|Bear burgers - 'horrible', superior|
or morally indifferent to beef?
In my humble opinion, the ethics of eating animals is bifurcated insofar as you think it is either indefensible to kill and eat any animal, or you believe that it is in fact morally acceptable to eat meat. If you are an adherent to the former, then any accusation towards hunting as ‘wrong’ or cruel has some philosophical foundation. Of course it is not automatically granted immunity from debate under these conditions. However someone who does not eat meat or use products from dead animals, by virtue of this view, has a certain degree of absolution from the immediate cause of death of food animals (even this though is specious, as most food production results in significant numbers of animal deaths).
The aforementioned illogic exists in that under the aegis of a moral and often spurious environmental superiority, certain meat eaters will lambaste hunting as being unacceptable or intolerable because hunters aim to kill an animal (and should attempt this act with the utmost consideration for a humane and honourable death). My disbelief is how can someone with a demonstrable and very clear support for one form of killing can be so opposed to another form when the outcome is equal – the death and consumption of an animal? Making a conscious decision to support the rearing, handling and slaughter of a farm animal cannot conceivably be deemed more acceptable or less cruel than the shooting of a wild ungulate. In fact the converse makes for a more reasoned rationale. I am not snobbishly arguing that eating a factory-farmed pig is immoral (although I feel compelled to), that would be hypocritical as I eat them too; nor do I expect the meat-eating anti-hunter to take a weapon afield. This debate is about the apparent ‘wrongness’ of hunting, not about personal choice to hunt/kill or not. I will however claim that most livestock live and die far worse-off than most hunted game, the latter enjoying a no-doubt greater natural welfare. Ethically raised and slaughtered livestock would be an exception to the norm but they account for what, less than 5% of most animals raised and eaten in the west?
Interestingly, the apparent increase in hunting amongst ‘locavores’ and those concerned about where their meat comes from perhaps stands in testament to the shift of opinions amongst a particular segment of meat-eaters. However it does strike me as unlikely that this demographic was previously opposed to hunting. Alyssa B. Johnson captures this sentiment in ‘What’s the Harm in Hunting?’ (YES! magazine Spring 2011), writing that “When we don’t take part in the lives (and deaths) of the animals we eat, when we pass responsibility from consumer to farmer to CEO to stockholder, animals are disrespected, as evidenced by the horrific conditions in concentrated animal feeding operations”.
The strident accusations against hunting from people loading their fork with meatloaf really do stir my utter incredulity. I just cannot fathom how someone can find fault with hunting a wild animal, while encouraging the deaths of those on farms? It seems that they often find fault with a perceived or mislabelled ‘cruelty’- shooting a Moose is ‘terrible’ but fattening a steer in a feedlot before sending it down a chute to have a bolt shot into its head (sometimes incorrectly), is the acceptable order of things? Is this not solipsistic ethics? Constructing one’s relationship with animals in a manner that comforts your own conscience, despite the evidence? The complainants obviously believe that it is alright to kill and eat animals and I cannot see how they could argue to the contrary. They also tend to readily accept hunted products like jerky or sausage, with alacrity. It is just that certain animals are deemed untouchable, for reasons that are wholly unclear (and I am not comparing rare or endangered species here).
Then again, perhaps they think the Emperor really is wearing his new clothes?
© Brian Joubert