Still Eat Meat
Among animal rights activism, there are a thousand issues, from opposing whaling and poaching, to resisting abusive conditions in factory farms and ending the consumption of flesh. Yet, there is one particular brand of thinking that seems to be in contradiction to the whole movement itself. Those who oppose hunting, but still eat meat, have often shown themselves to be very zealous, loud, and active. It is not necessarily a paradox to choose a form of animal activism, while at the same time not choosing them all -- such as vegetarians who still eat eggs. The paradox of anti-hunting activists, though, is that hunting is a less cruel way of death than the factory-farms that raise cows and chickens. It is as though the activism of this particular Animal Rights activist is in favor of the more cruel way of treating animals.
It should not be doubted by anyone the difference in how these animals live. A cow in a factory farm lives shut up in a tight cage with rotten food that includes the carcasses of their brothers and sisters, before it is slaughtered. A wild bison, however, can breath the fresh air of the frozen tundras and live freely of all interference. They can mate and produce with the satisfaction that their young will have the same liberty, whereas almost all animals in confinement must be coerced, often violently, into mating. And this existence ends with a quick shot, killing the beast quickly, instead of the creature following a long herd of moaning cattle, as they see blades each other up. One lives and dies free, the other lives and dies like they were in a nightmare society of Orwellian proportions.
It is the image and sight of hunting that is considered offensive, for it happens out in the wide open, while it is inappropriate to discuss the conditions of animals who give us our beef and poultry at the dinner table. The opposition to hunting comes from the fact that it looks and resembles like what it is: the needless killing of an animal in the wild. But what the factory farm looks like is difficult to tell -- it is too difficult to see through the murky water in the feeding trough at the bottom or the dim, flickering lights at the top.
It is so much less distressing for these people to pick up a package of flesh at the store, where the animal was killed in far more inhumane conditions, compared to the images of an animal being shot by a hunter. It is almost as the activist is simply trying to quench the hungers of their conscience, without trying to remove the injustices that boggle the conscience. This choice of behavior is not with the intention of changing the world, but of softening the blows upon the conscience. It is like the person who puts their hands over their ears, so that they may sleep with shrieks of murder nearby. It is a reaction to the conscience, but not what has disturbed it.
Among the primary arguments against hunting, but argued by those who still buy meat, is that hunting is simply an act of pleasure. It is killing, whereas "eating meat" is considered necessary. Those who ask, "what pleasure might there be in performing the execution of an innocent animal?" should have to answer the question, "what pleasure is there in eating its corpse?" As there is actually no need to eat meat, instead of eating alternatives like fruits and vegetables; and there is actually no need to shoot animals, as there are plenty of other opportunities for stimulation. Both acts, of eating meat and shooting animals, then, are not done out of necessity, but because it is a preference. Both acts are done out of a desire for pleasure and not for satisfying a need.
All pleasure is simply the release of a few chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins and serotonin. It can be caused by the taste of a meal or the "thrill" of a shooting. But if both require the killing of an innocent animal, then they're both equally based on the pleasure principle. The fact that someone eating meat may be, at the same time, "nourishing themselves," does not change the needlessness of the act. Vegetables, grains, and fruits typically provide better nourishment at significantly lower prices. The act of eating meat, then, is just as necessary as someone who shoots an animal for the sake of "entertainment."
There is one distinguishing aspect of these two particular groups of people: non-vegetarian opponents of hunting and those who do hunt. Those activists who eat meat but oppose hunting at least can display sympathy. Those who hunt, on the other hand, do not have this attribute in connection to their pursuit. Some hunters, it is true, may participate in conservation movements, but often, they are more concerned with conserving the right to hunt than the environment -- two clearly contradictory points. While the non-vegetarian is guilty of hypocrisy, the hunter is guilty of lack of conscience.
The one advantage of those who are opposed to hunting is that the sight of murder is unsettling -- their mind is drawn to the fact that such needless, cruel brutality should be ended. The sight of the inside of a slaughterhouse may be enough to bring these people toward change, though not necessarily. To change these individuals means to withdraw them from contributing to the killing of billions of animals every year. Though they have the seed of right and wrong in their heart, it has not yet grown to the point of blossoming. When the heart understands what is wrong, it is only a matter of leading the mind to know what is right and wrong.