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 breast milk 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.