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“Oh, I know animals suffer, but I love my steak”: The self-serving resolution of the “meat paradox”

August 16, 2010

Photo courtesy of Lorna Devious:

Shocking, isn’t it? But why love one yet eat another? Demonstrate love by being compassionate towards all, otherwise none will ever be free from human-engineered speciesism, suffering, and depravity. Go vegan, click on the picture …

From Psychology Today, Animal Emotions Blog
By Marc Bekoff

Many people continue to eat animals knowing they’re consuming misery …

There’s no doubt that billions of factory-farmed and other animals suffer for our gustatory delights, most of which are unnecessary. Now, a new study shows just how far people will go so that they can continue to eat animals who needlessly wind up at the end of their fork. Steve Loughnan of Kent University in the UK and his colleagues discovered that “people who wish to escape the ‘meat paradox’ i.e. simultaneously disliking hurting animals and enjoying eating meat, may do so by denying that the animal they ate had the capacity to suffer.”

While some people stop eating meat when they learn that animals suffer, an overwhelming majority do not, and continue to enjoy their steaks knowing well that they’re eating pain and misery. They simply deny moral status to the sentient beings who wind up on their plates as if all’s just fine. This very important study shows, “when there is a conflict between their preferred way of thinking and their preferred way of acting, it is their thoughts and moral standards that people abandon first – rather than changing their behaviour. ‘Rather than change their beliefs about the animals’ moral rights, people could change their behaviour,’ Loughnan said. ‘However, we suspect that most people are unwilling to deny themselves the enjoyment of eating meat, and denying animals moral rights lets them keep eating with a clear conscience.'”

I wonder just how clear their conscience is. When I was writing my book The Animal Manifesto I continually talked with people who told me, “Oh, I know animals suffer, but I love my steak.” They went on to offer lame excuses such as, “I just can’t stop eating meat even when I think about the misery for which I’m responsible.” Sure they can. It’s so easy it’s laughable to think that they not only deny sentience to the animals they consume but also deny that non-animal alternatives are readily available, even “fake meats”.

And it’s also essential to remember that cows, pigs, and sheep who are unrelentingly tortured on their journey to and when they temporarily reside on factory farms are no less sentient than companion dogs or cats. Most people – likely all people – would not let their companion animals trade places with these most unfortunate beings.

We always must remember it’s not a matter of “what’s” for dinner but “who’s” for dinner as we routinely and wantonly slaughter sentience for unneeded meals to the tune of billions of animals per year. Surely we can do better and it’s really easy for most of us to stop consuming pain and misery.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2010 4:18 am

    thits is so upsetting iv got no words put sick sick sick


    • Stacey permalink
      August 17, 2010 7:24 am

      What do you find upsetting, Julie? The picture? Would you have been equally sickened if I had selected a picture of a pork chop or a lamb?

      But I agree, I think it is sick, too! And when I try to imagine the global machine that tortures and kills sixty billion animals per year, as reflected as bloody memories on plates, I admittedly am left with shock and anger myself. No animal will ever enjoy any freedoms as long as others are relentlessly tortured and murdered. Some countries consider dog and cat meat delicacies, and although others may find the practice revolting, it is hypocritical to love one yet not the other. The dog who is considered a family member to some is considered dinner to others based merely on geographical location: the cow who is forced to endure unending agony, fear, pain, and an indecent death being dismembered alive is no LESS sentient that the dog, no less deserving of a life free from exploitation and suffering, and no less important, it’s just that in some countries, a hamburger is more worthy of value than the actual animal who was murdered to make it.

      I find it all sick to be honest, the billboards boasting burgers, grocery aisles offering body parts, entertainment subjecting animals to pain, testing inflicting disease and fear on animals, industries skinning them alive, companies blinding and scalding animals for vanity, the economic giant that puts finances ahead of compassion and the people who approve and celebrate it: it is all hideous.

      As I once wrote when I first saw this picture, maybe what we need to do is bring people and their food together: give the innocent animals a name, a face, a personality they all possessed while being commodified. People should be given the animals’ life histories, brief illustrations of the fear, pain, and trauma they experienced, such as the ones given with cats and dogs when adopted. Maybe if people could see as you do, the sickness of it all, they would think differently of the food they so casually endorse as “humane” to satisfy their greed and selfishness, and that next time they see an advertisement of a steak or a picture of a roast, they would be equally as revolted and make a conscious decision to NOT participate and instead aspire to see the commodity as the sentient being as you do the dog above and reject the idea that the only victims are those culturally tolerated as such.

