Tonight I met a person more interesting, inspirational, fearless and liberal than I could have imagined. The Honourable Michael Kirby gave a public lecture directed towards my law school, primarily concerned with the issue of animal rights in the law.
Before I go on, I’ll summarise my opinions pre-lecture. For a long time I’ve been developing a stance which leant away from eating meat, not for issues of taste or anything arbitrary like that, but for ethical reasons. This move has been gradual, and it’s important to understand the chronology of it if my position is to make much sense.
Towards the end of last year, I had become more and more disillusioned by whatever this abstract idea of being human is; I know humans, I see them all the time, I see the way they behave and I see how the vast majority of them seem to give less than one shit about anything other than themselves. needless to say, my point of view at that point was upsetting. Having come out of it, however, the idea has become more rational.
I truly believe that humans are animals; that sounds stupid, but give me a second to explain. Somewhere along the line, we started convincing ourselves we were special in some way. Was it intelligence? Empathy? Love? Freedom? I can’t answer the why, all I know is that this chauvinism is, to me, absurd. We remain animals, and by that token we are animals as valuable as any other. I can see no reason why we should place ourselves on this ridiculous pedestal in which our life is inherently more valuable than the lives of other living things.
Following inherently from this; if animals are ‘worth’ as much as us, why should their rights be diminished? Why should killing an animal be acceptable, except in the most extenuating of circumstances (bearing in mind there are circumstances in which it is legally acceptable to kill a human). It’s death without reason, and death without reason is murder.
That was my own stance, but the lecturer addressed numerous ideas I had already agreed with. He was very intelligent. Mr Kirby spoke at length about the desensitized relationship we have with ‘flesh’; it’s not a living thing to us, it’s a vacuum-sealed bit of pudgy red stuff that sits on a supermarket shelf. It didn’t get there by chance; it was bred and raised to be murdered in a slaughterhouse, in the most inhumane, terrorizing and awful of circumstances. There is simply nothing justifiable about the way we run our meat industry, even if we leave the issue of vegetarianism aside.
His philosophical points struck me particularly hard. This animal, whatever it might be, is raised from it’s birthday to death day, with the sole destination being this rank, bloody, horrid abattoir, begging the question; is it simply better that this creature never lived at all? Is what we are inflicting on it so morally abhorrent that it would actually prefer never to have been born. Put yourself in this situation; in my case, the answer isn’t difficult.
For brevity, I won’t go into the social, economic and environmental issues; suffice to say, the meat industry is a terrible detriment to the environment (through waste water production and methane emissions), and that it is an economically intensive and insensible process; we could feed so many more people if we weren’t feeding cows crops. In New Zealand, I have driven past countless hundreds of acres growing a crop called ‘Pioneer’ corn, which is specific to feeding livestock. It’s really just so counter-intuitive. On top of this, a meat-heavy diet has strong links with cancer development. Blah blah blah, I could go on but I’m sure you all know it.
Before I lose my train of thought, I’ll round it up with saying I was inspired. This man was truly great, and had achieved in one life the level of academic and social recognition I could only dream of. There was so much more to him than what I have summarised here, but I can’t go on forever. Wish me luck everybody, as tomorrow is the first day of my true vegetarianism. Let’s see how it goes.
Plus I got to go to the lecture with somebody pretty fucking incredible so that was a big bonus, heh. Wouldn’t be me without some over thinking in that area.
I’d be interested to hear other peoples thoughts.
Anyway, here’s Morrissey, for your daily audiogasm.