Friday, September 10, 2010
From Humane Myth
What about indigenous people who kill and eat animals, but do so in a way that respects the animal's spirit?
While only a miniscule percentage of the people eating animal products are members of indigenous cultures still living in the traditional way or under subsistence conditions, this question is one that comes to the minds of many people. It seems to speak to an even more basic question, which is whether or not certain spiritual practices or a certain view of the world changes the ethics that surround the act of taking another's life against his or her will, and perhaps if there is an unseen order of things in which our use and killing of animals is meant to be or even spiritually sanctioned. While one approach is to consider this question from the point of view of the person killing an animal, it is perhaps more useful to consider it from the point of view of the individual being killed.
Imagine, for example, that someone is going to take your life against your will. And that the person doing so informs you that he or she has a deep and abiding respect for you, and is grateful for the sacrifice you are making for his or her benefit. For you, the individual about to lose your life, does any statement of this sort, does the performance of any ritual, however sincere, overshadow the fact that your very life is about to be taken against your will? Additionally, anthropologists who have studied the rituals some indigenous peoples perform in association with killing animals indicate the presence of themes of apology in at least some rituals, and have theorized that these may have originated from a psychological need to assuage the guilt associated with taking away another individual's life.
On a collective level, it is also important to realize that with 6.7 billion humans on the planet and ever more deforestation, ever more depletion of the oceans, ever more implementation of sophisticated hunting, trapping, and fishing technology, situations in which humans are taking the lives of animals for the purpose of survival and in a manner that is similar to those of primal societies of the past are vanishing. In today's world, the taking of an animal's life is almost always done by a human with the power to take the animal's life at will, making the act one of complete and utter dominance.
As we live in a time when we know how to be healthy without consuming animal products, and in which the production and consumption of animal products is known to be detrimental to our own health and devastating to the environment, the ethics of the situation are quite different for most of us in contrast to the very few still living in a primal manner and hunting for reasons of survival.