Obscene term of the day: a protein

Recently it occurred to me that there is a disturbing trend to rename and re-frame the dismembered corpses of our victims as simply ‘protein’.

I have previously noted that the word ‘meat’ is a word designed and used to distance those who harm animals from having to face and consider the living individuals whose bodies, lives and rights their consumer demands erase in favour of the trivial and unnecessary self-interest of our species. However the word ‘meat’ is unavoidably associated with bloodied flesh. It seems to me that this word ‘protein’ is going a step further to dissociate consumers from their demands and I am far too cynical to think this is unintentional.

Using the word ‘protein’ is such an utter disconnection from the individual whose miserable existence was ended in the gore and terror of a slaughterhouse; from the cow whose infant calf was taken from her so her lactation could be pumped out and sold for human commercial gain; from the abject, convulsing, desperate little hen whose every day was a misery worse than we are able to even imagine.

What monsters have we become to accept without challenge the way these desperate, miserable, defenceless lives and thoughts and personalities are reduced to ‘a protein’?

It’s a word with tones of completely false wholesomeness. It suggests a component, an ingredient. It has a suggestion of reassuringly satisfying a nutritional necessity in the only way possible (which is of course nonsense as there’s protein in everything). It paints a picture suggestive of a dining plate, with a vacant space allocated for and awaiting this component, ‘a protein’, and it does so in a manner that seeks to prevent the consumer from pausing for even a second to consider how and where and who this ‘protein’ was.

Our victims are not ‘proteins’ any more than I am a protein, you are a protein or the companions who share our homes are proteins. Yet technically we, they and every one of our victims are exactly the same in that for each of us, the chemical and mineral breakdown of our body varies only slightly from species to species. Yet we all have thoughts, individuality and awareness of ourselves and our environment. We each experience the life that we value so much through this body that for each of us houses the unique individual that we are.

To refer to a human as ‘a protein’ is unthinkable, but if it were to happen, we all know instinctively that it would represent a complete erasure of every single quality that defines the unique creature that they are.

Let’s recognise this insidious word for what it is and resist falling into the trap of using it, for to do so erases who our victims are, while denying those who harm them the chance to connect with the consequences of actions that they deserve to be aware of.  As vegans we have to keep trying to reach out to them, not to ask them to live up to our standards, but to invite them to live up to their own.

Be vegan.

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5 Responses to Obscene term of the day: a protein

  1. 19peace80 says:

    This term is frequently used at restaurants that offer both animal and vegan products. For example: “Stir-fry with the protein of your choice: chicken, beef, fish or tofu.” It is also sometimes used at restaurants that do not offer vegan products, but which offer a variety of animal flesh, ex. “Choose your protein: chicken, beef, fish.”

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  2. Graeme M says:

    Spot on. Many farmers I’ve spoken to all say how they are “feeding the world” and meeting the need for “protein”. In fact a lot of industry talk focuses on the need for providing protein to the developing world. Very clearly this is about appropriating language to dress unpalatable realities in wholesome disguise…

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  3. Mary Finelli says:

    Yes, it is grossly disrespectful. Here is a recent example of it:

    “Over the past decade, animal advocates have made great strides informing us of some of the problems with how many of our favorite proteins are raised.”
    http://nhpr.org/post/do-you-care-if-your-fish-dinner-was-raised-humanely-animal-advocates-say-you-should#stream/0
    and: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/10/20/558576179/do-you-care-if-your-fish-dinner-was-raised-humanely-animal-advocates-say-you-sho

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  4. Spunky Bunny says:

    Wonderful essay! Sentient beings are not “meat”, they are not “a protein”, or any other degrading label humans use to feel better about the atrocities they commit against innocent, sentient beings. Calling sentient beings “meat” or “a protein” is an important tool for supremacists. It’s one of the ways they feel powerful and superior. Since supremacists are obsessed with feeling powerful and superior, they must devalue their victims.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Eva Maria says:

    So true. I hardly noticed how much the word is being used and I’m vegan. Scary shit. Your blogs are fantastic. I am thankful for the awareness and for people like you who put the truth out for all to read.

    Liked by 2 people

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