If you hold to be a good person you cannot look a pig in the eyes; nor any other sentient being we prey on.
We torture and kill them in masses to pig ourselves lavishly. Not to speak about the vicious crime, easy to discern, of hunting for mere pleasure, or lecher in Corridas without excuse of hunger or defence.
You can enjoy denial for long years by saying "this is how things are", but when the awareness comes at last to you it is clear; on one hand - if it comes to food - it is us, the predator or them the prey the animals and plants we eat. On the other hand, the way we treat the other living is evil.
Renouncing to eat life or to kill life which kills us would be betraying our life, this beastly thing in us, half of our nature, our most precious and sacred possession. We would not listen to the clandestine suicides of humankind tempting us to gradually stop eating. And the poor will eat whatever they catch. For the time being at least, we will sacrifice life to eat it. But we also close our eyes to mass torture in cold blood. That is debasing humanity.
This is not good or just or beautiful.
And why is the enslaving of animals so ruthless and their slaughter so atrocious?
First of all, for money, to have them plenty and cheep to sell and buy. The grand monstrosity comes with industrial production and urge for profit. Granting animals a liveable life before we devour them would diminish productivity and thus the offer, therefore increasing price and rarity. Within humane limits of production,the exploding nations could not multiply beyond their own means to cover the earth crust to the last shore and the rich ones would have to eat meat twice a week like our ancestors. Saying such a thing rings politically incorrect, we ignore it. So, we keep giving Nobel prises to cattle productivity, delegating the butchery to the butchers who only follow orders, out of sight and out of our mind. Occasionally we cry in our chicken soup.
Since we remain predators in our souls and bodies and practice, nothing will be done to really improve the animal condition until we include the Rights of Animals - whatever we deign to concede them to be - as part of our civilisation of ever expanding Human Rights. For this, we need some good reason to treat them better. Aware of us being half-animals, brethren of all beings alive, helps a little but not enough. Understanding that we all, living beings are part of a huge delicate system of necessary diversity, kept alive by the kilograms of bacteria in our body, by the bees the forests and the birds may help. Understanding that reducing the animals will finally reduce us to eat each others may convince us. Seeing the proof that growing poisoned crops and sick herds and pigs and poultry makes us sick may incite to eating less and better. But curiously, my intuition is that we need also new narratives, new faith about the sacredness of life; the present growing menace of machines taking over and using us as slaves and raw material, as we do now to animals, may help such new solidarity.
Unfortunately, no politician in a democracy will announce such news of all life being sacred , except at gunpoint. No free voting crowd would plebiscite animal rights, fasting or even restraint. The tyrants in their turn – and there will be new ones, no doubt – will consider such meekness to be against their very nature of predators or they will fear to excite the human beast more than they fear the human person. All these rulers govern saying "After me, the Deluge"
Growing the other animals humanely, allowing them a life cycle, room to move, to be, to play, their moments of joy, killing them as swiftly as we have the skill, with as much pity and respect as possible for the enlightened beast which we want to be, this is feasible. This would still be morally schizophrenic but it could balance ritually the sacrifice; we must feed the animal in us or die but we would be grateful for the offering.
What to do then?
The one, the only one who can act now, is us personally, you and I, in our weakness, with small steps, seemingly insignificant (but highly meaningful).
The ice age hunters had to learn to respect their pray and to commune with it, aware that their lives were linked. The North American Indians knew deference to the buffaloes. In fact all first-hand hunters living on their neighbour creatures understand the need to spare, respect and protect the pray, not to spit into the fountain from which they drink. Maybe this was not naive folklore and colourful illiterate superstition but authentic spirituality celebrating life as it is; maybe they respected the victim to be able to respect themselves. They felt what pain and fear and horror is. Meat was not coming in neat plastic bags.
Perhaps, those of us who pause before eating to thank God for the bread, could add a word of thanks to the sentient animal who was sacrificed and gave them his life. Would you believers deny that taking Life is a sacred act, worth a modest service? Imagine yourself finding the words to thank to the chicken or the cuddly veal who was this piece of meat you are about to eat upon this white tablecloth:
"Thank you little creature for dying in order for me to live and feel sate!"
or say with Kahlil Gibran in "The Prophet":
"‘By the same power that slays you, I too am slain; and I too shall be consumed.
‘For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand.
‘Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven.’"
Do you have the stomach to speak such words?
This could be a good start, seemingly small, but with possibly unexpected consequences.
We should institute a ceremonial form of public recognition, to regain the old-time respect for what we eat, for the prey, for all the living, instead of insisting so carefully to disguise meat into formless neutral product.
As a person, I would do what I can; eat much less meat, which is good for my health, anyway; shame and punish the callous animal abuser when I find out and can; treat my pets as eternally immature members of my family and smile to the animals I meet (if I feel safe); refrain from killing without good reason; feed and protect if I can; reject hunting for pleasure; request the State to do its’ duty - massively neglected - of punishing severely - if not killing, at least cruelty and the poisoning of our mass-produced food (and us with it) for profit margins good for the economy.
I know, I cannot toy with Money, stupidity and hungry people, nor with the heartless mechanical, quantitative view of nature which took us over. I cannot arrogantly advise other people what they must eat, but if I eat less I can pay more coins for better, less unhealthy quality (provided I can trust the “bio” labels, which I cannot now). Egoism pays.
These are small things, individual choices insignificant in the grand scheme of the Universe. Do they count? Yes, they do! It is not the one thousand things you are forced to do which make you who you are but the one thing you can chose and do freely.
Does your tiny compassion for this one count in front of a hecatomb? Yes, it counts for you and it is vital for this one animal, our brother.