      Indeed, ALL animals, human and non-human, experience the same emotions, desire lives free from suffering, and fear death, and ALL are deserving of rights, not just the ones deemed socially acceptable by human-orchestrated standards. As such, the criticism should be directed to those who PERPETRATE and SUPPORT ALL animal murders, not the person who designed a picture meant to demonstrate the abject hypocrisy and horror of such.

      Thank you for your input.


      • Sudhakar Majety permalink
        February 10, 2011 8:53 am

        I am ashamed of being a human being. I do not undertand what goes in these sick people’s minds when they subject beautiful fellow beings who share the planet with us to such unbearable pain. Nobody needs to endure the pain and suffering. We are intelligent enough to survive without killing. My bloood boils when people give lectures about being “human” and not “animalistic”. It is only human beings who are commiting violence. No other animal is doing it.

        God bless you Stacey. I agree one hundred percent with you.


  2. karen lyons kalmenson permalink
    August 17, 2010 5:55 am

    yahoos who think this way need to visit the wizard for a brain and a heart…they already have too much nerve:(


  3. August 17, 2010 9:32 am

    when i first put up this pic on FB i had people telling why did i do that…why use such a pic…well it was to shock people to let them no this goes on…people do see dogs/cats in a different way…

    If we can use imagines like this to shock people then we are doing something right…because the should be shocked


  4. Robert permalink
    February 10, 2011 11:35 am

    I eat meat because God says it’s OK. No one has the moral authority to demand that I don’t.


    • February 10, 2011 4:39 pm

      That’s … pithy, thanks ever so, Robert. Out of all the blogs in the universe, how did you stumble on over here to spread your biblical gems? Then by asserting such, you must support the murder of heretics, homosexuals, non-virgins, the arrogant, adulterers, children, and on, and on, and on. I love cafeteria Christians, you guys make things so interesting: take this, leave that, do some of that, condemn all of those, makeshitupasyougoalong.

      You confuse man with moral law, not authority. Big difference.


      • Robert permalink
        February 10, 2011 8:17 pm

        Thanks, Stacey. I stumbled across this blog because it was linked in a Facebook entry by someone on my friends list. Yes, I do have bleeding heart animal lovers on my friends list. She and I happened to have been neighbors in our childhood.

        I love how you non-Christians assume things about my spirituality. You know absolutely nothing about my theology, yet there you go, makingupshitasyougoalong. Funny how you commit the same things of which you accuse others, but that doesn’t stop you libs.

        I do not support the murder of homosexuals, heretics and others. However, I do not support their values, either. I am just an average Joe who believes in God, His Son Jesus, and the Bible. Why criticize that?

        I love cafeteria pagans. You make things so interesting. Attack, attack, attack. Gotta love ya.


    • Anna permalink
      February 19, 2011 1:09 pm

      Robert talks to someone who can’t speak! So Robert is schizophrenic … or God himself!? ^^


  5. EvylShnukums permalink
    February 10, 2011 2:20 pm

    Robert, does God say it’s ok that animals are kept in tiny cages, their babies taken from them repeatedly, only be slaughtered themselves, that they are dehorned/debeaked without anaesthetic, that baby chickens are maceratedi.e. chopped up by a machine (and this is the more humane option!!), that pigs are “processed” (their throats cut) in such a way that they are often not dead when they are thrown in the scalding tank, and that the humans working to bring all this tasty misery to your plate also suffer injuries and psychological trauma?

    Just asking.


  6. February 10, 2011 9:07 pm

    Robert, was that, indeed, indignation? Wow, I don’t get that often at all, it’s so refreshing, and I am honored that The Voice is here to set. things. straight. Oh, and the whole ‘bleeding heart’ phrase thing? Yeah, it lost something back in the ’30s … As for your neighbor – tmi, I don’t care.


    First, regarding paganism, I criticize my best friend at times.

    Second, regarding libs, morals aren’t defined by politics.

    Third, regarding ‘makeshitupasyougoalong’, I believe this blog maintains a “no swearing” policy.

    Fourth, my attitude as “attackattackattack” while you support vicious, brutal torture, enslavement, and murder is completely, um, insignificant. It’s like criminalizing someone who yells “stop murdering, youfuckingbastard!” rather than the act. Kinda like when someone uses profanity as a weapon against a rapist and is criticized for such. Are you getting this drift or should I shift gears and include you: how about next time someone tries to castrate you, when you yell, “stopmotherfucker!”, we’ll all be certain to focus on your potty mouth and attitude rather than the crimes committed against you.

    “Why criticize that?” I don’t know, fabulous question, really. People celebrate Mein Kampf for its compelling pro-eugenics arguments, too. Oh, and here’s a big-letter HINT: I’m not comparing book with book but rather Hitler with, yeah … that.

    Gotta love ya … yeah, that ‘whole love the sinner, hate the sin’ thing works so well on pedophiles, too.


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