December 23rd, 2010

A Pervasive Disregard for Life

photo credit: jefgodesky

Our modern, hedonistic society has developed a disregard for life in general. Sure, we value our own life, and the lives of those whom we know; our extension of compassion and concern often ends there.

This doesn’t just apply to people. Indeed, the extent to which such a disregard exists is most easily observable in the animal kingdom. Individuals have, through an increasingly industrialized system of large-scale food production, become divorced from their food. Children grow up not understanding the similarities between a chicken they see on Sesame Street, and what exists on their dinner plate. Factory Farms around the world, and especially in the United States, employ a variety of inhumane techniques to produce the highest output at the lowest cost.

The desire for cheap food has enticed businessmen to turn food production into a mysterious, systematized process whereby consumers are presented with boneless, skinless, bigger, better, and cheaper food in return. This is what people want, and it’s what they get.

But the myopic goal of inexpensive food sacrifices a number of other worthy goals in wholesome food production, including and especially the way in which the animal’s life is treated throughout the process. Think about the pork you recently enjoyed for dinner. From what pig (or pigs, as the case may be) was this meat derived? Where did it live? With what hormones and antibiotics was it repeatedly fed? How confined was it throughout its life? How was it handled by its owners?

I have often said that if animals were known and named by the people who want to eat them, and their butchering was witnessed by the same, that there would be a tidal wave of vegetarianism sweeping the nation. Despite how mechanized the food production process becomes, animals will never be a mere component or commodity of that system. Treating them as if they are nothing more than that does more than just deprive the animal of the enjoyment of its own life—it dehumanizes us.

That dehumanization bleeds outward to our fellow human beings. Apathy towards the life of another person we do not know nor see is rife within our society. Whether it’s supporting sanctions on and bombing of a nation half a world away (killing hundreds and thousands of innocent individuals, including women and children), or caring little about people detained on trumped up charges, placed in solitary confinement, and tortured for information they do not have, this indifference permeates our political system.

It’s especially evident in regards to people who we feel are, like animals, inferior for some reason. Some feel that the impoverished masses in Africa suffer as a result of their own laziness and corruption. Some feel that the countless victims of sexual abuse have somehow invited that oppression upon themselves. Others feel that corruption in certain countries should be “fixed” by carpet bombing the entire countryside, effectively reseting the area and rooting out the existing problem—while making no mention of the innocent men, women, and children who would suffer and die as a result.

Simply put, we do not care about he whom we do not know.

This applies also to the unborn child—over one million being aborted each month.

Such a profound disregard for life we do not see and connect with is unhealthy, inhumane, and immoral. Each life is precious—whether it’s the young Afghani girl who tomorrow will die as a result of an unmanned drone strike, piloted by a man ten thousand miles away, or the cow confined in a tight space for its entire life, fed a diet of corn and drugs, or the seagull choking to death on an empty chip bag left stranded on the beach. If we dismiss any life, we sow a seed that will sprout into the pervasive disregard here being observed—a selfish focus that has no time nor concern for any living being not within its immediate gaze.

Albert Einstein once wrote:

The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life.

Though we may, at times, try and place blinders upon our view of morality, we cannot change its definition. The God who gave life to every living thing on this planet surely regards each as valuable and of great worth. We should be no different.

9 Responses to “A Pervasive Disregard for Life”

  1. SpecKK
    December 23, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    +1 ??
    It seems a waste to post this today when nobody is looking, but I can’t find anything objectionable in this post. I suppose there is the freedom of capitalism and specialization in the poultry industry which is economically good (aside from the subsidies, opacity and regulation which has consolidated agriculture into the hands of a few dehumanizing conglomerates).

    I’d like to see some valid arguments for what makes any innocent life less valuable than your own, just based on circumstances.

  2. Alan Gardner
    December 23, 2010 at 9:38 pm #

    I just hit the one year milestone as a vegetarian for ethical reasons. I can’t agree with you more regarding the disconnect we have with our food. I thought I’d miss meat, but I feel so much better not participating in the meat industry, it’s worth it.

  3. Nate
    December 24, 2010 at 12:00 am #

    Can’t say I agree on the bit about vegetarianism. I’ve raised plenty of my own beef, chicken, and turkey, and the raising didn’t make me at all reluctant to eat them.

  4. Kramer
    December 24, 2010 at 4:17 am #

    I can’t stand to eat that tomato that I raised from a little seed.

  5. Eran
    December 24, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    I agree with Nate. I have raised a lot of animals for consumption. My family even gave them names. Without a doubt you become close to the animals you raise but in the end, we had no problem killing and eating them. In my mind if I don’t eat them I won’t live thus I have no problem with it. There is a distinct difference between killing and wasting the animal and killing and eating.

