Can a consumer society become responsible for animals, their own health and the environment?

Slaughterhouses are death factories. We all know they exist. Those who buy their products support them to continue their work. Slaughterhouses are not to blame for killing animals, livestock farmers are not to blame, for them it is just a matter of survival. It is the fault of the consumers to whom this business is provided. How to make changes in consumer society, how to raise consumer awareness, make them critical and create a fairer society for people and animals?

The problem with violence in modern societies is that it is systemic. This means that violence is embedded in society and its functioning, such as violence against the environment, migrants, the economically weak and, of course, animals. Simply put: if you want to buy tomatoes, you’ll have a hard time getting them without plastic packaging; if you flee to a safer country as a victim of war and want to work honestly there, you will not get a work permit; and if you’re hungry, you won’t get a vegan sandwich at the gas station. Violence is systemic and thus normalized – it seems that “it cannot be otherwise than it is”, that “we will not be able to change anything” and even that it is so “right”.

Let’s look at this problem in a different way: we humans are mostly very kind to each other today. We greet each other nicely if we accidentally walk to the store, apologize politely, write kind mail, and even if someone gets on our nerves, we are patient. So the problem is not interpersonal relationships, but the system. A system that produces butchers, both butchers and professional soldiers, who are then burdened with “ugly work”, losing the responsibility of the individual consumer. A lot of people say, “It’s not just me doing this. Everyone does that. If it weren’t for me, it would be for others. ”In this way, we transfer the responsibility to professional life-takers, and we wash our hands, saying that they are to blame for everything and we are to blame for nothing. But in reality, people who pursue these professions are often victims themselves: victims of their demographic circumstances, as they usually do not even have the right career choice for economic or perhaps some other reason.

In fact, I myself am convinced that the prospects in terms of increasing systematization and automation of violence are poor. In my opinion, civilization will increasingly resort to devices that will do ugly work instead of man. This can already be seen today: large farms with tens of thousands of animals can be managed, so to speak, remotely, without humans, just as we can shoot people from drones on another continent. I see a great danger for humanity in the process, which will increasingly leave killing to robots and automated devices, and thus encourage it, as it will somehow sweep it under the rug. I am convinced that in ten or twenty years there will be no more people employed in slaughterhouses, except, of course, operators of fully automated conveyor belts, who will not have any physical contact with “livestock”. How to change that? As far as animals are concerned, the story is very simple: stop eating meat and use as few animal products as possible. As far as the military industry is concerned, unfortunately, I do not see such a simple solution on the horizon

The importance of values

We are part of a consumer company that approves of all of the above. Every society is made up of individuals and many disagree with the generally accepted practice of the Holocaust over animals. What values ​​does an individual need to develop in order to be touched by such events, to understand that it is about killing innocent animals, to finally realize that this is not right? How are these values ​​formed?

I think that the problem is not that we do not have or know these values, but that we put them in brackets, precisely because the above-mentioned systematization and automation of violence allows us to escape from direct cruelty we effectively distance ourselves and at the same time avoid responsibility. People say, “Ah, since this sausage is on the shelf anyway, why not eat it?” ). They also say what I mentioned above: “What can I do? If I don’t eat chicken, someone else will! ”Another way: there is no problem with slaughter and suffering not touching us – everyone, except for a really negligible percentage of the pathological population, is slaughter accompanied by blood, dying and the screaming of animals, a force disgusting, so he wants to avoid it. The problem is that smart monkeys have invented a way to force others who are less fortunate into ugly work to do it for us, while connecting a bandage over our heads that prevents us from seeing and hearing bad things. around us so we can dine on our steak in peace with musical accompaniment. It is a phenomenon I call “intentional ignorance.” My thesis is that the problem in ethics is not a lack of information and empathy, but the deliberate avoidance of information and the learned restraint of compassion or numbness.

