Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Hell is Other People: How to breed a carnist

The other day I was sitting in the middle of a conversation (with my mouth firmly shut I might add, I learned early on to pick my battles) where the participants were discussing the Easter period. Specifically, they were discussing what to do with the newest family member, a two year old girl, on Easter sunday. The general consenus was to take her to a petting zoo style farm to see the cute little new lambs. Then they were to go home and eat.... you guessed it... roast lamb! Yum!

Now, I am used to people just not connecting the lump of muscle on their plate with the bleating fluff balls they fawn over. I was, in fact, expecting the conversation to end there, but I was surprised by the continuation. Amazingly they continued by saying, "I'm not sure if she'd like the idea of seeing the lambs and then eating them." Okay, straight away a few things strike me. First of all, they are accepting that this kid would find this upsetting. Does this not any ring any alarm bells? That they can agree that there is something intrinsically upsetting about this for a child? Secondly, I see people talking about cute animals and then tucking into one in the next breath every day. The extent of this is so large that it is no longer shocking. What did amaze me was that they SAW this disconnect! I should have been happy but what followed was pretty demoralising.

"Well just lie to her about what it is! Just say that it's meat! She doesn't have to know!" Was the proudly agreed solution to this inconvenient problem. This was the jaw dropping part. Not being a parent I find it very difficult to argue for or against telling white lies to your kids. Santa and the Tooth Fairy (sorry to any kids reading this but... well.... are your parent's really letting you read this blog?) are slightly odd lies to tell, but they do create a sort of magic. When a pet dies and "is sent to a farm" is a bit meaner as it seems to side-step around actually teaching a child about life and death for the sake of avoiding tears. But lying to a child about whether an animal was sacrificed for their plate? For the sake of, what I assume is, convenience? That seems like a whole different board game to me (I don't play ball games much).

This had me thinking a lot about Carnism. As a vegan you hear a lot about the ethics of raising a child vegan and how doing so would be forcing your beliefs on your child. Vegans have a ready response to this which is usually along the lines of "All parents force beliefs on their child. We all happily teach our children not to steal, not to be violent and not to throw food across the room. I am also teaching my child not to kill and exploit animals for pleasure." I had never really thought about the flip side: that carnists actively teach their children TO kill and exploit animals for pleasure. Not only that, but they have to do it in such a subversive manner in order to program this behaviour into the child.

The final bizare thought I had was: "they are discussing this infront of me. A known vegan!" They didn't even blink when discussing this. I was stunned that this was even happening. I'm not sure if they even knew the implications of what they were saying. It felt like advocating the subjugation of women infront of a known feminist. Either it was done without any thought, done to bait a reaction, or simply because veganism isn't taken seriously.

I didn't comment, so I guess we shall never know...


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