After addressing the estimation of the sociologist Norbert Elias that as part of a general and gradual refinement in humans’ social behavior vegetarianism would probably be much more popular, for the second part of this series we wish to address a theory about meat by the anthropologist Nick Fiddes. In his book Meat: A Natural Symbol Fiddes suggests an anthropological explanation to why humans are so keen on meat, and what is according to him, the only condition which might alter them.
His thesis is extremely depressing but highly essential for understanding the motives behind meat eating. Though we disagree with his assertion that there is only one motive behind meat eating, we do agree that the motive he suggests is indeed extremely central, and it is extremely underrepresented in the animal rights community.
Basically, Fiddes’s argument starts by recognizing that meat is very highly valued by humans all along history, practically by every single culture. Meat’s value is incomparable to any other food, in no proportion to its nutritional significance (in other words to its actual practical importance to humans). Fiddes deduces that this special status of meat results from the fact that it embodies humans’ dominance over nature and the other animals. Animals symbolize power and nature, and so eating other animals is the ultimate symbol of humans’ power, of their superiority over other animals, and their triumph over nature.
“Consuming the muscle flesh of other highly evolved animals is a potent statement of our supreme power.” (Page 2) Continue reading