The Great Disconnect

Tbat link is to a Youtube video of comedian Louis C.K. delivering a routine about the immorality of eating meat, all the while admitting that he eats meat on a daily basis. (Go watch it…I’ll wait). I know many people might be repulsed by his acknowledgement of the immorality of eating animals and yet his comfort with still eating them, and that repulsion is justified, but I think this acknowledgement and expression also lays bare the obstacle we as vegan activists (if you associate with that identifier) need to overcome in order to be more effective in convincing people of the “rightness” of veganism and in convincing them to stop taking animals lives.

That obstacle, if we must simplify it, is DISCONNECTEDNESS. For someone to be able to think about eating animals, come to the conclusion that doing so is essentially wrong and harmful, but still continue to consume them speaks of a terrible disconnect between the acknowledgement of the issue and the actual life of the animal. It speaks of an understanding between cause and effect, but a disconnect between being part of the cause and not seeing the effect. It is, again, a tragic disconnect.

This awareness is nothing new in the vegan arsenal. We’ve constantly pointed out the disconnect at the grocery store when we see refrigerated cases full of packaged substances that look nothing like the animals those substances once were. It’s a true argument and is part of the overall disconnect our culture has produced between animals and our plates. Most, if not all, vegans have bridged that gap of awareness between food and animal, but for most of society, it’s simply not a consideration. The disconnect is so great that it’s just not a topic of discussion, despite it being a part of everyone’s lives a few times a day.

Even as aware vegans the disconnect becomes a part of our lives in ways we sometimes don’t recognize. We are so removed from the horror that is factory farming and the individual lives of the animals trapped within that system that we become, not desensitized, but disconnected from a sense of empathy we would have if we were exposed and connected to their lives on a daily basis. Commercials on TV that show hyper detailed images of an animals body sold as a commodity have no effect on us. Jokes about animals being killed or tortured don’t offend us, and cause some of us to laugh. Any sense of urgency to remove these animals from such horrible conditions is negated by the size of the task, other daily responsibilities, and a lack of connection to each individual animal. We all succumb to the disconnect that conveniently protects the oppressors bank accounts and allows them to continue doing what they will with the animals.

But there is hope in understanding that one, like Louis CK, can make a stand-up routine about the immorality of eating animals, but continue to eat them. There is hope because, I believe, it lends importance to the strategy of focusing on that disconnect and bringing the terrible reality of animals lives to those that contribute to that terrible reality. There is a place for debate and there is a place for philosophy and there is a place for statistics, but I know of no more convincing argument than truly showing others the reality of factory farming conditions. If I could, I’d bring people on tours to the farms so they can see the suffering and filth first hand. I’d take them to the fur farms so they could see the animals swinging their heads back and forth trying to fend off mental insanity from the confined conditions. I’d take them to the farms so they could feel the burn in their nostrils from the build up of manure, ammonia and stink. I’d connect them as directly as possible. Of course, the oppressors have safeguarded against such actions so as to deliberately disconnect us as widely as possible.

They deliberately separate us from the reality by walling off their farms. They do it by packaging their foods with idyllic scenes of smiling animals in open pastures. They do it by releasing manipulated and false information about the reality of factory farms. They do it by pressuring lawmakers to make it illegal to film the conditions of their farms. They do it in so many ways because they KNOW if we are connected to the lives of these animals that we would see part of ourselves in them and part of them in us…and then the interests of the farmers would be in jeapordy. And they are not immune to the connection, despite their reliance on the animals for financial gain. Farmers see what they do to the animals first hand and it keeps them up at night. Some have abandoned the business when the connections overwhelmed their desire for a livelihood.

So for us, the goal is to bring back the connection. We can have the discussions and debates and philosophical masturbation, but most importantly we need to bring the lives of these animals to everyone else. We need to bring the photos, the videos and the experiences of these animals into the public realm and engage people until they are connected again and again, keeping it in the open and not letting the food corporations continue to widen the disconnect between us and our effect on these animals.

Let us take these actions with respect and consideration towards our audience, but with an equal respect and consideration for the victims of our culture’s selective morality and disconnect. With that in mind, if you are new to the discussion of veganism and consideration of animals lives, please watch the following video. It’s not pretty, but it is real….


5 responses to “The Great Disconnect

  1. I think many people empathize with the pain and suffering animals go through in factory farms. It is next to impossible to see their pain and not relate it to our own both from a scientific standpoint and an emotional one. I think a major way that people justify eating meat is by their religious belief. I as an atheist use my own sense of empathy to guide most of my moral decisions. Eating a vegan diet has logically stemmed from that. However, if someone’s moral code comes from the bible where in there are graphic descriptions of how to properly sacrifice animal’s to a god who demands burnt offerings, then not eating meat is going to be a hard sell. The bible places no regard for animals’ lives. Animals in the bible were created for humans. Humans are given complete dominion over the use of animals. Including their living and dieing. I am sure this is the case for many other religions as well. I am just playing it safe by picking a religion I was raised in and a book I have read.

    So I think this sense of superiority derived from religious belief is also another major contributing factor to this great disconnect. In my experience many of the vegans I have met either lack religion or have a more deistic or non deity belief system where in they can and do view animals’ suffering as similar if not the same as humans’. They actually place value into the lives of animals. Crazy!

    So there in lies, I believe, the real crux of the problem, making people view animals as actual beings who are our equals in their right to life and not something placed here solely for our pleasure. Or as Louis ck puts it with infinite subtlety and nuance: “You wouldn’t fuck a baby pig”.

    That is what we need to show people. Why they shouldn’t fuck baby pigs. Why the life of an animal should concern us. The rest will follow.

