Why you should not share this brutal picture of a dead animal

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Everybody who has some vegetarian and vegan friends on facebook probably knows the situation I found myself in this morning: I’m tired, scroll through facebook and one of the first things I see is a horrifying picture of a dead animal, posted by some animal activist. This made me reflect on the use of such pictures in animal activism and in which situations it might be appropriate.

Personally, I would never post such pictures on facebook and would encourage fellow vegans to refrain from doing so too, but let me explain why I think so. First of all, people posting such content are likely to have several vegetarian and vegan friends who already decided not to support this treatment of animals and might not want to be reminded of this violence over and over again. They don’t eat animals, what is the point in showing them this? Opinion might obviously differ on this point, but as far as my view goes, I don’t need and I don’t this kind of pictures on my facebook feed.

Then there is the group of friends that does not have a vegan or vegetarian diet for whatever reason. This group is usually in the majority even among people who add many vegans to their friendlist. The vast majority of this group can also get quite annoyed with regular involuntary exposure to such content. They might block the content of the person who posted it from their feed or they might just scroll over it and not think about it much. Therefore, posting these pictures too frequently is analogous to the inappropriate behavior by some overly motivated vegans lined out in “Fellow vegans, don’t shout at meat-eating strangers in public”

Does this mean that visual exposure to the conditions under which animals have to live for the mass-production of meat can’t convince people to reconsider their diet? I don’t think it does. Actually, many vegans probably watched videos or saw pictures showing these conditions  before turning vegan. This imagery can have an emotional impact on people and therefore influence their attitude towards these issues.

But these vegans often had the motivation to learn more about meat-production or were possibly asked by a friend to have a look and decided to do so. In any case, this exposure to the imagery is a voluntary one which is the major difference to the violent content posted on facebook. If the exposure to such content is an involuntary, it is more likely that people turn away from it, maybe as a self-defense mechanism and don’t reflect upon it.

To sum up, I don’t think that posting such pictures on social media will have the positive effect some people might think it has. Furthermore it can have a negative effect on both people who do not  have to be reminded of the ways animals are treated and on people who might not want to.

What was your experience with the usage of violent imagery in animal activism? Did seeing it influence you in your diet choices? Do you get annoyed if people post such content on a regular basis?

 

Why we don’t eat certain animals

retriever-348572_1280There is an asymmetry in our behavior towards animals that deserves being reflected upon more often:  We have our own pets at home, we care about them and we love them. Plus, we are incredibly sad if something ever happens to them.  At the same time, many of us do not seem to care much about the animals that suffer and die for meat production. How can we explain this asymmetry?

In fact, it can tell us a lot about the way in which our mind works. There are various reasons why certain animals are considered food while eating others would result in a public outrage.
First of all, it is clear that we do not eat our pets because we have a strong emotional bond with them. It seems completely nonsensical to us to even consider it. The same idea applies for pets from strangers, but it does not quite end here. Even if we knew that a certain dog or cat does not have an owner, we would still not eat them, so there is something more that makes these animals different.

One major factor is that our culture simply does not eat them. For some reason, most western cultures do not eat dogs and cats, so we intuitively feel that it is wrong, just because it is highly unusual. We could not justify this rationally since there is no coherent way to argue that eating cows and pigs is better in an ethical sense than eating dogs.

The last way  in which certain animals such as dogs and cats differ from the animals in meat production is that we are exposed more directly to pets. We have them in our houses; we see them in the park and so on. As far as cows and pigs go, a large portion of our population scarcely sees them – especially not in the conditions they frequently have to live under in order to make the mass-production of meat possible. Due to this very limited exposure, we are less likely to care about them. We do not have immediate contact with the cow suffering for our meal; we just buy the end-product in the grocery store. This demonstrates a completely natural – although irrational – way in which the human mind works: We care much more about beings that we are immediately surrounded with.

Let us make a little thought experiment: You are on the street and see a deer that was hit by a car and lies on the side of the street. The poor animal is clearly suffering and you have to wait by its side until someone comes to kill it. Later that day you hear on the radio that several animals died in a remote city when a farm burned down. Which situation has a higher emotional impact on you? Probably the first one has; which is completely natural, but does not imply that the second one is in any way less important. This brings us back to our original topic: The mere fact that cows and pigs suffer far away from us does in no way justify on ethical grounds that their suffering is to be favored compared to the suffering of animals which happen to be immediately around us.

This two-class view upon animals has to be reflected upon more often. I personally feel that it is a huge inconsistency in the worldviews of some people that is scarcely noticed. While starting to eat pets does not strike me as a particularly good solution to this problem, re-considering ones diet might be, but of course everybody has to decide this for himself.  

What do you think about these issues? Do you think it’s justifiable that some animals are treated very badly while others are not?