For the World Vegetarian Day, held yesterday, and for the World Farm Animals Day, held today, we wish to discuss The Civilizing Process theory by the famous sociologist Norbert Elias – in which he estimated that one of the next phases in the civilizing process could be mass vegetarianism.
The reason we are addressing this prediction despite that it is relatively old, is that it relates to a current and very popular notion in the animal rights movement. Elias’s theory, indirectly (and obviously independently) “refers” to McCartney’s famous quote that “if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian”. Elias’s work suggests that since humans are a product of their cultural and social circumstances, if slaughterhouses have never had walls, nobody would ever be a vegetarian. A very frightening thought, which contradicts a belief too many activists hold about humans’ natural compassion abilities which are supposedly being canceled out by the animal exploitation industry manipulations.
To understand where this idea comes from, it is necessary to elaborate a little bit about Elias’s theory first.
But even before that, a quick word of clarification. Obviously the term Civilization is highly and rightfully controversial, and from several different aspects, including speciesist ones. We use this problematic term here only in the way Elias used it and only for the sake of the argument about vegetarianism. Specific and direct reference to Civilization can be found in some posts in the series about violence. Continue reading