    How one convinces a person, who uses the bible as the sole arbiter of their moral decisions, that eating meat is bad is still something that is beyond me. I, traditionally, have had a failing track record of convincing religious people of most anything.

    • I understand your viewpoint and as an atheist as well, I share your frustration, but I’m not so down on religion as an enemy to veganism. Religion has a great deal of potential to be an ally to the animals. The basic tenets of religion involve a great deal of compassion and helping the underdogs. Things get messy when the tenets are institutionalized and individual scriptures are used to cement people in their ways instead of being viewed from a few steps back and looking at the whole picture.

      Yes, there are plenty of verses in the bible that completely negate the lives of animals, but there are a LOT of verses in the bible that are contextual and related only to their time period. Many of those verses are now completely ignored and seen as absurd (like the entire book of Leviticus!), so we can expect the same for these ideas about how to treat animals.

      I’m completely willing to meet others on their terms and from their perspectives, and when I think about doing this with religion (I was raised catholic, mind you) I don’t fear the conversation related to justice for animals. Again, when we take a step back and look at the “general feel” of religion, the liberation of animals can be a central part of religious practice. That’s how I see it anyways.

      But yes, as liberating as religion can be, it can be as equally oppressive. Then again, when you show even the most defensive religious individual the reality of factory farming, I doubt they would be able to walk away from it without SOME sort of transformation or consideration of the issue. That’s my hope anyways.

    • Maybe you’re not very successful at convincing any “religious people” (I really dislike that term) because, at least in this comment, you’re overtly (though maybe unintentionally?) placing your belief as an atheist on a pedestal above other belief systems and talking down to them. Implying an entire religion’s moral compass is broken or that said religion is maybe incapable of empathy or logic is not a way to win people over.

      I am a Christian. I read the Bible and believe it to be the inspired word of God. I’ve been eating vegetarian for 8mos now, and become vegan about 2mos ago.

      Now, I do understand your frustration though. I have many friends that fall into the category you’re referring to. It really comes down to confronting people with something they are doing [the willful participation in the suffering of animals], that at least subconsciously I think most know something is wrong about it, but because of pride or just pure stubbornness they do not wish to face the situation and sadly will instead hide (poorly I might add) behind their belief system. Which brings us back to the main topic of Scott’s blog post here is that there’s an insane disconnect between the farm and our forks.

      I feel no inhibitions about veganism being against anything in the Bible or vice versa. There is latitude to work with within the Bible that yes, mankind is granted dominion over the creatures of the earth, but dominion over does not at all mean “do as you please.” Case in point, please refer to this snippet from the Wikipedia article on Anthropocentrism from the section on Christianity:
      “The use of the word “dominion” in the Genesis is controversial. Many Biblical scholars, especially Roman Catholic and other non-Protestant Christians, consider this to be a flawed translation of a word meaning “stewardship”, which would indicate that mankind should take care of the earth and its various forms of life, but is not inherently better than any other form of life. The current Latin Vulgate, the official Bible of the Catholic Christian church, states that God holds man responsible for the care and fate of all earthly creatures.

      The original Hebrew word in question is וְיִרְדּוּ stemming from the root רדה meaning to oppress or subjugate. Literally understood as to come down upon. Some evangelical Christians have also been critical, viewing a human-centred worldview, rather than a Christ-centred or God-centred worldview, as a core societal problem. According to this viewpoint, humanity placing its own desires ahead of the teachings of the Bible leads to rampant selfishness and behaviour viewed as sinful.”

      Furthermore, the Old Testament sacrifices you referred to were abolished upon the resurrection of Christ. Animal sacrifice was ordained by God as a means of sacrificing a precious part of one’s livelihood to pay for their sins. We’re living in a post-Old Testament world where animal sacrifice is [obviously] no longer commanded or practiced. We stopped the animal sacrifices because of Jesus’ permanent and complete self sacrifice for our sins, both past, present, and future. All you have to do is accept that Christ died for us all, and the gift of eternal salvation is yours.

      From my vantage point, our society is more of the latter in the above Wiki quote; mankind has become rampantly selfish even within the family of Christ. I do not have a solution. I’m only asking that you consider there are Christians (and followers of other belief systems) that are vegans and see the larger problem at hand and not incorrectly lump everyone into the same category.

      Man, we’ve broken like 2 of the 3 rules of taboo conversational topics here: diet and religion! Just need to toss in politics (please don’t) and the circle will be complete. :p

      • I do not care to argue semantics. The less literal one takes the bible the more metaphoric it becomes. The more metaphoric it becomes the more he must use his own knowledge and personality to interpret it. The more he does this the more he is relying on himself for his own moral and other life decisions and the less he is relying on the bible and christian doctrine. The more you rely on yourself and less on the bible the less religion engulfs your life, the less religious you become. So no I do not believe the christian religion can accept the legitimate claim to life that animals have. I believe given a litteral interpertation of the bible it places man’s comfort paramount to any animal’s life. Christians who have become vegans or vegetarians do so because they have started to view the bible as metaphoric and or started making moral decisions without consulting the bible.

        I appreciate your interpretation of the bible but it is YOUR interpretation of a book. It is you thinking for yourself and then for some strange reason using the bible as a warrant for what you all by yourself concluded.

        Regardless of the means by which you became a vegan I am very happy you have become one. I do not believe that being a christian requires you to eat meat but simply provides you with a moral justification for an otherwise self evidently immoral act.

        I do not care to take this blog hostage however and that is why I did not respond to Scott. If you care to have any further conversation on this matter here is my email.

  2. Pingback: Life Goes On | MYVEGCOACH

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