Sorry, I’m a Murdererby Daniel Friedman / 25.06.2010
“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits”. ~ Mark Twain
I am a notorious fence sitter. My problem is that I usually find it easy to relate to multiple sides of an argument, which often puts me somewhere in the middle. I see this as pragmatism, even if others may pressure me to choose sides. Recently, though, something happened that forced me to do something I don’t usually do – work out exactly where I stand. A staunch vegan friend of mine posted a Utah Philips quote as their Facebook status: ”The Earth is not dying, it is being murdered. and the people murdering it have names and addresses”.
Confused, I didn’t know whether to pick up a stake and a torch and join an angry mob, searching for the evil Earth murderers, or to go into hiding, since I am one of the murders myself. And it got me thinking about my vegan and vegetarian friends, and wondering if they know what my views are, and if they’d be able to palate them like lentil loaf or if they’ll find them as disgusting as roast veal. Well, there’s only one way to find out…
Firstly, on the whole ‘meat is murder’ thing, it’s not that I just don’t give a fuck. But what vegans often forget is that human beings are animals too. And ironically enough, many anthropologists believe that it was only because homo sapiens began eating meat that we were able to evolve to the point that we had the capacity to even reason that meat is murder (more on this here).
And yes, I am aware of the impact meat production is having on the Earth, and I’m willing to accept the argument that we have now developed to a point that we no longer need meat. But the problem is that we are still animals in that we have impulses that we need to try and control – if I see meat I have to consciously resist the urge to eat it, just as I have to resist drinking until I’m sick or smoking a bankie a week. To see anyone who uses animal products as evil is to think of us as separate to nature – but we are part of it, animals albeit complicated ones – and part of being an animal is having an appetite.
My own story is as follows: Currently, when buying groceries I do not buy meat and try to limit the amount of dairy products (which is hard for me, as I have a huge weekness for dairy). But if I am invited for dinner and served meat, I eat it. And I will eat meat at restaurants. This, to most vegans, is abhorrent. They see it as the idea of only murdering once a week. But for me, it’s a genuine attempt to curb my consumption and curb my appetite, after all of my attempts to go “cold turkey” on meat in the past have failed.
Thing is, I am a hedonist – even just the idea of a life without, say, cheese and chocolate, instantly sends me into a deep depression. So for me it’s about eating as little meat as possible, finding more humane sources of dairy products, searching for chocolate that isn’t produced in situations of slavery, as most chocolate you’ll find in a supermarket is (more info on this here). And while vegans may find this a hypocritical compromise at best or a symptom of the fact that I am evil at worse, the world is full of people like me, who just lack the willpower to give everything up. But if you are really serious about saving the world, you have to engage and work with people like me, rather than seeing me as the enemy and continuing to preach to the converted.
I’ve heard some of you even talk of some kind of vegan revolution. Seriously? If history has taught us anything, it’s that a revolution almost always causes as much pain and misery as it resolves, all in the name of replacing an existing system with another system. Then, this system becomes corrupt too when the things no revolutionary theorists ever seem to take into account invariably come into play – human folly, greed and ineptitude. Fuck Lenin, I’m with Lennon, who said “But when you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out”.
There is no “us and them”, there is no clear line dividing the “good guys” from the “bad guys”. We’re all too complex for that. I know vegans who don’t give a stuff about human rights and ones who do, ones who are basically hippies who don’t want to hurt animals and ones who are more vengeful and seem to want to see meat eaters suffer. I know vegans who work for big corporations and meat eaters who live outside of the capitalist system. I also know people who eat meat but are tireless campaigners for human rights and, yes, animal rights too. Does their indulging in this murderous practice negate all the important work they are doing?
While I respect and admire the attempts of my most dedicated vegan friends to live a life less harmful to our world and others, through the simple process of living life we all do damage – we all consume and waste. And I struggle to think how it would be possible to live a completely pure existence. Whether it’s smoking cigarettes or driving a car, all vegans I know leave their mark on the environment. I am not accusing anyone of hypocrisy or in any way using this as a justification for harming the earth, but only saying that, rather than there being two types of people, the ones saving the earth and the ones destroying it, we are all complicated human beings, and most of us are trying our best. I just don’t think it’s productive to be self-righteous, to divide the world up into good guys and bad as if we’re extras in a Hollywood movie.
I like you guys and respect you and want to work with you. But only if you can resist the urge to call me a murderer for long enough to listen to what I have to say.
Check out Mr Friedman’s blog here.
* Image is an internet mash of an old World War 2 poster, “when you ride alone you ride with Hitler”. Masher unknown.