What got me thinking about rolling my dog around in flour and setting him in the oven for 45 minutes wasn't that I'm some sick, broken soul, though that may have been part of it. It's that I couldn't make a good case for not eating him while still eating other animals capable of being happy and scared and pissed. Living in Nicaragua at the time, I regularly saw big, fat, lumbering pigs hanging out in people's front yards, playing and cuddling with the family dog. Little piglets looked like puppies from afar, some black, some white, some with spots.
My heart would melt when I saw the little critters. I gained newfound respect when one of their 400-pound elders was walking down the street in my direction and it decided, no, buddy, you cross to the other side. And got to thinking and was forced to confront an uncomfortable thought: I was fucking Cruella De Vil, at least if she wore v-necks and had an active social media presence.
Apparently, and this makes sense to people, it is incredibly wrong to turn dalmatians into fur coats, but not to hang a pig or cow by its hind legs and sever its jugular vein with a knife and watch it bleed to death. If you actually think about this, which I studiously avoided doing for a good 27 years, it makes no damn sense. And indeed, in some cultures your furry little friends often end up on the dinner plate, not because the people are more cruel, but because they are just more consistent. They don't necessarily see a morally significant difference between a dog or a cat and a pig or a cow.
And if you think about it, there isn't. That occurred to me when I, a little piglet in my eye, began trying to rationalize my meat eating. I wasn't confident in my position. I was defensive. Mostly, I was lazy. It was a behavior to which I had grown accustomed and I couldn't, or wouldn't, consider it rationally. Ugly as it was, and this is no real excuse, but: I had grown up in a speciesist household, calling animals names like “sausage patty” and “hamburger” that I'd never address them by face to face.
Put aside your strawmen. No one is saying animals are people too. No, angry white men, Little Miss Piggy will not be taking your job. You will not be denied entrance to law school because of some lefty, “PC” board of admissions decides to take a chance on some muskrat from a broken home. And no, blades of grass do not experience consciousness the way an animal does, which is why even meat-eaters will concede trampling to death the one is very much different from trampling to death the other.
We know that animals, including the ones we eat the most of, can experience suffering. We know that some animals, including the ones we eat the most of, are arguably smarter than the dog you will cry over when it dies. We know this. And we know that we can get by just fine without inflicting this suffering. In fact, science suggests those who give up eating animals aren't just fine, but better. One recent study found that vegetarians have a 32 percent lower risk of heart disease. Numerous studies have found that vegetarians live longer. Eating plants isn't just good for your nagging liberal guilt, but for your body.
What do you have to lose? Maybe there's nothing morally wrong with eating an animal (there is), but why take that chance and inflict unnecessary suffering? There's a reason many states are trying to ban video footage of corporate slaughterhouses: they don't want you to see what goes on inside. Because it's fucking terrible. Your steak went through a lot of torture before it reached the steakhouse. And it didn't have to.
Eat a salad, you asshole.