    I think the real travesty is that we have the ability and the technology to feed the world and we don’t.

  6. Kelly W.
    December 24, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

    The problem ISN’T whether or not we eat meat or not. The issue revolves around what the Lord states in the Doctrine and Covenants section 59 verses 16 to 20. The Lord states that he gives us all the fulness of the earth (beasts, fowls, herbs, orchards, vineyards and gardens) for the benefit and use of man. The Lord further states that he is pleased to give us these things and that they were all created for that purpose. But most LDS stop reading in verse 19 in order to justify their greed for using these things. But, in verse 20 the Lord states that even though these things were created for our use and benefit, He is displeased when man uses them TO EXCESS AND EXTORTION. He commands us to NOT use them to excess or extortion.

    I submit that in the US of A, corporations whose main concern is the almighty dollar, do exactly that – – use the resources of the earth to excess and extortion for their own monetary gain, and not the benefit of mankind.

    In fact, the Lord, in introducing the Word of Wisdom, tells us exactly why the W of W was given: Section 89: 4 it says that in the Last Days their will be in the hearts of evil and conspiring men evils and designs for us to avoid by His Word of Wisdom, which is not good, or meet in the sight of our Father; which is centered in the use of tobacco and alcohol and even the herbs and fruit and meat of beasts and fowls – these are to be used sparingly. (verses 10 to 12)

    So, if we elect to keep the W of W, we will find ourselves being protected from the evils and designs of these evil people who use the resources given for the use of man only for their gain, and not the benefit and use of man.

  7. Clumpy
    December 26, 2010 at 2:03 am #

    I don’t think mere slaughtering of animals is Connor’s focus, but the turning of lives into a commodity so thoroughly that animals are subjected to these conditions while we intentionally keep ourselves ignorant of what’s going on, or use the pernicious language of “that’s just how business works” to excuse what we’re doing.

    Connor’s parallel between our meat industry and our foreign policy is especially apt as well, something nobody seems to be discussing. We’ve built up quite a business over the years artificially building up enemies, then spending grotesque amounts of money fighting them (to the tune of nearly half of the world’s total military spending). The rhetoric surrounding this leads us to prop up soldiers as defenders of freedom and liberty despite little evidence that military action for the sake of military action leads to any of these things. Even more damning, even those ostensibly against the war rarely discuss the scores and scores of dead overseas, preferring to discuss the comparatively small number of our citizens who died.

    In doing so (and in so rarely confronting the wretched dirtbags who trade human lives – ours and theirs – for dollars while stepping even on the soldiers they pretend to glorify), we reveal the mindset that permits these things to happen. Were we real defenders of human dignity we wouldn’t tolerate this type of rhetoric or behavior, though the fact that we have private prison interests essentially trading the lives of the poor and defenseless for profit even in our own borders makes it difficult for me to believe that we’ll ever be able to solve this problem without removing the corporate influence that makes it possible and electing honest people who refuse to sell their souls and advance human misery while blaspheming the concept of liberty by allowing the word to pass their lips as they subvert its meaning.

    Neither the United States nor the human race are defined by the negative human characteristics of lack of empathy or enabling tyranny through ignorance, though it’s something that we ought to at least excorcise out of ourselves, even when fighting against propaganda can feel like trying to swim up a waterfall.

  8. jim
    February 25, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    Going vegan is always an option. I do feel better having eaten a primarily vegan diet for the last two months. Sleeping better, loosing weight, my blood pressure, blood sugar and cholestrol went down.

    Interesting also, I feel like my communication skills with the people I am living with has improved. I feel so much more level headed emotionally. Much more sensitive to body language, and subtle intonations in communication. Something to think about. I don’t think vegetarianism is really advocated by the LDS faith, but perhaps it should be.

  9. james
    April 3, 2016 at 8:13 pm #

    Kelly, What you stated may never be realized because there is no clear cut way to determine if animals have been produced in an exploited way or not. Something produced or consumed with “Excess or extortion” is entirely subjective. Can you clearly define that in such a way that everyone can agree upon that? Especially Mormons, who do not prohibit the consumption or production of animals or animal products.

    I think the only possible way that this could be entirely agreed upon is zero production or consumption. LDS works may state that animals are created for humans to be used for food an other products, but thats strictly an LDS perception, and maybe to a lesser degree a Christian and perhaps Muslim perception. There are other beliefs which beg to differ that animals are specifically created for that purpose, or are even an ideal source of anything useful for mankind.

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