Extending compassion to all animals

Those of us who have dogs and cats at home find it easier to imagine the suffering of farm animals. We know how to empathize with them and we know how they feel when cruel livestock practices happen to them, e.g. when mother cows are deprived of a newborn calf, when they have to die so young, they would like to live… What about those who have no contact with animals? How should you extend your compassion to all animals?

I see a problem here. Namely: if I have pets, I may be more susceptible to the direct suffering of other animals, but the problem is that I put a blindfold around my eyes again and give these pets these slaughtered animals as food… This is a great moral for me personally. a dilemma as I am a big dog lover. In short: I think those of us who have pets have the same problem as those who do not extend their compassion to animals. Sorry. We just have to be consistent in our thinking and admit everything, even what we don’t want to hear and know. The fact is, however, that the planned breeding of large dogs that eat large amounts of meat is just as problematic as human consumption of meat. I try to compensate for this at least a little by having chihuahuas… But the paradox that on the one hand we are lovers of domestic animals – especially dogs and cats – among those who do not extend compassion to all animals, remains and is not so easy to solve … Of course I understand that dogs and cats do not have the same dietary choices as humans do. They just need meat more. However, this fact does not justify the systematic breeding of such animals. Rescuing them from shelters may still be somehow compatible with the idea of animal ethics, as we help survive creatures that were born by chance and are just here with us in the world. However, producing such creatures that have to eat other animals for their own pleasure and prestige is almost even more controversial than if we simply ate the meat ourselves. The institution of the “pet” is so full of traps and very enigmatic moral dilemmas, including the objectification and commodification of animals, which in the eyes of the owner often becomes a toy, which in my opinion contributes little to the actual moral attitude towards all living beings. After all, we all know the scandals with dog dealers and the conditions in which these animals live – and die -. All because of our “love” for small, fluffy, cute lumps… In short, the path to compassion for all living things is sometimes more a matter of rational argumentation than partial feelings, which are unreliable because they are attracted to what is here and close, meanwhile when they forget the distant and the hidden, which are precisely the animals in industrial meat production.

Overcome selfishness and comfort

Many people are selfish and think only of their own comfort. Is it even possible to move you out of your comfort zone?

I don’t know if I can totally agree with that. I think the appearance of being selfish creates just a distance from violence, that we have deliberately distanced ourselves from anything that would cause discomfort. Namely, if we personally witness some bad things, such as an accident, the vast majority will help us spontaneously, even though we will be at a “loss” because of it. In short, egoism may be in the fact that we close our eyes. However, I doubt that we can say that when we are faced with concrete situations, we are also completely insensitive. These may be just certain soldiers and police officers who are pre-trained in such a way that they must not show compassion, even though there are more benefactors and soft-hearted people than brutalists in these types – I am sure. People are people and it is difficult to find someone with a stone instead of a heart. These are only rare pathological specimens. The problem, as has been said, is that we are systematically hiding violence. Look, after all, how the system has eliminated aging and dying people from our lives, who exhale quietly and silently in overcrowded nursing homes, so that their slowness and the end of life do not “spoil” the youthful atmosphere that our culture favors. . It’s not that we don’t like older people as persons; the point is that the system is set up in such a way that it easily excludes the elderly from the fast pace of today’s life.

Transcend traditions, customs and religious practices

Ingrained traditions, customs and harmful religious practices (eg on religious holidays, when – despite the commandment Do not kill! – most animals are killed) we have lived since childhood. What needs to happen for us to be able to critically reevaluate and transcend them?

I have a feeling that these practices have less to do with religion than with the simple customs that are intertwined with consumerism today. You yourself have pointed out the unbearable tension between principles and practice, between the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill!’ And religious customs. But as I said, this is, in my opinion, a matter of habit rather than religion. I know a lot of religious people who don’t eat meat or avoid it very much – they are usually really religious, deeply religious people. Perhaps customs are actually followed more by those who do not think much about religion and basic religious messages and understand their “faithfulness” more in terms of blindly following habits.

