The question is not, ‘Can they reason?’ nor, ‘Can they talk?’ but, ‘Can they suffer?’”
Contrary to stereotypes, I don’t make a big deal about the fact that I’m vegetarian, but whenever anyone finds out they always ask why. For most people the idea of being vegetarian never occurs to them. Our lives are full of work, friends and hobbies so perhaps they never really give it a thought, especially growing up in a family where meat is the main feature of most meals. And, fair enough, I didn’t think about it for most of my life. This is why (again, contrary to stereotypes) I certainly don’t judge people for eating non-human animals when they haven’t even considered it. But we need to start thinking about if we actually have any good reasons for eating meat.
When we properly think about what happens, we know that by eating meat we cause non-human animals pain and suffering – no one reading this is likely to actually believe that it doesn’t, when they think about it. So why do we eat meat if it causes this suffering?
It’s tasty! We enjoy it, so why not? The problem is that our tastes cannot genuinely be worth the intense suffering it brings. In any case, I was worried about taste when I stopped eating meat, so at the beginning I tried loads of veggie food expecting to find it at best bearable, at worst vile. There’s some that I’m not that bothered by, but the vast majority is lovely. Bean burgers are now one of my favourite foods ever! But perhaps you’re very strongly set on the tastes of meat. Cauldron sausages honestly taste like sausages, Quorn mince tastes just like beef mince and – best of all – Quorn “Southern Fried Nuggets” taste exactly like southern fried chicken! Taste simply cannot be a reason to inflict pain on non-human animals, especially as we can get lovely tastes from meat-free products.
It’s easier to eat meat though, isn’t it? Actually most veggie food is very quick to prepare; I spend far less time in the kitchen now. Also, pretty much every restaurant in the UK has veggie options (which are cheaper), so it’s never been easier to be vegetarian. Nando’s, famous for its chicken, surprised me with how great their veggie options are!
But they aren’t humans. They aren’t as clever as us and aren’t as cute as golden retriever puppies. So do we really need to care about them? I think this asks the wrong question. To quote the philosopher Bentham: “The question is not, ‘Can they reason?’ nor, ‘Can they talk?’ but, ‘Can they suffer?’”
It’s understandable we eat meat when we haven’t even considered not eating it. However, when we actually think about it, it seems there aren’t any reasons that justify the intense suffering to non-human animals. Why not go meat-free for a week and see how it goes?
(Image courtesy of Meat Free Mondays)