Imagine a situation where you have two options: to prepare a dish that satisfies your hunger and does not include (or contain) animals products, and that its price does not exceed that of an animal product , or to prepare a dish that includes lamb. In the second option, you cannot buy the plate- you have to slaughter the lamb by yourself and prepare it by yourself. Which would you choose?
This dilemma was before my eyes about two years ago. As someone who loves animals, I asked myself: is there a difference between eating a lamb, a cow, a pig, or a dog ? In Vietnam, dogs are eaten as part of the culture, in Judaism, pigs are forbidden to eat, and in India cows are considered to be sacred. Each country and community has its norms and social rules, but is there an objective difference between eating a dog, a cow, a sheep, or a pig?
Last month, the Israeli Vegan-Friendly Association ran a TV advertisement that aims to raise awareness of precisely this issue. The ad ran on Israeli prime time television, got more the 3 million views, and can be watched now on YouTube. The couple in the ad is interested in buying fresh lamb. At the couple's request, the seller brings them fresh lamb just as they asked, the lamb at the height of his freshness- a living lamb. The advertisement corresponds with the slaughter dilemma, as the advertisement forces the meat buyer to face a reality: before the finished product, there was once a sensitive creature.
The ad provoked many reactions. From people who identified with the message and said they would think about it, to people who claimed to change eating habits, and people who expressed antagonism claiming that the ad "got on their plate" and that it is coercion-coercion of the kind that goes on a plate. I want to address the second type of argument, which expresses antagonism, and even though it was not the primary response, it is an important one.
I may have previously been on the side that expresses antagonism to this issue. After all, who wants to know what the animals went through until they got to the plate? Most of us do not want to know and hear about it. We would rather repress the thought that the lamb went through hell, that it was taken from his mother the minute he was born, and that the lamb could have lived a good life if we had not eaten it. The decision of what to eat is a personal choice that each one makes in his private sphere, but how can one tell which issues should be shown on the public sphere? Is it really coercion or raising awareness to an issue that we often don't think about, an understanding that encourages choice?
Thinking about these questions led me to the conclusion that many ideas of the vegan movement of veganism is not coercion. On the contrary, If one thinks in analogies of this kind, then veganism is akin to questioning religion or speculating about it. Like people who believed in God and then started to question their beliefs, veganism is also asking the difficult questions about subjects that seem to be obvious in a certain culture. The reality in which humans consume animals and their products is not necessarily the only way, it is not always necessary, and it may vary depending on the situation. Therefore, the fairest thing to do is to at least expose the public to all sides of the discussion, and for the public to decide for themselves.
Questioning social norms in the vegan context is expressed in several issues. It is first expressed in breaking the mental barrier between love and affection for certain animals, the recognition that animals, just like dogs, are able to feel and be our friends, and the repression of these emotional and cognitive abilities among other animals.
It has not always been clear to humans that other animals have features in common with us. In recent decades, a wave of studies has revealed that humans are not as unique an animal as we thought. Even if they do not have refined traits, this is not necessarily a reason to eat them, but the fact that they do share common traits with us raises the moral question of eating them and the contradictions that exist in our relationship to humans and pets. The animals we eat also have needs, emotions, some awareness, the ability to develop cultural elements and to express of empathy and emotions. They have the ability to use their own tools and language.
Pigs, for example, are an intelligent animal with complex cognitive abilities. Pigs are very similar to humans in their abilities and traits, not for nothing are pigs a preferred animal on which experiments are performed. Cows also express emotions and as time goes on, Researchers discover more new things about them. A new study has found that cows talk to each other, expressing positive and negative emotions through speech. Chickens experience depression and anxiety in the factory farming, when they do not have the ability to express their basic physical abilities.
The fact that other animals don’t look like us, that we cannot communicate with the animals fluently and clearly, and that the animals, unlike the times when they could attack man - cannot attack us anymore most of the time, does not mean that we must exploit them for our own needs. On the contrary, we must strive to understand them as they are and accept that these are creatures that are similar to us in many ways, not to take advantage of their helplessness, just like many of us do so with dogs and cats. When we live with the animals, it's much easier to empathize with them and to love them, like we do with dogs. But when we are far away from the animals it’s a different situation, we don't get to even think about them, perhaps it's easier.