But you ask me how we can overcome this integration into the environment and customs… Perhaps the answer to this critical thinking or critical revaluation you mention. Of course, this immediately raises the question of what makes such thinking possible. In my experience, this is on the one hand courage, and on the other hand a social climate that at least allows deviation from the average if it is not already actively encouraging it. In a society where there is strong conformism, ie the pressure to adapt to others, it will be very difficult to develop critical thinking, as this will mean isolation for anyone who dares to do something a little differently. However, if we create such conditions to promote diversity, then it is easier. I am a lecturer myself and in the lecture hall the difference is immediately seen between a teacher who wants everyone to agree with him and one who accepts different opinions. Only in the latter can we hope for the emergence of critical thinking, because only there will people get the feeling that they will be accepted even if they think differently and that no one will judge them for it. It is important, in short, to try to allow ourselves to be different, even though it often goes to our noses and even though we are sacredly convinced that we are “more right”. Of course, this is much easier said than done: I find myself practically daily in my own confusion…

Animal education system and ethics

Given that children are extremely compassionate towards animals, we can talk about child abuse. Parents, school, and society make emotional robots out of them out of compassion. This could also be prevented in schools, but even these are only a reflection of society. However, when they are taken to livestock farms in schools, they only further strengthen the belief that the exploitation and killing of animals is normal. What do you think the school or. what can teachers do to preserve children’s compassion for other living beings and to raise awareness of animal rights?

Above all, we need to focus on teacher education. I teach myself at the Faculty of Education and it’s really amazing how stereotypically future teachers and educators sometimes think about animals. Often the activity for kindergarten children is to take them to the farm, where the farmer then explains “what” is an animal, and no one even notices that we are the ones who “made” animals for food and that it could be otherwise. Anthropocentrism, according to which everything in the world is for the benefit of man, is a very widespread view and sneaks into every pore of life. Already at the level of picture books and toys for the youngest children. Think, for example, of toys in the sense of “farm” – in addition to the barn, tractor and tools, there are also chickens, pigs and cows in the packaging, as if in this case it is the same as in the first one. We already teach children with toys what “farmed animals” are for. In this way, we socialize children into violence against animals. Gene Myers has successfully shown that younger children are more empathetic to pigs and cows than older ones, because we already teach older people what cows and pigs are “for” and that it is perfectly normal to slaughter billions of them. summer. These are exactly the systematization and distancing from violence that I talked about earlier.

Much like prejudice against animals, it is prejudice against people. In fact, specism (discrimination based on type) and racism are very similar. Sometimes geography is taught in such a way as to show, say, the difference between Slovenia and Africa, without even noticing that the former is a country of two million and the latter of a billion continent! How the hell can you even compare the two? This is much worse than comparing apples and pears – it is more like comparing apples with the whole fruit and vegetable department, and with household appliances on top, or comparing one color with a rainbow that contains all the others. Absurd… In fact, this is the same as finding the differences between “man” and “animal”, not noticing at all that we have one species on one side and 7.77 million species on the other, many of which are more human-like. than each other. Such teaching is possible only and exclusively because of prejudice, and it is unfortunate that these prejudices in educational institutions are sometimes reinforced rather than disintegrated. You see, that is why it is so important that we have quality teacher education and that we work with colleagues at pedagogical faculties to open the eyes of future teachers at least a little and make them aware of what they uncritically accept from the environment and then spread. in classrooms.

Political system

Radical changes in society could be made by the politicians or state bodies we elect (especially the National Assembly and the Government). We should take the right decisions to promote health, promote healthy plant nutrition for citizens at all levels and shift state subsidies from the livestock sector to organic plant farming. The fact is, however, that the political orientation of politicians and their subordination to lobbies (especially livestock) under the guise of profit are often more important than the common public good. Probably only determined politicians could resist this. What personal qualities should politicians have in order to do more for the common good? How should we recognize them before the elections?

