth.”

Of course it could be said that an ethical cannibalism could not supply everyone with soft human fleshy bits. It wouldn’t have the productive output to supply everyone with the man-meat they desire every day.

So, maybe they shouldn’t eat it every day?

Can I eat flesh in a non-exploitive way? I whole heartedly believe so–there just aren’t that many hard and fast rules about it. I just need a different framework, a new epistemology for looking at animals, flesh, and the systems that harm them.

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3 Responses to Is Eating Meat Speciesist?

  1. adam says:

    I don’t think there is anything morally wrong *eating* animals, but I would argue there is something wrong autonomously eating them (having geographical, financial, and culturally-appropriate access to other foods) if they were deliberately and institutionally killed. So while I agree with Val Plumwood’s critique of ontological vegetarianism, I think speciesism transcends individual prejudice and (like racism) operates at an institutional level. And I don’t think it’s fair to reduce this moral position to consumerism

    • Royce says:

      My mind just continues to return to freeganism, where the eater could eat flesh, even of the kind deliberately and institutionally killed (but then discarded). Not that this is the case for most or all flesh eaters.

      I agree that speciesism exists at an institutional level, and I’m not trying to reduce veganism to consumerism (though I think it is largely, at the moment, a very consumerist movement). I say consumption to try and point out that veganism is occupied on what goes through the lips to a level that sometimes obscures that what is more important is what happens during production.

  2. Ben says:

    The question of veganism and consumerism is a very interesting one and one that I think most vegans tend to avoid. I recall a P.E.T.A. interview with Chris Hannah, the lead singer of Propagandhi, from a while back–he said that the meat industry and the use of animals for medical research are “for-profit” businesses and as an anti-capitalist living in a western capitalist society he wanted no part of them. Insofar as vegans support a capitalist enterprise, however, I suppose it might fall under the same criteria (incidentally, Propagandhi have a song called “Human[e] Meat: The Flensing of Sandor Katz” in which the notion of cannibalism is interrogated in an interesting way).

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