Speciesism, Racism, and Xenophobia: A Deadly Cocktail
According to an article from a mainstream news outlet, animals are dying in agony due to human ignorance.
The article currently has five thousand shares. Five thousand.
But don’t get too excited. The news outlet in question is the Express, and so of course, as with most of the what the Express publishes, the ignorant humans in question are “muslim scholars.” The “agony” under moral scrutiny – halal meat. Nationalist Britain, you can relax. Go back to your full english breakfast that you believe came from animals that willingly signed up and waited in line to be on your plate, held a knife to their own necks, and begged for release. Oh, and to relieve any remaining guilt you may harbour, just point your finger of blame at the Muslim community. It’s a great way to absolve yourself from your own actions, and the Express have got it down to a fine art.
I am, of course, being facetious. The levels of confusion present in the Express article have become standard fare. That in itself, is a travesty, but it represents something far more fundamental: The continued promotion of systemic racism, xenophobia, and the implicit notion that we are somehow fulfilling our moral obligations to all animals that are not subject to halal methods of rearing and slaughter.
As with all pieces of this ilk, the tone is very much one of us and them. We, the civilised people, are opposed to what you, the barbarians, are engaging in. This promotes a divide, and with this case – as in most – it is a racial divide. Not only does this play into the hands of nationalism – not just in Britain but in all nations – it’s the hand that feeds the gaping mouth of systemic racism. It provides the “us” side with a reason to continue otherising the “them” side. It legitimises the discrimination. In this regard, it makes no odds whether we are talking about animal exploitation or burkhas. The promotion of systemic racism, and the otherisation of other persons, remains the same in every case where the we (in this case nationalist Britain) are targeting the them, an ethnic group or minority that are engaging in actions morally indistinguishable from those on the we side.
In this case, those morally indistinguishable actions involve the most vulnerable beings on the planet. Nonhuman animals. The article maintains that “MORE animals than ever before are dying in agony because of halal meat practices.” In other words, Muslims are harming animals, and we are not, because we, the civilised people, shock our animals into submission before sticking a bolt gun to their heads, or hanging them upside down on a conveyor belt where more often than not the animal in question is burned alive. The overall message from a racial standpoint; we are better than you. The overall message from an animal ethics standpoint; utter confusion.
The article makes a number of moral assumptions from the start. Our society’s conventional wisdom, thanks to the likes of 18th/19th century utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham, and perpetuated by the likes of Peter Singer today – PETA’s philosophical hero – is that animals do not care about continuing to exist, they only care about not suffering. Because of this, we do not challenge the institution of animal use itself, we merely assume its legitimacy. We focus on how animals are treated instead of their use as resources in the first instance. Animals, as sentient beings, possess fundamental interests both in continuing to live, and in not suffering, and to the extent we ignore the interest in continuing to live and the right that gives rise to not to be treated as a resource, we fall short. Not just of our obligation to be vegan in recognition of nonhuman inherent value, but of recognising that obligation in the first place. The Express, and the five thousand people who have shared that article, have not questioned their own conventional wisdom with regards animals. They actually believe they have some sort of moral high ground because they buy the lifeless corpses of animals who have been tortured and killed, in different but no less horrific ways, than the animals processed via halal methods.
Gudran Ravetz, president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), is maintaining that when animals are not stunned, there is an “unacceptable time lapse” between slaughter and “permanent insensibility.” Words such as “unacceptable,” or “unnecessary,” have absolutely no meaning when engaging in a practice that is it itself, regardless of technique, morally unacceptable and unnecessary. Halal slaughter or not, if there is a human benefit – monetary or otherwise – to be gained from slaughter method X over slaughter method Y, the law will protect the use of slaughter method X, even if method X is deemed “unacceptable” by the esteemed BVA president or any other corporate drone. We must not delude ourselves into thinking that concern for the wellbeing of animals is at the forefront here. This is an industry that, as stated above, takes the most vulnerable beings on the planet and appropriates them to inanimate objects.
Halal slaughter or conventional slaughter; it is all the same. It is all torture. It is all wrong. Do not think for one second that in final moments of the cow, the sheep, the chicken, the duck, the pig, or any other animal, their final thoughts will consist of being grateful for having the luxury of being murdered via method X over method Y. In all situations, they will feel pain, sadness, fear, and desperation. They want to live, and be free from all of those things, and it is being denied to them. To the extent we continue to portray the fundamental issue as one of treatment, and not use, we are accepting the conventional wisdom that keeps animals treated as nothing more than inanimate objects. To the extent that we say animal use is wrong but they should be “treated better” in the process, we not only engage in speciesism by assuming that a fundamental rights violation can be regulated, we wrongly assume that a legal system that views animals as property, as things, can offer them any meaningful protection. To the extent these issues amalgamate themselves in the gruesome form of nationalism, where the likes of the Express rear their ugly heads to take a salivating bite out of an ethnic group or minority, they merely become vessels of hatred and racism, where the sense of moral superiority for those on the we side is oh so dreadfully misplaced.