Types of Flesh

Bit of a incoherent mess of thoughts, so here goes…

Is there a difference between eating one species’ flesh and eating another’s?

Why is cannibalism wrong and not carnivory (to people who do not believe that all carnivory is immoral)? How do our discussions of morality carry over to interspecies predation for obligate carnivores? And how do we factor in ecosystem disbalance upon the removal of top predators? I’m a bit utilitarian, so my answer to the trolley problem is “whatever saves the most useful people. If I have to kill a fat guy, so be it.” Same with this: if keeping predators alive keeps the whole ecosystem afloat, it’s probably worth all the bloodshed they cause. 1 dead gazelle every few weeks or no gazelles at all? When people mention the horrible effects of parasites and pests, they’re always talking about how it affects humans. I mean, I should be on that side, right? I am human. But parasites make up so much of the world, perhaps influencing greatly the way life evolved, and so-called pests have often been here much longer than we have. In Nature’s eyes, if she permits me to personify her thus, we’re at the same level as the invasive ivy on the trees, right-to-be-here-wise. We just have a lot more ways to justify it that ivy does.

Nearly forgot to mention: Clearly, all life is not equal (*ahem* according to us). Let’s just establish that right now. All life is not equal. Not even a little bit. If a lion kills a person, that family just lost a member, and I don’t have to tell you how much that sucks. So we kill the lion. Obviously the lion’s life is far inferior to the human’s in our eyes. And every day cells are living and dying and waging microscopic war on each other. No one cares. They’re cells! There is practically no debate here, but on the off chance there is, here it is.

(If you skip down to the family section, you’ll see that I know that it’s not even an interspecies bias.)

And really, is there any difference between eating the flesh of domesticated “companion animals” and “livestock”? It’s pretty much just the idea of eating a domesticated animal that is unsavory. It is objectively no different than eating livestock. Is the problem sapience? All fleshy animals are sentient, and a few may possess sapience. Would there be any difference between eating intellectually comparable animals? Well, if we used mere intelligence to justify inferior treatment, then all brain-damaged and intellectually disabled people have just received a major downgrade in their rights. It’s not even the potential. A human without a brain will still be above the smartest dolphin in general human society/law. Or perhaps not. Some humans without a figurative brain are pretty justifiably mocked.

So it really boils down to human egocentrism again, huh? I know, other animals would probably be the same, but still. Anthropocentrism is not only embedded in our ways of being, but our ways of address; this predisposes prejudice in our ways. This embedment in our language – the food of our thought itself – is momentous.

Animal-related epithets, like “pig”, “swine” and “bitch”, are quite common. “World history” is the history of humans upon earth, and “pre”history is mostly pre-human history (yes, I know now it’s pre-written records, but that’s another tin of fish). Compassion, warmth and kindness are referred to as “humanity”. Anything else is “beastly”, “inhuman” and “acting like an animal”. (Which is really meaningless; whatever we do is “acting like an animal”: a human animal, but an animal nonetheless.) It’s understandable. We are the only sapient creatures we know of, and besides long-distance running and cognition, every other little beastie on the planet seems to have one over us.

We reject nature, we reject the bestial or we underestimate it so thoroughly as to do it an insult. We assume either helplessness or wanton violence. It is irrelevant what an animal’s cognitive intentions are, we simply cannot comprehend them. 

Appeal to nature is useless, bitches. We’re still debating whether we’re good and society makes us bad or vice versa. And conversely, sure, animals kill each other all the time. It’s survival. We don’t have to act like that. Does that make us better than them? Some say yes. Is it just a need for feeling superior or worthy? Was it like that time we thought the universe literally revolved around us? You know, fuck it. I don’t really want to care anymore.

But how far does our compassion for other animals go? How far should it go? As sentient creatures, they at least deserve not to be mass murdered and tortured, yes? We can give them that much? Respect is a bit more difficult; this abstract concept may differ from species to species, as it does from culture to culture and from individual to individual.

Even within our species, compassion for all is a confusing concept. We tend to favour those we like, those that provide for us, those with certain qualities…and family.

Blood ties are confusing. Blood doesn’t split evenly. You don’t “miscegenate” and create a perfect half-half blend of cultures. How far back do you claim your family? We usually stop at a few generations emotionally.

Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam?

The first protist?

Another way to otherize and disinclude. But it is impossible to treat everyone as family. How do you produce that unconditional, biologically mandated love? It doesn’t always work, either. Mother-child/father-child bonding would be interesting to explore. Most people seem to believe that they are willing to die for their child. (But how about Fates Worse than Death?) It has happened reliably. Few would do that for a stranger. That makes biological sense (people must propagate their genes and memes (ideas)), as well as the unconditional love thing for you romantics out there. I know, it’s nice, but then again, does that mean you’d kill a stranger to save your child/etc? If that happens, that would probably mess you up, and the stranger is just very unlucky that they’re not related to you closely.

It seems sometimes that these subgroups and clans and families and whatnot function as just another way to otherize and disinclude. But it is impossible to treat everyone as an actual part of your close, immediate family. Really close friends are called “like family” – then they’ve been upgraded to the exclusive family club. See, once again evolutionary explanations come creeping in – family shares genes, we want to protect our genes, and thus emotions usually promote this. Close friends have been vetted and may introduce genetic variation, so they don’t pose as much of a threat. Let’s not get into messy dysfunctional families yet.

Huh. Do I compartmentalize emotions and human bits too much? I seem to be entirely missing the human touch here (although I invite everyone to point out any flaws in my reasoning so far and I will be happy to correct them). I do tend to react to statements and not people. Or I treat each issuance as coming from a different source, pretending that the minuscule changes that occur in their body somehow changed them enough to merit calling them a whole new person. This basically means I don’t care who you are, if you say some dumbass shit, Imma call you out. Like you should criticize that complete tone change there, even though that was entirely intentional, as I have a failure of a sense of humour. What does that have to do with this? Nothing, really.

What is the point of this? I’m just really trying to figure out how to think. I’m a conformist if you look at my actions as a whole. I need norms. Not stupid ones like gender norms (How to Be a Fe/male Human), but things like How to Be a Decent Human Being, How to Be a Rational Human Being,  How to Be a Likable Human being, and How to Be an Efficient Human Being. I need rules. I am a ridiculous conformist, but I get bogged down in pointless rebellions. So these are mostly unspoken, unwritten, very unconcrete rules. (For example, if I think I know what I’m doing, I don’t want to be told what to do. I don’t like being bossed around.)

Well, most incoherent post ever award goes to this.


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