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Meat-Eating and Michael Vick

Militant Vegetarianism is troubling.

While there is no denying that vegetarianism is a healthy choice – consuming vegetables and fruits is a good thing – what it accomplishes is nothing that an increased intake of fruits and vegetables and decreased intake of red meats would accomplish.  The diet then, is something that should be taken for other reasons – primarily moral or political.  Morally, people often choose vegetarianism due to the fact they care about animals and don’t want them to die simply to produce food.  Politically, it can protest the disagreeable parts of the meatpacking industry (whether treatment of animals, treatment of humans, etc.)  Vegetarianism isn’t so much a diet choice as it is a statement, and I kind of take issue to that.

Vegetarianism is something that I tried for a while.  I am not currently practicing it, though my diet rarely contains much meat anyway.  I don’t like the taste of some meats, and it isn’t something I particularly crave, so I prefer lighter foods.  It’s a personal choice and says nothing about how I feel about animals (I adore them), or the meatpacking industry (I don’t take very much issue with it currently.)  If change is to be made in how we as a country/species/etc. view animals and view meat-eating it needs to be done for good reason and not just because animals are “like us.”  They are like us biologically in many ways, but in many ways they also are not – and they are NOT neurologically identical to us or even close.

The reason for this post is that recently I heard someone comparing meat-eaters to Michael Vick.  When someone buys and consumes meat, they are ordering the death of a creature to sustain them.  Similarly, Michael Vick killed dogs knowingly and with intent.  I disagree with this comparison, and I disagree with it for several reasons.  Yes, both situations involve the death of an animal; one involves the intentional slaughter for entertainment, the other the intentional slaughter for nourishment: there is a difference.

Slaughterhouses have to conform to high standards of care for the animals that they process.  McDonalds, for instance, buys beef from slaughterhouses that conform for a 98% humane standard.  If any place is found to fall below that high standard, they are given a week to fix the problem before going on once more.  Raise the bar any higher, and you are going to be putting a lot of people out of work and running into even more issues.

The animals at slaughterhouses, in spite of the PETA videos, are often treated extremely well.  Highly stressed animals are not going to be healthy, and healthy animals produce a good deal more meat than unhealthy ones.  It is poor business practice to brutally abuse creatures that are later going to be processed into meat that has to meet standards of care.  A single bruise on a cow can ruin the meat in that area.  The last thing slaughterhouses want to do is lose money.

Meanwhile, dog fighting rings are very different.  These places mutilate their animals (they commonly dock tails and slice the lips off of their dogs so as to create a permanently aggressive display to avoid the dog from being social.)  The dogs tend to be kept malnourished to a certain extent so as to produce even more territorial behavior in the sight of food – compare this to the very well-fed cattle.

Dog-fighting is just that – dogs fighting.  The cattle are kept social, they are kept happy.  The dogs are kept solitary until released to kill and cannibalize the other dogs.  In Vick’s case, the dogs that were losing were finally killed via hanging – a slow suffocating death.  Compare this to the shots that kill the cattle, a painless and quick death unless messed up.. and too many mess ups and the place goes out of business.  In dog-fighting, that isn’t the case at all.

Meat-eaters are in no way condoning the death of animals for entertainment.  They are condoning the humane slaughter so as to nourish themselves.  It’s a dietary choice, and a dietary choice that unfairly receives too much criticism.  Us meat-eaters, we are not brutal murderers and sociopaths.  We are just people doing what we need to to stay healthy, more often than not, and in the meantime are keeping thousands upon thousands of people employed.  Stop comparing us to the real monsters, and crack down a bit more on them.