Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi The Violence of Eating Meat

By Gail Davis

JULY 5, 1999:  When shots rang out in Littleton, Colo., political activists and leaders sprang forward to spew their theories on why violence had entered our schools. "Too many guns!" they cried. "We need more gun control legislation." "Too much violence in movies, music, video games and on TV. We must restrict the entertainment industry!" Still others blamed the separation of church and state. They actually want us to believe that the reason so many kids are committing acts of violence is because we don't have the Ten Commandments plastered all over our nation's classrooms. What does that say about the estimated 20 percent of Americans who are atheists, or the tens of millions of agnostics, Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus and other free thinkers? Are they all violent criminals?

To blame the firearms or entertainment industry alone for the increase in violence among our nation's youth is a tragic oversimplification of the problem. I think the more basic question is: Why do our children seem to have so little regard for life? What good is a sign that reads "Thou shalt not kill" when school cafeterias are serving murder for lunch?

In the United States alone, we kill 9 billion animals each year to satisfy our palates. That's an astounding 1 million animals per hour. To assume that these animals do not suffer during the process of raising, transporting and slaughtering is to delude ourselves so that we can feel comfortable eating their flesh.

Author/journalist Jim Mason wrote, "Americans have a tremendous appetite for meat, dairy products and eggs. They have little appetite, however, for information about the lives of animals who produce what they eat. Perhaps they sense something." More than one person has said to me, "Don't tell me where my lunch came from. I'll lose my appetite." Well, that's the point. You should lose your appetite!

In recent years, we have witnessed 10-year-olds killing 4-year-olds, and teens methodically planning and executing mass murder. How did the innocence of childhood get lost? Certainly, the children who committed these acts were deeply troubled, and there is no simple explanation for their behavior. However, we continue to focus on the surface while failing to recognize the doses of terror and fear fed to these children at each and every meal.

From the earliest age, we inadvertently teach our children to disregard the sanctity of life. When we place a piece of meat on a child's plate and expect him to easily overcome his natural repulsion toward eating a once living, feeling being, we are sending the message that it's OK to kill to fulfill our needs or desires. We are asking children to ignore their own feelings of empathy, humaneness and compassion. Yet these are precisely the feelings that, when cultivated, prevent childish impulses from becoming acts of violence.

Most small children are horrified to learn that their hamburger was once a cute little barnyard animal. But with repeated reassurance from parents and a bombardment of highly effective advertising targeted at kids, they become culturalized into the mainstream of our eating habits -- desensitized, unwitting participants in the cycle of cruelty and killing.

Feed these same kids foods loaded with refined sugar, food colorings, preservatives and chemical additives like aspartame, and the delicate balance of their physiology is thrown into chaos as well.

The animals who will become the next "Happy Meal" know when they are going to die. They smell the blood and hear the cries of their brethren slaughtered before them as they are marched onto the killing floor. Imagine the terror these animals experience the moment they are killed. Hormones course through their veins and remain in their flesh after death. Eat a piece of meat and you are eating the physical manifestation of fear. Still worse, you are feeding it to your children.

To begin to unravel the complex issues surrounding the spread of violence among kids, we need to examine the subtleties of the messages we send to them. Not just in the media, but more significantly, in our homes. Children who are taught that all life is precious and who are made to feel precious and priceless themselves, do not feel compelled to commit acts of violence.


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