Originally posted 1 September 2014, revised and links updated 31 January 2018
‘bred for eating’ (variation: ‘bred for food’)
‘But surely you realise that they were ‘bred for eating‘?’ It’s a sentence frequently uttered triumphantly by those seeking to justify eating habits that cause catastrophic and unnecessary harm to innocent individuals. How could we ever have become thus; a species that claims exoneration for victimising the vulnerable with a declaration that as this was always their intent, the atrocities they commit against their victims are somehow beyond criticism? And yet the phrase ‘bred for eating’ is brandished smugly, produced with panache every single time; clearly thought of by its user as a clinching argument that confers on them some magical pass from the normal responsibility that each of us has, to examine the choices we make in life against the values that we claim to stand for.
‘Bred for eating’, like every one of the excuses we invent, that our victims were ‘bred’ for us to use in some way, that our interests far outweigh theirs, is a clear manifestation of the ugly prejudice known as speciesism.
Most of us will agree that torture, enslavement, violation, breaking up families, abducting children, wrongful confinement and needless killing are completely unacceptable practices when we hear of them being perpetrated against humans. Why then should we think for a moment that some phrase, produced out of the magic hat of childhood excuses we use to justify our every atrocity, is going to get us off the moral hook of committing these selfsame atrocities against other sentient individuals simply because they don’t share our species?
The quality of sentience that they share with us means that, like us, they experience life and living through their senses, and through their connections to their environment and to other individuals. They have minds and thoughts and needs, are capable of feeling joy, of devotion to their offspring, of forming deep bonds with other beings and are capable of experiencing suffering and misery. With a full range of well expressed emotions, they seek to avoid pain and they make it absolutely clear to all but the most determinedly oblivious that they do not want to die.
They are, in fact, like us in every way except species and as such deserve our respect. A spurious label that we apply to a sentient individual can never excuse or justify violating the reproductive systems of their parents to bring them into the world with the sole intention of using them as an unnecessary commodity to satisfy a trivial human indulgence, as if they were inanimate objects without minds or thoughts or feelings.
We seriously need to think again about this phrase ‘bred for eating’, because it is utterly without substance. It is bound up in unchallenged assumptions of superiority, entitlement, necessity and the ownership of individuals other than our selves. All of these notions have their roots in our childhood and none of them can stand moral scrutiny by ourselves as adults.
It is not ‘how we treat’ our needless victims that is the problem. The problem is the fact that we have victims at all, that we unjustly assume a right to take from them everything they have, for something we don’t even need. And we do this simply because we can, because we have been raised not to question, not to challenge, not to ask ourselves why we imagine for even a fleeting moment that our own most trivial whim merits the taking of the precious life of another.
The only way to be the just, fair, honest people we already think we are, is to stop applying phony labels to members of other species, see them for the fascinating, unique individuals that they are, and accord them the respect that is their due. That means becoming vegan.