For years, I’ve liked to say: “Eating always involves death.”
There is no way around this. Native Americans realized this and used to pray prayers of thanks for the animals/plants that had given their lives so that they could eat.
That’s not to say that, given the factory methods that many animals are processed as food today, that there’s not good reasons for being vegan (I’m not) as a response to animal cruelty. That’s a morally defensible response.
However, you can’t avoid cruelty to plants. Eating plants involves death, even if it’s in a lesser form and not as hard to watch on PETA videos. Plants may not shriek in pain. But we’re learning more and more that they feel, smell, and even hear.
So, again, eating involves death. Every time you eat.
My point here is that, whether you eat Vegan, Paleo, or Fruitarian, there’s no moral high ground, really. No reason to gloat, whatever your food choices are. Every one of these moral choices is defensible from a moral position. Every one of them involves the death of something else.
We are a part of the natural order of things, not above or beyond it. There are more, and less, cruel and humane ways to eat. But in the end, the “red in tooth and claw” character of the natural order is a part of our existence too.
I’ve often thought, btw, that this provides a Jungian-like explanation for why many great religions developed a ritual cult of animal/plant sacrifice. Perhaps deep within even our ancient ancestors arose a restless sense of guilt. They understood that their continued life always meant the death for other creatures; and being closer to nature than we are today, perhaps they felt that guilt all-too keenly.
Perhaps to appease our own guilt, more than any god’s, we humans developed a “cult of sacrifice” where animals were ritually offered to “please” the spirits. Perhaps some of that guilt comes forward with us today, causing some folks to only ever eat the purest and least-ethically compromised foods. As I said, I understand that moral choices. It’s very defensible.
But at the end of it all, you can’t escape the final truth that eating involves death. To get all “Lion King” about it, we’re a part of the great circle of life, not above and beyond it.
This helps me understand those Native-American prayers. It’s helps me understand the Jungian reasons for the cult of religious sacrifice. And it helps me understand the moral choices vegans make. What I’m saying here is, in a strange way, all of these disparate responses to food likely come from the same desire to do morally “good” in our food-chain choices.
So, whatever your food choices, consider following the wisdom of the Native peoples, Christians, and people of many other faiths too. Pray prayers of thanks for the food offered to you, for the death that it represents; and remember that providing sustenance for you always involves the death of another living thing.
Every single time you eat.