The legitimacy of a not-even-six-month vegetarian questioning the ethics of meat-eaters, piling on them as animal-slaughterers, bastards and fiends is highly dubious. But let’s plough on.
Yesterday, an MP and secretary of Parliament’s animal welfare group joined John Blackwell, the president-elect of the British Veterinary Association, in calling for the end of the religious slaughter of animals for food. Andrew Rosindell said that Muslims and Jews kill more than half a million animals a week in ways that are inhumane, cutting their throats to satisfy the meaty whims of their respective deities.
“If you asked the average British citizen whether they agreed with this, they would say ‘No’. An animal has to be killed for food, but it needs to be done in a humane way,” Mr Rosindell said. “Why should we allow that kind of thing to go on in this country when it goes against everything that we really stand for as a people?”
Denmark recently banned the killing of animals by that method, citing inhumanity, thereby legalising bigotry and the exclusion of religious minorities, preventing thousands of people from access to the meat they want to eat according to their values. Those values are undoubtedly a right load of turnip, but the problem here is a logical one.
If you say you care about the treatment of animals, it is not a logical position to choose to eat meat. Meat comes to your mouth, in the overwhelming majority of cases, via a system of meat production that requires the animal to be killed. It is not possible to care about the welfare of animals and at the same time want them dead. It’s inconsistent.
A = I want to minimise the suffering of animals.
B = I want to eat animals which are killed and which suffer pain via meat production systems.
A and B are, quite simply, inconsistent statements. So the question remains as to the rationale for the ban on halal and kosher meat. Are we seriously making an ethical argument that takes this form: it’s OK to beat, under-feed, abuse, degrade, effectively imprison, stun, murder, slaughter, cut to pieces, trade and commodify an animal but not cut its throat because that is in some way crossing a moral line? Despite the pain the animal undoubtedly feels from the minute it is born to the minute it is gassed or (in the case of chickens) hung upside on a conveyor belt and dipped headfirst into a electric water bath, all of that is fine just so long as we stun it? Because what the Muslims and the Jews do is really barbaric. It’s a heavy slab of exceptionalism and sounds a lot like racism.
The animal has to be killed in x way, x then being considered barbaric by some people. Halal/kosher should be an option too, because it not being an option excludes Muslims and Jews from the practice of eating the food they wish to eat. At the same time, consumers should, to an extent, be able to have a say in how their food is prepared. But adherents of either option can’t make consistent arguments as to why the other may be more unfair. They are increasing the aggregate suffering of animals with negligible difference between them.
Not eating meat or meat products is, within the practice of food consumption, the logical conclusion of position A (above): I want to minimise the suffering of animals. You can call it religious privilege if you like – but really you’re criticising religions for doing something you pretty much do anyway. What’s the difference?
Of course both halal and kosher practice are mad superstitions and it is not really logical (meaning: ‘consistent’) to say that you object to one particular type of pain and suffering that probably isn’t any worse than another type which, as a meat consumer, you are happy to partake in. There is a good argument about the legitimisation of batshit crazy religious ritual in mass consumption, and it’s a better reason to reject halal/kosher chicken sandwiches. But, meat-eaters, the argument about harm to the animal is invalid for you.
Muslims and Jews would like to be able to eat meat that corresponds to the stipulations of their belief system (in public and in private). This necessarily or in some ways means that the non-religious may then consume ritual slaughter meat, but standard levels of meat production are equally or at least comparatively barbaric.
Why shouldn’t Muslims and Jews feel/be as equally entitled to eat meat as everybody else? If you want to eat meat but don’t want halal/kosher meat as a ‘preference’, then your preference is bullshit. It’s not a sound ethical argument to claim that one form of animal murder/captivity is more ‘good’ than another if you care so little about what is ‘good’ for the animal as to have it killed, eaten and held captive anyway. It’s absolutely worthwhile to criticise halal/kosher practices of animal slaughter – but why stop there? Keep going with that reasoning and you should find that it’s harder to justify eating animals at all.