|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
Paula Brügger is a professor at the Ecology and Zoology Department of
Santa Catarina Federal University (UFSC), Brazil, where she teaches
"Natural Resource Conservation" and "Environment and
Development". She has done her graduate studies in Biology and
has a post-graduate degree in Hydroecology. She helds a Master's Degree
in Education - "Science and Education", and a PhD in Social
Sciences - "Environment and Society". She coordinates the
environmental education project "Amigo Animal" (Animal Friend)
- theme of discussion in both state and municipal schools, and
is also active in the defence of animals as a volunteer of the local
NGO "Sociedade Animal". She was also, for four years, member
of the "University Committee for Ethical Treatment of Animals"
Dr Paula will present at 36th World Vegetarian Congress the following talk:
Why animal protectors eat animals?
The history of our species, Homo sapiens, over Earth is marked by a progressive rupture between us and the environment. This affirmation, true specially for the industrial societies, makes us think, besides many other things, on the fact that we’re getting further and further from the productive processes that make several items and products that we consume in our everyday. That means that we know very little about the environmental and social costs of the majority of those products. For instance, to obtain access to electricity, it is enough to turn on the switch, and to eat a piece of meat, it is enough to go to the supermarket and choose a cut. But the production process of many products that we consume in our everyday may be very predatory in many ways.
For instance, our diet can generate huge social and environmental impacts, depending on if it’s basically vegetarian or carnivorous(rich in animal protein, in general). The essentially carnivorous diets cause today gigantic social and environmental impacts, such as habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, natural resources overuse (both renewable and not renewable, as water, soil and oil), air pollution, destruction of small rural properties, social exclusion, besides being related with the increase of various diseases incidence, such as CV diseases, obesity, cancer, etc. All these reasons would be enough for us to renounce a diet rich in animal protein since it is a unsustainable diet. However, the central question of this workgroup is the suffering inflicted to the animals who are raised and killed for human consumption. So,
Why it is so common that animal protectors eat meat?
The answer, as it appears to me, is at least related to this rupture between us and that which is around us. Although we may live without meat and other forms of animal protein maintaining good health, many animal protectors still eat meat uniquely because, on the one side, they don’t have to kill the animals with their own hands, and on the other, are unfamiliar with the whole suffering of such animals before getting to their tables. As we say in Brazil, “What eyes don’t see, the heart doesn’t feel”.
The relationship between humans and animals may be approached by many ways: animal traffic, nourishment rich in animal protein, animal use in teaching and research, animals in circuses and rodeos, animals on the streets, and many others. The issue of animals on the streets is, undoubtedly, one of the main focuses of action of most NGO’s whose goal is the support and protection of animals, and is a much more visible problem, because the abandoned animals are suffering in front of our very eyes. This problem is, however, only the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to the relation between us and the animals.
Besides the many social and environmental problems pointed out earlier, each time we sit down at our tables, we choose to take or not in the exploration and suffering of thousands of animals. Although this suffering is not beyond our eyes, the truth is that many other sentient beings – those capable of experimenting pleasure, pain and other sensations – pass their short lives confines in deplorable conditions for later on be slaughtered and serve to feed us. Pigs, chickens, calves, turkeys e many other animals are brutally mutilated before becoming food: their tails and beaks are chopped off or burned in order to avoid cannibalism and/or unable them to choose a specific part of their feed, they are castrated without anesthesia, they are transported to the slaughterhouses with no water or food, supporting extreme temperature, etc. The suffering can be so big that in many cases – such as of the calves raised to become veal – the abattoir, that is the death, is almost a redemption, since it is the end of an absolutely miserable live. There are still many other forms of suffering imposed to animals that are not created in confinement, such as the separation of the mother and her babies, the separation of herds, the brandings with hot blades, and other sacrifices that don’t take into account the interests of the animals, as argues the philosopher Peter Singer.
But is it correct to submit sentient beings to all this suffering for being able get their meat, eggs and milk? Are the animals our journey companions on Earth, or mere resources to serve us and attend of our hedonist desires? The sad reality is that in our society, the farm animals are no longer living beings, but yet mere protein containers. It’s pathetic to think, for instance, that at the age at which pigs are killed, in other conditions, these smart mammals would be happily playing, just as our dogs and other pets. In fact, the same treatment considered “normal”, or “acceptable”, for many animals that serve us for food, is considered sufficiently cruel to send one to prison when applied to our pets. The Brazilian law 24645/34, for instance, that establishes animal protection measures, predicts as a crime a series of situations of suffering that occur commonly with animals submitted to industrial production processes, but this never prevented such sufferings from being imposed to animals.
If we treat dogs and cats with care and love, but are not moved by the suffering of other animals, we’re being unfair. We’re not hunters-gatherers anymore, having at our disposal a wide variety of protein sources, which guaranty a well balanced diet. Therefore, at least in what comes to the majority of the urban world population, meat and other animal protein forms may be considered luxury, since it is possible to renounce its consumption. The different treatment we give dogs and pigs, for example, goes against the ethical principle of equity, understood as equal consideration of interests. Being subject to suffering is the characteristic that differentiates beings who have interests – who we should give consideration – from those who don’t. Finally, the condition of being sentient is sufficient for that a living being be considered as part of the sphere of equal consideration of interests.
To conclude, I would like to quote a famous passage of Peter Singer: