Spare us the moral outrage of bigots, racists and animal-killers

© gsz
© gsz

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.


Excellent reasons to veto New Year’s Eve

Here are some outstandingly logical reasons for why New Year’s Eve is a hot gravy of dump.

People who think self-help is normal get rich
New Year’s Eve is a beacon of regeneration. The new year, a new start, and so on. It tends to form a handy little fulcrum between your new, good life with happy thoughts and all that big nice and your old, nasty life, replete with obesity or heavy drinking or sweating when you walk up the stairs. And because it is the universally-acknowledged date when Everything Good That Needs To Happen happens, it gives self-help ‘gurus’ money. Homeopaths, happy-clappy pull-your-socks-up bastards and – worse – the religious, who use January 1st as some sort of purifying ice bath to cleanse you of your hitherto incalculable douchebaggery and then stick you for £39.99 a month for some irredeemably unphilosophical horse-arse about your inner god or goddess. No, thanks.


It makes you an imperialist
If you eat strawberries in February, you’re an imperialist. You are enjoying the luxuries of an historical conflict where some perennially hot country – perfect for the growing of such fruit when English strawberries are out of season – was conquered by the white people who wanted Eton mess and strawberry milkshakes all the year around, their market smashed by the inevitable evisceration of the planet that is global capitalism. And it’s the same with the calendar. Our calendar is only our calendar because a bunch of people who later went on to conquer most of the world killed another bunch of people with a different calendar. Maybe because they used iCal. iCal is shit. I don’t know. But the point is that January 1st is not a cosmic axis on which one passage of celestial time passes to another, like an inexorable law of life. January 1st is as arbitrary as having New Year on July 1st. Except, unlike in July, it’s not freakin’ freezing when you’re throwing up on the high street at 3am.

It kills Christmas
New Year is the lingering tagnut of Christmas, like the eating of an enormous meal and inevitably having a have poo afterwards. The circle of poo. The inevitability of your futile biological system. One of the worst aspects of Christmas is the lag between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, convinced, as we are, that we are dragging the holiday period out a little longer, delaying its end, hauling around a big, dead turkey corpse on our backs which makes the depression of January 2nd all the greater. What we really ought to do is divorce it from Christmas entirely; a nice rebrand and we’d all be so much happier.

It makes you an Aristotelian
Aristotle’s social philosophy, broadly speaking, reckoned man to be a social being. We humans can only live rationally and, well, humanely, as political actors, communicators, legislators, thinkers and so on but – most importantly – as part of a community, as citizens. So: parties are rational and human. Debate, discussion, chat, heavy drinking, MDMA – all a part of Aristotle’s rich, classical tapestry. Sort of. Except this is total fucking bullshit. We’re pretty cool on our own, thank you. Embrace the wretched irrationality of the human mind. Our instincts work well enough, our thoughts are true and just and good because we have thought them, Aristotle. You with your fucking cocktail and cheese on a stick. Yeah? Yeah. What about my subjectivism? You silly sod.

It fosters cosmic delusions
As above, New Year tends to place a little too much emphasis on the passing of time and our role alongside that slinky monkey. It has a religious aura to it – not least because it follows a major festival in the Christian faith, but also because one is often encouraged to think of one’s place in the universe. What have you done this year? What will be your future? Does any of it matter? Inevitably, cod-spiritual witch-wankers chirp up around this time of year to remind us of the insignificance of our existence owing to (sometimes) the size of the universe and the unrelenting march of time but mostly our place before God and His creation. The beauty of our place in the universe is gloriously unlimited; the beauty of our universe in your self-entitlement delusion is all smeared in shit.

The flaw in Sam Harris’s argument is that he is a racist, not that his readers are idiots

Sam Harris posted a blog last week suggesting that Muslims be racially profiled at airports because they’re more likely to be suicide bombers. Heck, they look like them Al Qaeda lot – so why not, right? In 900, unrelenting words of spurious, paranoid horseshit, Harris outlined his argument and, after a few days, added an addendum in order to clarify bits that were misunderstood (as racist) because “it seems that when one speaks candidly about the problem of Islam misunderstandings easily multiply”.

“In any case, it is simply a fact that, in the year 2012, suicidal terrorism is overwhelmingly a Muslim phenomenon,” Harris says. Reasonable point. Not ‘Muslims’ but ‘a minority of Muslims’ would have been more accurate, but OK. Now, don’t extrapolate wildly, will you? Oh, hang on…

“If you grant this, it follows that applying equal scrutiny to Mennonites would be a dangerous waste of time.”

It ‘follows’ does it? How does that ‘follow’? If you think Muslims are more likely to commit suicide via bomb-based explosionary fun it must mean that it would be ‘dangerous’ to waste your time giving equal treatment to other groups or minorities? ‘Dangerous’ because white people and Christians don’t do mass murders? What about Breivik or McVeigh? Enormous leaps in reasoning do not cover Harris’s racist assumptions that one group of people deserves harsher treatment because of the colour of their skin, their religion or the temerity to bring both of those foul characteristics to an airport.

Secularism means religious freedom, not a creeping suppression of faith

For the last fucking time: secularism is not the abolition, destruction and criminalisation of religion. It protects – protects – the right to follow any religion of your choice, protects religious minorities, protects people from feeling alienated as a result of having a dominant (or decadent) culture or process forced upon them. Secular law allows religions to share the public sphere equally. It is not ‘illiberal’, Eric Pickles. It allows all people fair access to the law, to council meetings, schools, hospitals and town halls, regardless of religious faith. Bleeding heart responses about Britain being ‘swept away on a secular current’ (Channel 4 News, tonight) show a total misunderstanding of what secularism means.

On Christopher Hitchens

Writers armed with finer words and sweeter sentences will make greater tributes to Christopher Hitchens than this writer could ever conjure up. Suffice to say that every word on this page is posited yearning for but a shade of his eloquence and charm, his devotion to the acidic phrase, to iconoclasm and – probably above all – to truth and the primacy of the individual. “[O]ne should be suspicious of hero worship, and have it under control,” he said in 2010. Today, for me, that will be too difficult. It is no soppy stretch of moist-eyed worship to say that my writing exists because of his, because of what he fought for – and because of him. RIP.