A Meat and Dairy Article from All-Creatures.org

How to Love All Animals

From Alex Ventimilla, Dairy-Truth.com

Do you believe animals, much like us, should live free from needless suffering? Does the thought of causing harm to them trouble your conscience? If you find yourself nodding in agreement, you're not alone. There's a vast community of compassionate individuals who, despite their diverse dietary choices, share a common bond—empathy for animals.

kissing a Calf
Image from We Animals Media

The way we perceive animals is undergoing a significant shift. Despite many of us labeling ourselves as animal lovers, the legal view of animals has often reduced them to mere property rather than feeling beings. However, something intriguing is stirring. Recent studies are illustrating a remarkable change – around 47% of the British population today acknowledges that animals deserve the same rights as humans to escape suffering. Another 71% firmly believe causing animals pain is wrong.

These numbers aren't just figures; they signify a profound transformation. It’s as if science and law are catching up to what our innate feelings have always told us – creatures such as dogs, chickens, octopuses, and even lobsters are akin to us; they possess thoughts and emotions. This awakening may very well be global. Nowadays, when the media reports on human-inflicted cruelties and crises in relation to animals, like a lost companion animal or an escaped animal from a zoo (or perhaps a dairy farm), it's as though a collective cry of outrage bursts from our hearts.

But what about the animals commonly found on our plates: cows, pigs, and chickens? Do they, too, deserve lives free of pain and suffering? Often, the distinction between which animals we cherish and which we consume is vividly illustrated in a popular meme:

love one eat another

To understand the morality behind the public’s perception of some animals as friends while others are thought of as food, let’s focus on what psychologists call 'carnism'—the invisible belief system influencing us to eat certain animals while sparing others.

‘Carnism’ acts as a buffer, veiling the realities of our choices, enabling us to relish a Sunday roast while overlooking the animal's suffering that brought it to our plate. This conundrum finds its roots in the complexities of the meat industry, where money, intricate supply chains, and neatly packaged products act as a shield. This disconnect between us and the source of our food allows us to act in ways that might seem unethical in other contexts. Yet, even the deep pockets of the animal food industry can’t fully blind our hearts from some suffering in their products.

For instance, while many devour a good steak or a juicy hamburger without a second thought, the concept of veal often evokes a sense of moral unease, particularly among North American consumers. Veal is a specialized meat product originating from calves born in the dairy industry. Typically male, these calves are byproducts of dairy farming, raised specifically for veal production. Unlike beef, derived from fully grown cattle, veal comes from calves aged only a few weeks to a few months, imparting its tender quality. However, ethical concerns surround veal production, including the separation of these young calves from their mothers shortly after birth.

motherless Calf
Image from human.cruelties/flickr

motherless Calves
Image from human.cruelties/flickr

So, let's focus on this gap, this crack in the carnist food lens that allows the public to perceive veal for what it truly is: a vulnerable baby, a living, feeling being that yearns for life. To us, this realization speaks of a wider reality, namely, that the majority of people are vegan at heart.

Often, the very mention of the “v” word is enough to send people running for the hills with their cheese and omelettes in hand, including self-professed animal lovers who would otherwise agree that animals deserve to be free from pain and suffering. In truth, we can hardly blame them. The image of vegans in the media paints us as extremist, judgmental, even confrontational. However, the reality of veganism is quite different. It's not about passing moral judgments or extremism. Instead, it's a reminder that, deep down, most of us are uncomfortable with the idea of animals suffering needlessly, like the calves that go into veal production.

That is what veganism is about. It’s about shattering that carnist lens and seeing the individuals behind our meals and removing them from our plates one by one. It’s about discovering that we can thrive on plant-based foods alone. It’s about learning that the future of our food system isn't factory farming or genetic manipulation, but rather love, compassion, and the abundant variety of plant-based proteins.

Alex is a third-year PhD student in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. Passionate about ecology, he firmly believes in the impact of storytelling on shaping our perspectives. He believes that the narratives we engage with through reading, watching, and listening play a crucial role in defining our connections with both human and non-human beings.

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