She is heavily pregnant and will soon give birth. She has looked forward to this day for so long. The changes in her body, the pain and discomfort she has felt, the pain that is yet to come – when she gives birth – she will bear all of this without care or complaint, because it will all be worthwhile. She will soon be able to look upon the face of her newborn.
The moment arrives. The pain is unbearable. She struggles through it and is left weakened, but joyful. He is here! Her baby boy. So fragile, so helpless, so beautiful and so very precious!
But what’s this? Why is her baby screaming? Why are the people dragging him away so roughly?
She was already weak from giving birth. But now, what little life and strength she had in her disappear with her baby. It’s too much for her to bear. Her world blacks out and she collapses.
And what became of the little baby?
I’ll admit that it’s probably a bit dramatic. But still, it’s not far from the truth of what happens around the world every single day.
So where am I going with this? Is this going to be some sort of lecture about the evils of animal agriculture and livestock farming or about the ills of consuming animal products?
No. I’m not here to lecture or preach.
As it happens, I was a meat eater for most of my life. I only managed to give it up about 6 years ago – and this was after 16 years of trying. I still crave things like sausages and bacon and so I occasionally eat the vegan versions of these foods. I loved leather. I only found out about factory farms and about the environmental and ecological impact of livestock farming years after I had turned vegan.
I’m not without blood on my hands. I’m not without blame for my part in all the terrible things that are happening in this world right now. I’m also not the most knowledgeable person to talk about things like animal agriculture. (As an aside, if you wanted to learn more about any of these things, I recommend watching ‘Cowspiracy‘ and ‘Eating You Alive‘.)
So I’m not here to get on any high horse, but to draw your attention to things that are easily overlooked – things that are hidden in plain view. I’m also here to ask questions and to ask you to think about the answers for yourself.
These things, while not talked about as often or as widely as the issues touched on previously, still have a huge impact on human society and so we need to talk about them. These issues are what I consider to be the hidden but true cost of carnism.
Now I don’t claim to be an expert even on these matters and everything I say is just based on my opinion – it is conjecture at best and not backed by anything else. But I feel a need to share this and to say it anyway. And maybe I will learn something new for myself. So here goes.
Carnism makes us less human
The first point is that Carnism is a direct assault on our humanity. As humans, we are hardwired to feel empathy and compassion for other beings. We even have cells in our brains called mirror-neurons, which make us react to the pain and suffering of others as though it happened to us. What’s more, as a species, we loathe people who lack empathy and label them ‘psychopaths’.
Yet, every time we consciously participate in carnistic acts (eating, drinking, wearing, profiting from or supporting animal suffering), we deny our true human nature.
We might not be doing the killing. We might not be directly responsible for the suffering, but in a roundabout way, we are saying that it is ok for this to happen.
Every time we buy animal products, we are rewarding those who produce them. We are sending out the signal that we want them to continue what they’re doing and that they can count on us to support them financially.
We do this against our better nature. We do this in spite of our selves, and needless to say, it takes a toll on us. A toll that is invisible, but still very real, because it damages us.
Time for another aside: I used to have family in the military and so I take an interest in some of the issues that concern military personnel and veterans. I had long heard that military personnel who saw active combat would later suffer from what is known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
I wrongly concluded that PTSD in military personnel was brought about from being exposed to enemy fire and the fear of being killed. I held this view until I learned something that shocked me: military drone operators were also suffering from PTSD!
These guys didn’t face hostile fire. If anything, it was their drones that were shot at. But forget all that – these people lived and worked in the US and they went home to their families for dinner every evening! But they still suffered from PTSD! How? Why?
My guess is that PTSD is not only brought on when we face death or danger. I think it also happens when we kill or hurt others. While we’re busy doing what we think is our job and our duty, our souls are screaming in agony and those mirror neurons are burning themselves out with activity. I’m sure this is what happened to my brother and that it is the main reason why he became disillusioned with what he was doing.
Carnism promotes violence
Since carnism makes us less sensitive to the suffering of others, it promotes violence. Once we become comfortable with denying our true nature as humans, we are then capable of committing all manner of violence against other sentient beings, including each other.
