The Dichotomy of Compassionate Meat Eaters

I am a meat eater. I always have been and I always will be. No matter what crazy contraptions they come up with to synthesize meat or turn vegetables into meat alternatives, there is just something about the completely natural flesh of animals fit for human consumption that satisfies something primal inside me. I imagine it’s the same for just about anyone reading this article. Survival of the fittest has groomed us to crave the flesh of the animals around us.

On the flip side, nearly all of us have been raised in a sanitized version of reality that separates us from the food that we eat. Back before industrialization, nearly everyone was a farmer and was responsible for growing their own crops and slaughtering their own livestock. We knew where our food came from because we had to do it all ourselves. Today, this is far from the case. Someone else does all the dirty work and we get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. We never have to look an animal in the eye as it dies for our benefit.

One of the big things that hits me as I watch one of my favorite YouTube channels (SV Delos) is that I know I’m going to struggle the first time I have to kill a fish. Make no mistake: I will kill the fish and filet it and enjoy the fruit of the sea. But I have to acknowledge the natural apprehension I feel about being actively involved in the killing of an animal. Aside from insects, I’ve never killed anything in my life. At least not on purpose.

I’m sure this apprehension will pass with time after I go through the process a few times, but I can’t help but reflect on the insane fact that there is any apprehension involved in this at all. You can’t eat a steak or sushi or pork tenderloin without an animal having been killed to make that possible. Something died to put that fried chicken on your plate, and even if you didn’t hold the knife or pull the trigger, you are directly responsible for the death of that animal. If you didn’t want to eat it, no one would have had to kill it.

Our society today is so afraid of death that we go out of our way not to think about it. We are no longer required to look death in the face, except in very rare circumstances, and the parts of our lives that used to be so commonplace are far enough removed that we never have to consider what had to happen to make our lives possible. In our sheltered little worlds, we have come to believe that killing is something completely unnatural, as if the rest of nature doesn’t do so every day. Death is a natural part of life, but we’ve forgotten that.

This is the sad part of our march into the future. I was a Marine for more than a decade of my life, trained to kill other human beings when necessary, but the thought of killing another human being doesn’t bother me nearly as much as killing a fish. This is probably because if I’m killing a human, he’s trying to hurt me; the fish is just trying to live its life. Is it about the innocence? I don’t know. It’s certainly easier to justify in my head killing in self defense rather than for sustenance.

At any rate, it doesn’t really matter. Animals are going to die to sustain my own life, and it is far better for me to take responsibility for my own actions instead of passing the buck onto some stranger. The cost of the life of an animal is a sacred one, and while I have a great amount of apprehension about taking that life, I know it’s something I need to get over to live the sailing lifestyle I eventually hope to get into. It’s all part of the deal.

What do you think about killing for food? Have you ever taken the life of an animal, or are you like most of us and never had to think about it? Is it right for us to continue ignoring the fact that our food comes at the cost of life without ever giving a second thought about that life that was taken? Eating meat isn’t wrong, and nature is filled with killing and eating of flesh, but it is important for us to remember that our modern world is built on the death of others. Forgetting that is simply disrespecting the sacrifice of those we consume.

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