Among all the traits intrinsic to human character, moral values is one of which interest me the most. Unless you believe that someone above has established what we must and must not do down here (a position which I fairly understand and respect, by the way), it’s very puzzling to make a reasoning towards this issue. Since we’re born we have to deal with DOs and DONTs about basically every realm of our lives, and we are constantly watched and monitored in order that we make the right decisions. Decisions that we usually make without even thinking about, as they are already “established” and our duty is basically follow them rather than think about them. And that’s the way it is and has to be, because imagine you if we were to think about and question every little step we take in our lives. So the “society” or the “system” has already made lots of decisions for us, so that we just have to slip through life happily and smoothly.
But since this blog is about food, let’s talk about eating horses. I eat horses. Some people ride them, but I think it’s much safer and tastier to eat them. Actually I rode a horse for the first time when I was in Iceland, about 7 months ago. It was an Icelandic Horse, very beautiful though very small, much more like an overweight pony. It was a quite interesting experience, not so much for the ride itself as for the feeling that I was riding the fillet that I had eaten the night before.
I am not a vegetarian (really?!) and I would never be, as I can’t imagine my life without a bleeding flesh, I mean, meat properly grilled or fried or baked or even raw. But I truly love veggie food as well, and I nourish a deep respect for vegetarians, for the simple reason that I think they are totally right – or at least less wrong – from the “moral point of view”. There’re vast and rich studies in literature which provides good justification about the fact that we don’t need to eat meat of any sort in order to survive on this planet. The available resources of fruits, vegetables, plants, minerals etc. are more than enough to keep us healthy and alive. So why do we eat meat, after all? Because we are all slaughters. That’s it. We are culturally constructed slaughters.
But are we that bad? Well, from the evolutionary point of view, no, we’re not, for many animals would benefit from that. Really? Yes, really. Daniel Dennett, one of my favourites Philosophers, has a very interesting argument on this issue. According to him, the fact that humans at some point of history started to domesticate the less intelligent creatures was a great advantage both for man and for animals. As he estates in his book “Breaking the Spell”: “How clever wild sheep to have acquired that most versatile adaptation, the shepherd! By forming a symbiotic alliance with Homo sapiens, sheep could outsource their chief survival tasks: food finding and predator avoidance. They even got shelter and emergence medical care. The price they pay – being slaughtered instead of being killed by predators – was pittance compared with the gain in offspring survival”. Isn’t that a cute argument?
What’s really interesting about this issue is that each person establishes personal limits and barriers for these moral questions. So you find the one who says: “It’s fine to eat beef, but pork is disgusting. Look where the pigs live!” All right then. Or, for example: “It doesn’t make sense to eat a horse, as they “are made” for transport. Cows and goats are made to serve as food”. Ok, try to convince a cow about that. Throw a saddle on a cow and I am sure she will take you happily anywhere. Others go like: “The way cows, pigs and goats are killed is just intolerable. That’s why I just eat fish”. That’s an interesting one, after all fishes are not killed; they are just “fished”, right? When they come out of the water their souls sublimate painlessly towards heaven. They keep quaking violently for a while only because they are very excited about becoming someone’s food.
Then we come to the realm of extravagant, not-so-common gastronomy, where inhabit the selfish, insensitive, oblivious and poor-hearted people, like me. But even we, the devils, have our own moral limits. I, for example, would never (never? really?) eat an animal under threat of extinction. Once I had whale for dinner, but it was a Minke, which is out of the endangered species list, at least for now. And I didn’t eat a whale wrapped in a banana leaf in Quito, but in Reykjavik (Iceland again!), where this delicacy is eaten normally in people’s houses. See how sensitive I am? I would never eat a Rhino, for example, despite the fact that its meat must be really tasty and I can even picture its bleeding thick fillet being gently grilled to a perfect medium-rare succulent meal… But rules are rules, and I wouldn’t contribute to its extinction.
The fact is that I don’t agree with the institution of degrees of slaughtering. I don’t believe that the ones who eat beef are less bloodthirsty than the ones who eat dog, puffing, moose, crocodile and so on. We don’t need meat to survive, so if we decide to eat it, it’s only for our own pleasure. Long live to vegetarians, who are the only spiritually and culturally evolved ones. And shame on us, the hedonistic slaughters!