Meat Consumption
Woman's Era|July 2021
Is eating animals cruel or not?
Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

In India most animal welfare people are vegetarians. We, in People for Animals, insist on that. After all, you cannot want to look after animals and then eat them. But most meat-eaters, whether they are animal people or not, have a hesitant relationship with the idea of killing animals for food. They enjoy the taste of meat but shy away from making the connection that animals have been harmed grievously in the process.

This moral conflict is referred to, in psychological terms, as the 'meat paradox'. A meat eater will eat caviar, but he will refuse to listen to someone telling him that this has been made from eggs gotten from slitting the stomach of a live pregnant fish. The carnivorous individual simply does not want to feel responsible for his actions. Meat eaters and sellers try and resolve this dilemma by adopting the strategy of mentally dissociating meat from its animal origins.

For instance, ever since hordes of young people have started shunning meat, the meat companies and their allies in the government, and the nutraceutical industry, have deliberately switched to calling it “protein”. This is an interesting manipulation of words and the last-ditch attempt to influence consumer behaviour.

For centuries meat has been a part of people’s diet in many cultures. Global meat-eating rose hugely in the 20th century, caused by urbanization and developments in meat production technology. And, most importantly, the strategies used by the meat industry to dissociate the harming of animals from the flesh on the plate. Researchers say “These strategies can be direct and explicit, such as denial of animals' pain, moral status, or intelligence, endorsement of a hierarchy in which humans are placed above non-human animals” (using religion and god to amplify the belief that animals were created solely for humans, and had no independent importance for the planet, except as food and products). The French are taught, for instance, that animals cannot think.

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