A German serial killer, Fritz Haarmann, known as the “Butcher of Hanover,” cut his victims’ bodies into strips of flesh and sold them as pork. Here in North America, third-generation Canadian pig farmer and serial killer of 49 women, Robert Pickton, ground the bodies of his victims into sausage and sold it in packages or gave it out to friends.
While it’s appalling that folks who acquired meat from Pickton may have ingested human flesh, it is equally unsettling that they didn’t notice. To the taste buds it seems meat is meat. This tragedy was just one of many recent incidents that should make people rethink their carnivorous ways.
On a related note, according to an article by Cindi Avila with NBC News, Whole Foods admitted to accidentally reversing labels on two salads sold at its stores, a curried chicken salad and a vegan version called curried “chick’n” salad, last Tuesday and Wednesday at some 15 of its locations in the Northeast (including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York). “The switched labels means it is highly likely someone who made a conscious choice not to eat animal products wound up doing so, through no fault of their own.”
To the ethical vegetarians who inadvertently ingested chicken flesh, the stomach-churning physical response of revulsion was on par with those of the pork-eaters who learned they’d cannibalized. Now, you might be asking yourself, “How can anyone compare eating chicken or pork to cannibalizing human flesh?”
The NBC article makes the clarifying point, “It may be hard for meat-eaters to understand, but this is a way of life that simply doesn’t involve compromise or mistakes. That’s especially the case for those of us who are vegetarian or vegan because of animal-welfare reasons or those who choose this for religious reasons.”
Pigs, like humans, cows and chickens, are capable of experiencing joy, affection, and pleasure. However, on hog farms, they are treated like unfeeling machines, confined in tiny stalls and fed growth-accelerating drugs that often cause lameness. Their teeth are cut with pliers, and their tails are cut off-without anesthetic. At the slaughterhouse, they are hung upside down and bled to death-often while they are fully conscious. Whether flesh comes from the victim of a serial killer or from a pig, a cow, or a chicken, it is the product of cruelty toward a thinking, feeling being who experiences pain and fear and wants to live free of exploitation.
In light of all this, why are people still eating meat? One common answer goes something like this: “I’m a human—superior to other beings—I’m entitled.” But a sense of entitlement is one of the trademark rationalizations that serial killers use to justify their wrongdoings, and grandiosity is also symptomatic of psychopathy, according to Canadian psychologist and author of Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, Robert D. Hare, Ph.D. Other symptoms outlined on Dr. Hare’s “psychopathy checklist,” such as shallow emotions and a lack of empathy or remorse, aid the killer—or meat-eater—in disregarding the suffering of his or her victims.
Psychopathic serial killers objectify their victims and consider their victims’ self-interests insignificant. The same rationale is called into play when one thinks of pigs only as “pork,” cows as “beef,” or chickens as “poultry,” without thought of the individuals or their suffering.
Both Canada and the U.S. have had recent cases of mad cow disease. As a result, we saw news footage of downer cows, too sick to walk, being dragged by chains into slaughterhouses. Press coverage of avian flu outbreaks reveal the intensely overcrowded conditions of chickens on factory farms-tens of thousands of animals cooped up in their own filth, each with less space than a standard sheet of typing paper. Besides being warned of health risks, consumers are finally learning about some of the cruelties endured by the animals they know only as “roasts” or “drumsticks.”
It is never too late to examine our actions and re-evaluate our food choices accordingly. By respecting the interests of all sentient beings, we are not akin to the conscienceless killers that plague our society. The only way to ensure that you are not supporting grotesque violence and cruelty against animals, or benefiting from their suffering, is to adopt a plant-based diet.