When people make the connection that the animals we eat were once alive, creatures who feel, play, love, get angry and sad, and if people love other animals more than those they eat, then it's hard to ignore that there are some serious question that should be asked. But making this connection is not enough, since we often think that we must eat animals to live well, to survive. In this case, we prefer our lives before others.
But Do we really need to eat animals to survive well? the question also concerns questions of health and necessity. From a young age we are taught that consuming animals is the normal and natural thing to do. That humans need animals, just as other animals consume other animals, so humans can also consume animals. This is the "food chain", and man is at its head. This claim of naturalness is inaccurate.
Treating animals as one group consuming the other is a crude and misleading generalization. After all, animals are divided into groups: carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores. As omnivores, we can consume all types of food. Still, unlike carnivores - we do not need animal food to survive well, and man has various food intake abilities that have evolved throughout history in evolutionary processes. In the future, it is possible that some of our capabilities may be limited, just as we developed new capabilities through our evolutionary process.
If we can consume animal foods does not mean that we must do so, and that we will not be able to survive well without consuming animals and their products. During history, many individuals that didn't consume animals still lived well: the Arab poet al-Ma’arri, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, the Hebrew community in Israel (vegan community) , Buddha and many more.
Consumption of milk, which is perceived as an acceptable manner, is a relatively new phenomenon in the human era. We started consuming milk when we started raising and domesticating dairy animals, especially because there was hunger (which is less relevant today) and a need for Vitamin D in cold places. Today we can get vitamin D from Milk Alternatives and other food products, or the best – directly from the sun. Our body is used to milk, but not completely. Not for nothing are many people sensitive to lactose and do not digest it well. In retrospect, the consumption of milk from another animal (which is intended for the offspring of the animal, not for humans) - is perceived by me as a deviation to nature and the natural way of things. After all, there is no other animal in nature other than humans, that consumes another animal's milk and in general after infancy.
As for the necessity claim, although there are animal products that contain essential vitamins and foods, this does not mean that the same vitamins and foods can not be obtained in other foods while avoiding the disadvantages of eating animal products, such as cholesterol consumption. Today, unlike the way animals were raised before the Industrial Revolution, most of the animal products we consume contain hormones and chemicals that are unhealthy for us. Even B-12, which was previously absorbed into cows naturally by eating grass, is now given to them by pills as they no longer roam the grass.
Showing an ad or videos is not about coercion or “entering the plate”, it is about raising awareness to things many people once thought as "truth" and obvious. Still, thinking of the question of how the food gets to the plate may not be so pleasant for us. If we conclude that the tormenting journey of lambing is not necessary, the obvious conclusion is that, to be honest with ourselves, we will need to change our diet. And here it is already a matter of choice. This choice is personal and individual and stems from many factors: environmental support, desire, physical needs, and desire to learn about the subject. At this point everyone will decide for themselves, but at least we should not ignore the ideas, we should rather confront them, acknowledge them and think seriously about them.
All our lives we are taught that we must eat animal products. When people eat animal products, the products are inanimate, and we do not always think about the question - how did this food get to its current state? We must recognize that when we consume animals and their products, we create demand and thus give legitimacy to the animal food industries. When we go to a restaurant or store and ask for a vegan dish or a vegan product, we create demand. This demand and more demand are changing realities.
Back to the dilemma: I decided that I myself would probably not be able to slaughter the animal, given that there was another good alternative, and that it would be hypocritical on my part to pay someone else to do so. I admit that I still choose the path of lust from time to time and for that I regret. I appreciate people who are not at all drawn to lust. The meaning of the fact that I rarely consume meat product, for example in holidays, means that I am painted in this context, and thus I recognize and see it as a moral misstep. Humans behave in a complex way, but we must at least be aware of it.
Confronting the thought of the question of how food reaches a plate is important for humans and animals alike. Its denial does not help create a better world for animals and humans, as the consequences of industries do not only affect animals but also have an impact on global warming and our health. The link between the way animals are raised and their arrival on the plate is important. We will have to choose, among other things, whether to be drawn into one’s lust and selfishness or whether to choose to transcend beyond what is desired at that moment, beyond selfishness. There might not be a clear answer, but this at least should be in our mind, instead of ignoring it and go ahead.