While activists should see all the harms as direct ones, as humans know they happen, including harms that are a result of habitat destruction, deforestation, chemical pollution, electricity manufacture, and etc., Joy tries to convince activists that all the harms are indirect, including the ones of factory farms. She is doing that by inventing a cognitive state which is ‘knowing but not knowing’.
There is no mental state such as knowing without knowing. Of course many humans know little about what meat production really involves, so there is knowing little. There is knowing but not thinking about it. There is knowing and not wanting to stop. But there is no knowing without knowing.
People know, they don’t want to know more or know but don’t want to think about it, but they don’t “know but don’t know”. And when you know but don’t want to know more or don’t want to think about it, you don’t care.
Joy says that without awareness there is no free choice. But even the least aware humans are at least aware that meat is made of animals who haven’t died of old age but were murdered specifically to make the meat they eat. They are aware and they freely choose to exploit animals.
Meat is never made of animals who died of diseases, accidents, by other animals, or of old age, but only of animals that other humans murdered. So humans are not only fully aware of animals being murdered for their meat, their murder is an obligatory condition for a corpse to be considered as meat.
The primary defense of Carnism is denial, Joy argues. But many humans are not in denial. She wants to believe it is so, since then humans can stay naturally and basically good despite that they are doing bad things. But the truth is that humans know enough to know better. They do the connection between the meat and the animals. They don’t deny there is a problem, that’s why many automatically shoot back that they think animals’ living conditions should be better. Otherwise they would have said that there is nothing wrong with it (or truly listened to the information presented before them).
Even the ones who are totally shocked by how meat is made, obviously know that it is made of animals. Everyone knows that meat is made out of animals, and that’s exactly why meat is not, and never was, like any other food. All along history, practically by every single culture, meat has a special place in humans’ nutrition and with no proportion to its nutritional value.
One of the reasons for that unique status is that meat 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.
That is the main argument in Nick Fiddes’ thesis which is the topic of the second part of this series about meat. In his words: “Meat satisfies our bodies but it also feeds our minds. We eat not only the animal’s flesh; with it we drain their lifeblood and so seize their strength. And it is not only that animal which we so utterly subjugate; consuming its flesh is a statement that we are the unquestionable masters of the world.”
So to put it bluntly – humans don’t eat meat despite that it’s made of murdered animals but because it is made of murdered animals. Fiddes scary conclusion is that the killing, oppression, domination and violence animals endure are not an unfortunate by-product humans are willing to accept so they can enjoy their desirable meat, but the reasons they find meat desirable. We don’t think it is the only reason humans eat meat, but it is definitely a main one. Humans eat meat because it is made of animals not despite that it is made of animals.
Joy’s thesis is popular since the antithesis is deeply depressing. It is very discouraging to realize that humans are fully aware of the fact that meat is made of animals (and maybe even because it is made of animals), but they don’t care enough about them to stop. Clearly it is more empowering for activists to believe that humans are basically and naturally compassionate, and they are doing horrible things only as a result of deceit and manipulations, as the hardest thing is making others care about something they don’t care about. Raising awareness and informing humans is the relatively easy task, making others care about something to the point of changing their beloved habits, is a whole different story. So of course believing that humans are not doing the bad things they do because they want to, but because they are deceived to believe that that’s what they want to, while they actually want the exact opposite, is a much more comforting position than that they do what they want to do and we must convince them to stop because their actions are wrong to others who they clearly don’t care enough about.
To demonstrate humans’ false mind-set, Joy uses the Matrix as a metaphor, which is in itself a modern interpretation of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. But humans don’t live in a cave and they are not living in denial or suppression. They choose not to look, and that is because they know what they’ll see. They choose not to look because they don’t want to feel bad about what they are doing. Many humans care enough about animals to feel bad about the atrocities they are doing to them when they see or hear about it, but not enough to try and find out about it themselves, not to mention to stop participating in them.
Clearly it is much more convenient to think that humans are living in the Matrix. But it is us who live a lie if we believe that they are living a lie. The problem is not that humans are blind to what they want and to their true interests, the problem is that what they want is truly horrible.
The only thing that humans can honestly say is that they didn’t know the extent of how horrible it actually is. But the basic fact that meat is a piece of carcass, should definitely be sufficient to at least ignite basic curiosity and motivation to look for more information, if humans cared. But they don’t try to figure out what happens to animals before they are becoming their meat. Piles of information are available for everyone nowadays, and activists are more than willing to explain to everyone what is going on and what they can do about it. So even saying that they didn’t know how horrible animals are treated, is less a case of lack of knowledge, and more a case of lack of motivation.
Most vegans didn’t become ones after conducting their own investigations about how animals are being treated but after activists – the only humans we can truly say genuinely care about animals – did it for them, as well as constructed the arguments for veganism and deconstructed all the arguments against veganism. All that the rest of humanity has to do is care a little to be convinced. Activists are doing everything they can to make it the clearest, most obvious, and easiest decision possible, yet the vast majority of humans are sticking to the wrong one. Activists are doing their part, it is the rest of humanity who fails in theirs. When arguments that are so strong and so obvious don’t work there is something wrong with the addressees.
The next post is the last one of this series and it deals with the last chapter of the book – about bearing witness.