I personally think that it is better for politics if it is not based on strong and charismatic personalities, but on sober, rational arguments and conscientious, diligent and responsible officials. I would rather have quiet and collected political speeches than performances, as we can see in our National Assembly, where we really witness below-average rhetoric – I can’t imagine what it would be like if, for example, I lectured at such a low level of speech. I think students would justifiably leave the lecture hall… Well, I want to say that politics should be guided by arguments, not charisma. For charisma is a double-edged sword: if you are lucky, a strong, hard, relentless charismatic politician will stand up for the right things, but what if you don’t have it? Then you will have to deal with all sorts of Trump, Putin, Erdogan and similarly suspicious personalities who are not committed to the right things. In fact, it will happen to you much sooner that a charismatic person will be charismatic in the wrong, populist way. Think about how many historical political figures were charismatic in the “right” way. Maybe Gandhi, Mandela and Luther King – I don’t remember the fourth, and the third was more of a preacher than a politician. However, it is as problematic as you want… You do not get to know a good politician after his performance, but after a political program that you read carefully and shake. The less bombastic promises there are and the more arguments you find there, the better. I think Merkel is a good politician precisely because she is not bombastic and because she is quiet, committed and sober. Now compare her to Salvini. Disaster… So: don’t trust quick feelings! Rely only on arguments!

In short, sobriety is needed in politics, but also more foresight than it is today, but by no means appearances and promises. The problem of profit and capital flow that you mention is related to foresight. If we were far-sighted, of course, we would not hesitate to switch to a plant-based diet, and livestock farming would be just a sample. Now, however, we are forging earnings at the expense of future generations by throwing manure on the shoulders of another. In general, it seems to me that this is the main injustice of forging today’s profits: the cost of production in terms of the absorption of by-products is simply externalized and placed on the shoulders of others. It would be right for those who pollute the environment the most to pay for it… I myself mentioned in my book that the problem with implementing animal ethics is that its ideas are detrimental to the millions of financial flows that will need to be redirected. Of course, this is not impossible – money turns quickly – but it will take some time and effort. Again, a significant part of the responsibility for this lies with the consumer. Someone once said that in democratic societies, we don’t just have elections once every four years, but every time we go to the store. We actually vote with what we buy.

The media

We know that the media have an enormous influence on shaping public opinion, and they depend on the capital that finances them. Therefore, in the meantime, the state should intervene and ban harmful advertisements that mislead and direct people away from health, environmental protection and animal welfare. Any advertisement for animal products should be warned that this is harmful to health, similar to tobacco products. Do you think that such a measure of the state would guide people on the right path?

No. I think that such state interference in the lives of individuals is a very bad idea, as it smells of totalitarianism and ideological control of citizens. Personally, I am against the persecution of smokers and I do not see why I would then advocate an institutionalized persecution against those who eat meat. All these arguments of “health” are very suspicious to me personally and smell of moralizing, of puritanism, of ideological purity. After that, the “unhealthy” need to be cut off. Already Foucault has shown how dangerous state interference in people’s bodies can be in order to ensure “health”. This was done, among other things, by the Nazis, who wanted to have a “healthy” population.

The main feature of the notion of the state after the new century is that its task is not to help people achieve good, but to protect citizens from evil. Although the two seem very similar, they are in fact a big difference. The first understanding of the state presupposes that we know what is good for people and that we also prescribe it to them by law. Another way: it assumes that we impose our view of happiness on others, e.g. in the form of a “healthy lifestyle” or “utility”. This, as history has taught us, is very bad: just look at the religious wars in seventeenth-century Europe, where each side was convinced that it knew what was good for the other. A related problem today, in my opinion, is that part of the Islamic world that is fundamentalist and conservative, where in endless civil wars each side claims to know what true doctrine is and is consequently imposed by others who misunderstand the Prophet. . Of course, it is true that there are often strategic and financial interests behind these wars, but we cannot ignore the fact that they are justified by a “true interpretation” of religion. It seems to me that this is a general problem of monotheism, which, due to its insistence on the “true and only God”, is easily radicalized. Much better than imposing our view on healthy living, we simply leave the pursuit of happiness to the individual to decide for himself whether he wants to live healthy, faithful and useful or not, and we make sure that no one interferes in his choice of happiness. So I think it’s much better to simply write in the constitution that ANIMALS SHOULD NOT BE PROPERTY – in this way we don’t rape people with our ideas about what is “good”, “healthy” and “useful” to them, but only we protect animals from violence or encroachment on their well-being

