Stop Pinning Your Animal-Eating Guilt On Vegans

Or in the words of Madonna:

“I’m not your bitch
don’t hang your shit on me.”

Today I read – to use a term Animal Rights lawyer Camille Labchuk used for it – an utterly perverse story about firefighters in England who rescued 18 baby piglets (and 2 mother sows) from a barn fire in February and on Monday the farm’s manager served those same piglets – in the form of sausages – to the firefighters as a thank you.  Both the farm and the fire service station posted their “gift” to social media although the Fire Station has since removed their post and apologized when PETA, vegans, and activists pushed back.

In several articles reporting the story, it contained the usual puns about animals we eat: “The piglets were just two weeks old when firefighters saved their bacon”.  From the Fire Hall’s post: “We can tell no porkies – the sausages were delicious”. These are all (completely unoriginal) terms designed to keep us amused at animal suffering rather than concerned by it. Keeping the lives of farm animals comical is just another way for us to remain comfortably removed from the reality of their actual lives and deaths. These phrases reduce animals to caricatures. And no one takes caricatures seriously.

If there was anything comical in this story at all it was the level of cognitive dissonance between the farm’s manager, the farm’s owner, and the fire department. Between the three, I’d be hard-pressed to choose whose head was farthest up their own ass:

The farm’s manager, in response to people with a moral compass responding to her post: “I gave those animals the best quality of life I could.”

Until you had their throat’s slit at six months old. Great job!

From the Fire Station: “Exactly 6 months and 1 day since FF’s rescued 18 baby piglets from a farm…we got to sample the fruits of our labour from that February night.”

You mean the flesh of your labour, right?

The farm’s owner: “An inevitable part of farming is the death of an animal.”

Except that’s not true. YOU’RE the inevitable part of their death when you send them to slaughter.

And of course, always the tired and lazy rationale that if killing animals provides us with food or “is a way of life” as the farm’s manager called it, or is a thank-you gift for HERO FIREFIGHTERS, well that’s a good cause, right?  That gives it a sheen of honourability and therefore should never be questioned or challenged.

At the end of the day, this farm breeds, raises, and kill animals for a paycheque. These piglets were saved from a barn fire (great quality of life they were obviously providing) only to be killed as soon as these unsuspecting and trusting animals had fulfilled their supposed life’s purpose of reaching market weight and being killed. Their value lies solely in their death, not their life.

This whole story was repugnant. Rescuing animals only to send them to slaughter is not new (I wrote about it when Toronto firefighters rescued chickens from a truck fire in 2015 only to be driven to a slaughterhouse) but for the farm and the fire hall to post their “gift” on social media and practically congratulate themselves for killing and eating the very animals they once deemed worthy of saving shows just how disconnected people still are. It discouraged me immensely.

But that’s not even what I wanted to write about.

Along with the typical puns about animals (usually “save their bacon” for pigs, “run a-fowl” for chickens and always “udder-ly” something for cows) was this trend of pinning what is very likely the farmer’s own guilt on vegetarians and animal activists instead:

“I’m sure vegetarians will hate this” the farm’s manager was quoted as saying in one article and, “accepted that some vegetarians and animal rights campaigners would not be happy” according to another.

I read – and hear – these sorts of phrases all the time when people want to absolve their staggering apathy toward the animals they eat: “Oh, you won’t want to hear this” a co-worker might say to me as they’re about to share a recipe for Beef Bourguignon. Or a family member side-eyeing me as they say, “Well, you won’t be interested” as they go on about a restaurant they went to that’s famous for foie gras. By throwing in a quick caveat to vegans or mentioning animal activists, it sounds like they’re acknowledging their culpability but they’re really just projecting their guilt onto you. Like starting a sentence with “I’m not racist but…” The set-up implies they care but the follow-through proves that they don’t.

And here’s the other thing: people hate vegans. They think animal activists are a joke at best, terrorists at worst. We don’t even have the support of other social justice movements right now. All this talk of linked oppressions and intersectional feminism? Animals remain excluded from those conversations, even by the most liberal-minded people. So the farmer mentioning “vegetarians will hate this” also garners her sympathy from a public who, if they had any trouble reconciling this ethical double-standard of how she treats animals, would soon be quieted with the reminder that they too are on the opposite side of “those people” (vegans and activists). If the reader had any moral doubts about rescuing pigs and then killing them 6 months later, it likely vanished the second they read that those terrible, mean activists were giving this poor, simple farmer a hard time.

And it works (advertisers use it all the time). The farmer is able to successfully defend her gift of the baby pigs she had killed and turned into sausages by:

  • Calling it her livelihood.
  • Saying she wanted to do a nice thing.
  • Saying it was “sad” to kill the animals but it was “good” to say thank you.
  • Aligning herself against vegetarians and animal activists which most people already do anyway, further vilifying a movement the public already dismisses as “crazy”.

She tried to push her guilt and responsibility onto us. She may not be aware she’s doing it but that’s what’s happening. This allows her to continue her narrative of being a simple farmer just trying to make a living and do a nice thing for firefighters and instead is being harassed by a group of activists who probably have nothing better to do with their time.  It absolves her, and the meat-eating reader can feel good too, confident in their continued purchase and consumption of pork sausages.  After all, if they don’t agree with vegans, they must agree with the farmer, right? (Hint: No. Don’t auto-agree with either. Find out for yourself and make up your own damn mind).

But worst of all, her “defense” makes it all about her, erasing animals and their lives from the conversation once more. And she already erased those poor pigs from the planet. And she will keep on doing it to other animals because “livelihood”.

Processing my thoughts on this story took over a thousand words just to deal with a quarter of them. But my initial reaction to it only took three:

Oh, fuck off.

Fire Hall Post

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