Hypocrites, please stand up
Another infuriating conversation today with a colleague whom I pretty much adore led me to reconsider how close any relationship can be with someone who doesn’t share the same fundamental beliefs that hurting animals is wrong. The worst part is, some people have convinced themselves that they simply do not care if animals suffer in the process of making meat or clothing items. I refuse to believe that they would not be moved or upset by animal suffering. (We may not agree on most things animal-related, but I am pretty confident my friends and colleagues are not sociopaths.) So it all started when I made the miscalculated segue from singing the praises of the socially-advanced Scandinavian countries to exposing the shame once more of the great Canadian seal cull. The response I got was sarcastic eye-rolling, followed by an unimpressive glare. According to my colleague, people have made way too big of a deal over the seal clubbing on the East coast and most people are living hypocrites for deploring the seal hunt while still supporting the meat industry. I told him that I agree with the alleged hypocrisy, but I felt that is where the similarities between our ways of thinking ended. My way is that just because one notices a hypocritical situation such as this one, where people seem to care about the way seals–and while we’re at it, dogs and cats and other pets–are treated, but don’t seem to give a damn about farm animals, doesn’t mean that we should ridicule them for the good that they are doing, namely caring about the welfare of seals. I believe that it is a good start and also a just cause to fight for. Although it’s not ideal, there is nothing seriously wrong with a bit of hypocrisy if one is striving to do good and if the hypocrisy may stem from ignorance or weakness. By “ignorance”, I’m referring to people who do not know (or claim to not know) that eating meat directly supports animal cruelty and suffering. By “weakness”, I’m referring to people who know that eating meat causes suffering to animals, but that they choose not to think about it or they convince themselves that it’s not a big enough issue, because the very idea of giving up factory farm meat is much too difficult to consider. I believe that “weakness” is simply “feigned ignorance”, so really it’s almost one in the same and it’s rampant in our society. And yes, I despise that shit, but what I hate more is that by allowing for this easily-perceived hypocrisy, one encounters the argument that if you are found a hypocrite, you should just throw your hands up in the air and renounce any good you attempt to do. For example:
Oh, so you protest the barbaric killing of seals in Canada for the sake of fashion, but you still eat meat? Well, you’re a HYPOCRITE, so you might as well support it.
Oh, so you are vegetarian, but you still eat eggs and dairy? Well, you’re a HYPOCRITE, so you might as well eat factory farm meat.
Oh, so you are vegan, but you still wear clothes potentially made in sweatshops in Asia? Well, you’re a HYPOCRITE, so you might as well live a hedonistic life of abandonment and luxury.
Generally, I find these arguments tend to centre around vegetarianism, because–and this is my opinion–people feel remorseful and embarrassed around vegetarians because a routine activity in their lives is questioned by the very existence and presence of vegetarians and that makes them uncomfortable. So they sadly can still get away with derision of vegetarians and wonky logic in order to defend their position. It all boils down to “You vegetarian, are not perfect either! Ergo, I can continue eating meat without feeling bad about it!” When has that logic ever been acceptable? Try that in a court of law… Defendant: “I saw you litter on the street yesterday, so you did a bad thing too, so I should be vindicated for having killed that man!” No. Killing a man is wrong and unacceptable. Rape is wrong and unacceptable. Exploiting and abusing people is wrong and unacceptable. Littering may be wrong, but it is generally acceptable and a lesser offense to killing a man. Likewise, causing pain and suffering to animals for the sheer gluttonous pleasure of eating excessive amounts of cheap meat is wrong and should be, in my opinion, unacceptable as well.
Certain things are written in our criminal code… so we really have no choice but to agree that rape, murder, and slavery is wrong, immoral, and criminal. Abusing animals is quite painfully absent from our criminal code, so there we currently have to make the ethical decision ourselves. Some people draw the morality line just short of there (a.k.a. “Animals are commodities and as such should not be considered within our moral constructs”). Others, including myself draw the line somewhere above that and believe that animal suffering is inherently and most evidently immoral and wrong and we should do all we can in our power to reduce the amount of animal suffering out there. And yes, I’m a hypocrite. And I’d wager that those who don’t agree with me on the animal issues are somewhat more so. But we are all hypocrites. And so, my arguably more sound logic is that if you’re a hypocrite and you know it, raise your hand and admit it, and then find a god damn way to reduce (not increase) the amount of hypocrisy in your lives.