Deficient ethics

The anthropocentric attitude towards farm animals shows the extremely moral shallowness of society and citizens, as they do not understand that animals are sentient living beings who want to live just like us. What we cause them as a society is completely unnecessary, because it does not only harm animals, but also the environment or. the planet as a whole, and through unhealthy diets to yourself and your health. How could society change to prevent this from happening? Who are the actors who would contribute to this?

As I said, I don’t think it’s about not wanting to understand that, it’s about avoiding that understanding. Everyone knows that a cow and a pig feel pain. You will not find a person in his right mind to doubt this. At best, people think that the slaughter process is painless, although in my opinion they do not believe in it at all: they know that they are fleeing from the truth.

Who can change society? I think you can do it yourself, because we are the company after all. People who enjoy a social reputation, of course, have a special power, as they can be role models, and from Bandura onwards, we have also been proven to know that people learn by example. But our celebrities are not necessarily the only celebrities. In fact, we are all a constant role model to each other. If, for example, someone in a family of four decides not to eat meat strictly, it will affect the whole family sooner or later, and it is very likely that the other three members will eat at least some less meat and save some lives. Cumulatively, the effect will be as if there were two vegetarians or vegans in the family. This may not seem like much, but grain by grain cake, stone by stone palace… I want to say that individuals, however, have a greater impact than we are aware of. Of course, it is true that we have to be very persistent and principled, which is certainly difficult, especially at the beginning of the path we have chosen, because at that time we are often lonely, often even isolated. It should be noted that many people who opt for a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, after a certain more or less long period, fall back into the carnivore regime. Why? Because their reasons were too weak, or because society with systemic violence is geared so that these reasons fade over time: if animal suffering is hidden and bad information is actively avoided, it becomes increasingly difficult to remember the original reasons why we gave up the meat diet.


If we were kind to all animals, we would have a good feeling, a clear conscience and a good opinion of ourselves as a person and of the society in which we live. We would know we are doing good for ourselves, for the animals and the planet. What else would you add to this thought?

In fact, it is difficult to add anything to this thought, except that in such a world we would also feel safer and more accepted. Among the more interesting facts, it seems to me that, for example, those who are among the most demographically endangered are almost the most anti-migrant – less educated, poorer, more vulnerable. The paradox is that it is precisely these people who would benefit most from the systematic defense of human rights, as they would have a solid foundation on which to base themselves when demanding more rights for themselves. That the violation of the rights of migrants is related to the violation of the rights of their own citizens can be clearly seen in Hungary, where the criminalization of refugees was followed by an attempt to criminalize the poorest and most vulnerable people – the homeless. In other words, human rights violations will always affect the most vulnerable first, so it would be most logical for them to come together and loudly defend strict adherence to international law on the fundamental rights of all. The same can be said by this logic for animal rights: in fact, defending animal rights also means defending human rights. Animal ethics is therefore not only “friendly” to animals, but to all beings. That being said, everyone would feel safer in such a world. This is, of course, in stark contrast to the arguments of those who argue that animal rights are defended at the expense of human rights and that people should be taken care of first, then animals. These people do not realize that the cause of the suffering of both humans and animals is very similar, and that eliminating it would actually eliminate the suffering of all.

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