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Confronting death and being vegan

February 7, 2013

GraveyardWhen a loved one passes away we are confronted with death and therefore are unable to continue through our daily lives avoiding the nagging little voice in the back of our minds that reminds us of our own mortality.

I often think about death from an animal rights perspective only because if we view death conceptually, it is hard to tease apart what it means for humans to die and what it means for other animals to die, whether they be livestock (“food” animals), domestic (“pets” and “laboratory”) or wild (including “pests”, “laboratory”, “game”). One way to possibly differentiate is the fact that humans are aware of their impending fate, whereas it appears that animals are not. Therefore, when we witness the death of a loved one, we internalize this experience and reflect often fearfully on our own mortality. On the other hand, it has been shown that other non-human species have also been known to grieve their dead, similar to humans. Yet I wonder if, when grieving, these animals know that this fate will eventually be their own, too. And I wonder if this knowledge scares them.

Another tangible difference is how humans have a culture around death, including disposing/preservation of the body (embalmments, burials, cremations, mummifications, freezing) and developing traditions, rituals, religious rites and prayers all associated with death and grieving the dead. We also have created stories to help the living deal with confronting death, including concepts such as “resurrection”, the “after-life”, “heaven”, “eternal life”, etc. And of course, religious concepts that appear to exploit the common human fear of death in order to control, e.g., “hell”, “purgatory”. For the most part, much of the animal kingdom does not have similar rituals (few animals do bury or hide their dead), and so it seems in doing so, we have become more aware of its presence and the consequences it can have on the conscience of the living.

I think about death on occasion, since for me it should not be such a taboo subject as perhaps it once was. When a loved one dies, be it a family member, friend or pet, I think about it even more as it represents a finality and a force which, try as we may, we cannot overcome nor predict. To die is to leave this world behind and more importantly to not be held responsible for doing so. However, to kill is to choose to force another to leave this world behind without their consent. Killing isn’t inherently wrong, but cutting a life short, which would have otherwise thrived and could have had many happy years ahead, often for base reasons such as one’s personal tastes, is unconscionable. Yet we do so en masse, by the billions with the “food” animals that end up on our plates. I can’t seem to be able to consider my life and the life of my fellow species that different from that of other sentient beings such that murder is acceptable and rational only of the latter. To my mind, when one realizes that to do this would be to compromise one’s basic morality too fundamentally and then decides to confront and rectify this hypocrisy with action, one has no choice but to become vegan.

Death may not be evil, nor may it be the ultimate end of our lives, but whatever it is, we have no right to bring one to it prematurely, especially for such selfish reasons as to satisfy one’s own tastebuds, or to perform an archaic rite or to perpetuate a cruel tradition. Death be not proud and neither should we be if we choose to be its accomplice.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. xxxooo permalink
    February 7, 2013 6:08 pm

    Thank you for being so brave and making us all aware. So well written!

  2. Anna Nabil permalink
    July 14, 2015 2:37 am

    I agree. Too often, people argue about animal suffering and exploitation as reasons for not eating meat. While they are valid reasons, humans are given moral consideration whether they are capable of suffering or not (i.e., paralysis, comatose, etc.). It makes no difference to me whether an animal can contemplate its own life. Babies and mentally disadvantaged people are given moral consideration despite lacking this trait, so how can we make it a moral standard for one species and exclude it from others? Humans are more complex, but clearly complexity is a non-issue in terms of morality. All living beings are given birth rights that require protection. Animals & humans may not think alike or have the same exact interests, and neither species truly understands death, yet both seek the same aspects of life. We share with animals the need to grow, preserve, and socialize within our groups. By this mutual yearning alone, we understand that their quality of life is valuable and should be protected. Death is inconsequential to measure how a living being values life. You only need to see an animal interacting with humans or other animals to sense an awareness and presence for living, or “being”.

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