It’s Nov. 15, and that means it’s exactly one week to the day we pile our dinner plates with turkey, mashed potatoes and six times the suggested serving size of gravy. It’s a day of celebration and self-reflection honoring the original feast between English Pilgrims and Native Americans, the culinary kiss of Judas which was the prelude to several centuries of territorial warfare and disease-ridden extinctions — Thanksgiving.
But while most people’s minds will be on their KitchenAid ovens and their anti-Semitic grandparents this holiday, there are some who will refuse to partake in the festivities altogether. I’m not talking about Jehovah’s Witnesses or even Europeans — I’m talking about animal rights fanatics.
Notice that I call them “fanatics,” and not “activists.” That’s because activists and fanatics are not the same thing; in fact, they couldn’t be less alike. An activist supports a cause by sharing thoughts and promoting constructive dialogue between people of like and opposite minds. A fanatic stands on the street corner outside of Costco in a chicken suit, asking shoppers why they killed his parents.
It’s a not-so-fine line between luminary and lunatic, between being committed to a cause and being committed to an asylum, and in the field of animal rights there are no exceptions.
Consider this billboard I saw along the side of the I-80 while driving upstate last weekend: a cute picture of a piglet, framed beside the glaring words, “A pork chop stops a beating heart,” and a flatlining electrocardiogram. The subtext in this ad is fairly obvious: if you eat pork, you’re condoning murder.
I don’t know about the good folks over at PETA (who were responsible for the advertisement), but I’ve never supported murder. When I eat a pork chop, I’m simply participating in the millennia-old human tradition of eating to survive. Our ancient ancestors ate pretty much whatever wouldn’t kill them — leaves, grasses, non-poisonous insects — and that included the occasional limp-legged lamb. It’s only been in the last few centuries, with the expansion of global trade and the engineering of evermore-resilient preservatives, that we’ve had the luxury of choosing what we eat.
Now we have milk that comes from almonds and protein that comes from pills — nothing short of magic in Neolithic times — and with all these new options, you could make the case that it’s time for reform. That’s why it’s so unfortunate that groups like PETA, with a cornucopia of relevant statistics at their disposal, opt instead to point fingers and make us “feel bad.”
There’s a legitimate point to be made here. Forget that slaughterhouses essentially torture animals. What about the pollution of the local ecosystem, the rampant spread of wasteful acreage and the use of harmful pesticides? What about the subjection of human workers to long hours in dirty, hazardous work environments? These are the foundations of a strong, logical argument.
What we get instead are tear-jerker ads, angry solicitors and condescension. And while these tactics can be effective on some, they’re completely useless against those of us with common sense.
Human beings have dominated the animal kingdom ever since we learned to rub two rocks together. We’ve sat atop the food chain for thousands of years, and continue to do so for our unparalleled strategic and motor skills. Why on earth should we level with animals now?
Maybe we should because we’re light-years away from those early centuries of hunter-gathering. Maybe we should because over one-third of the adults in this country are quickly approaching rhinodom. But aside from the environmental argument against meat-heavy diets, there’s a good nutritional case to be made.
Red meat increases the consumer’s risk for heart disease, and may increase their risk for cancer. Vegetarianism, veganism, pescetarianism and other diets light on meat cut out these risks and promote longevity. Unfortunately, they also give some people a reason to be snotty when their friends order chicken tortellini at the Olive Garden. And if you’re going to use your special diet as an excuse to act like a sensitive martyr, its actual benefits will be lost on the rest of us.
That’s the overarching problem in this whole meaty dilemma: How can animal rights proponents make their point without being total assholes about it?
The answer is simple. We need to move away from the emotionality of the issue and focus on the facts. I’ll admit that I cried when they planned to slaughter Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t also a small, bacon-craving part of me rooting for the farmer. At heart, I’m a carnivore, and it’s going to take a lot more than guilt-tripping and passive-aggressive reprimand to change my basic nature.
So, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, my message to animal rights fanatics is this: You’d better grow up, and grow up fast. Emotional appeal just isn’t going to cut it, especially when that juicy turkey leg on my plate is making a strong emotional appeal of its own. The only thing your snobby disdain is going to succeed in doing is pissing me off.
And then I’ll eat animals to spite you.
Mark Strong doesn’t need water for hydration — he just drinks the tears of PETA members.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.