If we fail to make the connection between our daily meals and our cultural predicament, we will inevitably fail as a species to survive on this earth.
By refusing to make this essential connection, we condemn others and ourselves to enormous suffering, without ever comprehending why.
Even those who acknowledge that our treatment of animals is indeed a great evil may feel that it is, like the other evils in our world, simply a product of human limitations, such as ignorance, pride, selfishness, fear, and so forth.
According to this view, the horror we inflict on animals is a problem, but not a fundamental cause of our problems‚Äîand, because it‚Äôs a problem for animals, who are less important than us humans, it‚Äôs a lesser problem.
Looking from a variety of perspectives at our animal-based meals, we discover that eating animals has consequences far beyond what we would at first suspect.
Like a little boy caught tormenting frogs, our culture mumbles, ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs no big deal,‚Äù and looks away. And yet the repercussions of our animal-based diet are a very big deal indeed, not only for the unfortunate creatures in our hands, but for us as well.
Our actions reinforce attitudes, in us and in others, that amplify the ripples of those actions until they become the devastating waves of insensitivity, conflict, injustice, brutality, disease, and exploitation that rock our world today.
It is well known that animal foods are heavily contaminated with viruses and bacteria such as salmonella, listeria, E. coli, campylobacter, and streptococcus, which can be harmful if not fatal to people, especially given our already overworked immune systems. The urea in animal flesh also contains toxins.
It has furthermore recently been shown that cooked animal flesh contains heterocyclic amines, which are carcinogenic chemicals that form during the cooking process.
Thus, by not cooking flesh enough, we may expose ourselves to salmonella, E. coli, and other pathogens, and by cooking it, we end up eating cancer-causing chemicals formed by heating the animal fat.
Albert Einstein was correct in saying that no problem can be solved at the level on which it was created.
As omnivores, we must go to another level to solve our problem with excess fat, a level where we no longer kill and confine animals by proxy and consume their fat-laden remains.
Ending obesity will remain difficult, mysterious, complex, and a losing battle as long as we continue to eat diets rich in high-fat animal flesh, eggs, and dairy products.
To be free, we must practice freeing others. To feel loved, we must practice loving others. To have true self-respect, we must respect others.
The animals and other voiceless beings, the starving humans and future generations, are pleading with us to see: it‚Äôs on our plate.
We can see that the three reasons that we eat animal foods‚Äîinfant indoctrination, social and market pressure, and taste‚Äîreinforce each other and create a force field around our food choices that, like a sturdy fortress, resists any incursions.
The walls of the fortress are built of cruelty, denial, ignorance, force, conditioning, and selfishness. Most importantly, they are not of our choosing. They have been, and are being, forced upon us.
Our well-being‚Äîand our survival‚Äîdepend on our seeing this clearly and throwing off our chains of domination and unawareness. By harming and exploiting billions of animals, we confine ourselves spiritually, morally, emotionally, and cognitively, and blind ourselves to the poignant, heart-touching beauty of nature, animals, and each other.
Since our culture denies animals used for food any inherent value in their own right, limiting their worth simply to their value as commodities to those who own them, animals have no protection.
Ordering a steak earns us approving nods, and our friends rave over the barbecued ribs at the office picnic. The actual confinement, raping, mutilating, and killing are kept carefully hidden as shameful secrets that would make us profoundly uncomfortable if we had to witness them or, worse, perform them ourselves.
When we contemplate our tastes, we can see how conditioned they actually are. More importantly, though, we can see how utterly unsupportable they are as reasons to commit violence against defenseless, feeling beings.
Self-centered craving for pleasure and fulfillment at the expense of others is the antithesis of the Golden Rule and of every standard of morality.