Carnism says that ‘might is right’ and that it’s ok to use violence and cause suffering, as long as you can justify it in some way.
Our humanity resides in our hearts and spirits as well as in our minds. But we are increasingly driven to ignore heart and spirit and become centered in just our minds. This is unhealthy and dangerous both to us and to everyone around us. This is because, unlike the heart and spirit, our minds are susceptible to control. We have all heard of brain-washing and mind-control, but we never hear of heart-washing or spirit-control.
Humans are ill-suited to inhumanity. And cold, clinical rationality is best left to robots and psychopaths.
As Voltaire observed, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” And so it is, that those who can lead us to believe that animals are things to be owned and dealt with as we please; that they have no feelings; or that it does not hurt us to harm others; can then have us committing all manner of atrocities – even against each other.
Leaving human interactions aside, we have seen trophy hunting, bull-fighting, dog-fighting and other acts of violence against animals emerge as activities that people to engage in, simply for ‘pleasure’ (so it’s not about food or survival anymore). What kind of pleasure is this? Where is the humanity in any of this?
Carnism promotes violence against women and children
We have seen how carnism makes us less human and how it promotes violence. We have also seen how carnism teaches us that might is right.
In the world of human affairs, who are the mighty (at least to the old patriarchal way of thinking)? It is the men (most often, the men with money and guns).
Wouldn’t this explain the levels of misogyny and the violence against women and children that we see in the world around us? Prostitution and child trafficking, the subjugation of women (including most acts of domestic violence) are carried out by men for the benefit of men.
In many ways, this is merely a reflection of the violence and cruelty that is carried out on the farms and the abattoirs. The farm is where the female animal is raped (impregnated against her will) and her baby stolen from her to be processed or to be killed. And the abattoir is a place where killing is the order of the day.
Doesn’t it make sense to conclude that there could be some sort of connection between all of this and the state of humanity?
Carnism negatively affects all human consciousness
The biggest negative effect of carnism is its impact on human consciousness as a whole.
At the very basic and obvious level, we can appreciate that our thoughts, feelings and emotions dictate our behaviour. Our behaviour then creates consequences, which in turn, influence our thoughts, feelings and emotions. So we do, become and experience what we think about.
The implications of this alone are enough for us to want to change things. But there’s more.
Taking a slightly more esoteric view, spirituality teaches us that:
1) we are all one; and that
2) we are all connected.
The implications of these possibilities are as scary as they are mind-blowing!
We are all one
Doesn’t it all start to make sense now? The mirror neurons, the empathy, the PTSD… If we are all one, then do we not hurt ourselves when we hurt another being?
But carnism teaches us to rationalise and to differentiate between humans and animals and between ‘us’ and ‘them’. And once we get on that slippery slope, it is all too easy to slide ever downwards until we see our very humanity in a state of decline.
We are all connected
If we are all one, then it follows that we are all connected. And in that vein, the suffering of one becomes the suffering of another.
But if we’re all connected, it also means that the thoughts and actions of one person or group, can influence the thoughts and actions of others. It could also mean that this could happen at a pure ‘consciousness’ level – beyond our own awareness and even at a distance.
This means that you could be influenced by what other people think and do, even without ever meeting them or being consciously aware that you are being affected. It could mean that each of our thoughts and actions has an impact on what Carl Jung termed the ‘collective unconscious‘ and what Rupert Sheldrake calls the ‘morphogenic field‘.
If the majority of us are sold on the idea that it is ok to harm other living beings, provided we could somehow justify it intellectually, is it any wonder that we have ended up where we are today?
We lament the lack of humanity in our world, but isn’t it the logical outcome of millions of people practising how to be less human, three times a day, every day?
How can we retain our humanity when we get others to do inhuman things on our behalf and pay them for it? It’s like hiring a hit man, three times a day, and then being shocked at the number of murders that are being committed in this world. It doesn’t make sense.
I will leave you with this short video, which might explain things better than I could.
And I will also leave you with a final thought – a quote whose author’s name I don’t know:
We blame society, but we are society.
So carnism must go.