Charles Krauthammer penned an article this past week that was a profound departure from his usual warfare statist drivel. Instead of calling upon the Republican career politicians of the Socialist Democracy of Amerika to declare war upon some hapless third world country he chose to write about a prediction he is making about the future of this country. In particular, Chuck, if I may call him that, predicted that the future eating habits of SDA citizens will tend toward vegetarianism.
Chuck wrote that despite the fact he is a meat eater, he can conceive of the possibility that at some point in our near future the great majority of the citizens of this hungry land will come to the conclusion that eating meat is the moral equivalent of slavery. You read that right. Chuck argued that future generations will see our current practice of meat eating as equally morally objectionable as looking back upon slavery has been to our generation. Now I am not dismissing his argument off-hand. Indeed, I think he could very well be on to something. Wild-eyed animal rights activists set aside, it seems to me as if more and more people are coming to the conclusion that we should not be slaughtering animals merely to pursue our own culinary delights.
Bruce Friedrich, policy director for the animal protection organization known as Farm Sanctuary, responded to Chuck's column by writing, "Remember, other animals are made of flesh, blood and bone, just like human beings are. They have the same five physiological senses that we do, and they feel pain in the same way, and to the same degree." Bruce's argument is most interesting. It seems as if he draws the conclusion that an animal's sensation of pain is directly equivalent to our sensation of pain simply because we both share the "five physiological senses." I don't see how that necessarily follows. It seems to me as if Bruce is ignoring the huge influence of consciousness in the perception of pain. The conception of pain is not merely a matter of being aware of it by means of our senses. I know in my case the anticipation of pain, the initiation of pain, the meditation upon the actual pain, the hope for the cessation of pain and the ability to recall the sensation of pain from the past all play a part in my current perception of pain. Animals are incapable of each of those items because animals are not capable of self-consciousness.
I do not deny that many animals have conscious thought. That truth seems evident to all who study animal behavior. What I deny is that animals have the ability to engage in self conscious thought. Animals can think but, unlike humans, they are incapable of thinking about the fact that they are thinking. The inability to think about the fact that they are thinking would, I believe, decrease the overall perception of pain in their lives. I therefore conclude that animals do not experience pain in the exact same way we do.
Bruce goes on to argue that, "Most of us would agree that eating a dog or a cat is morally unconscionable, but there is no rational difference between eating a dog or a pig, a cat or a chicken. And yet the average American consumes about 30 of these animals every single year -- most of them after a horrible life and violent death. The choice for anyone who opposes cruelty could not be more clear -- a vegetarian diet." I believe anyone not blinded by the propaganda of the animal rights activists can see through this bogus argument rather easily. Eating a dog or a cat is not an immoral act. Bruce is correct that there is no rational difference between eating a pig or a cat. He is wrong when he declares that eating a cat is immoral (simply because we keep them as pets) whereas eating a pig is not (simply because we do not generally keep them as pets).
Bruce's assertion that eating animals is immoral seems to go beyond the argument first made by Chuck. Chuck never came out and said that eating animals is immoral. He could not do so without declaring his own meat eating an immoral practice. On the other hand, he did draw the direct equation between eating animals and the practice of human slavery. Both Chuck and I agree that slavery was immoral. Slavery is a sinful action that is forbidden by the Law of God as found in the prohibitions against kidnapping and theft. Although there were some Christians who attempted to defend slavery as a moral institution, any examination of God's law forces us to conclude that it is, and was, indefensible. But such is not the case with the eating of meat.
I am one of those who believes that prior to the historical event known as the Flood, human beings did not eat meat. God created the earth and gave its inhabitants food to eat that was all purely vegetarian in nature. Then Genesis 9:3 records, "Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant." This passage records a part of the instructions given to Noah by God immediately after the flood. It seems fairly obvious that a change in eating habits is being described. Prior to the flood men were vegetarians. After the flood men could eat meat. Indeed, the dietary laws given to Moses all proscribe the eating of particular meats. It is therefore impossible to argue that eating meat is immoral since God does not command men to engage in immoral activities.
Nevertheless, I am sympathetic to Chuck's argument. I enjoy meat as much or more than most folks. But I also have found a distinct change in my perception and feelings about the death of animals over the years. As a young man I enjoyed hunting and I enjoyed the thrill of the kill. Not being a very good hunter I was never able to kill anything larger than a bread basket but I shot and killed many baskets full of squirrels, rabbits, dove, quail and grouse. Then one day, when I was around 30 years of age, I had an opportunity to kill a beautiful bobcat. I had a clear shot, at close range, to a standing target. As I drew down on that magnificent looking beast I suddenly was overwhelmed by the desire to do nothing. I dropped my gun and he wandered off into the woods. I never regretted that decision to let him live.
I live among hunters and I admire the skill they display in their craft. I also enjoy eating the foods they prepare from their kills. I do not shed a tear when an animal is killed. But I am finding, more and more as the years go by, an increasing anger at the reality of death in this world. We were not made to die. The animals were not made to die. Nothing was made for the purpose of death. But because of the sin of my ancestors (original sin), passed on to me and the world in which we live, the reality of death surrounds us. God has made provision to redeem us from the curse of this death, both physical and spiritual, in the death of His own Son, so that none of us need experience eternal death. But that does not mitigate the fact that physical death still exists. It surrounds us and it is an enemy, or at least that is how the Bible describes it. I Corinthians 15 says, in part, "For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death....O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?"
I hate death and yet I live in a world encompassed by it. But I don't hate death enough to give up eating meat. On the other hand, like Chuck, I can envision a day when most people will hate death to the point that they make the voluntary decision to stop killing animals for food. It is not a moral decision but it is a rational one.