On disgust, mortality, and animal cruelty.
I just finished reading an excerpt from the book That’s Disgusting: Unraveling the mysteries of repulsion by Rachel Herz for my Psychology of Eating class, and as an assignment developed a discussion question to accompany my review of it for our seminar. I wanted to post it because I felt the article raised some really interesting questions about morality, mortality and the livestock industry; namely that we are disgusted by the livestock industry because it forces us to confront our issues with our own mortality, and because of this we hide it from our daily lives.
(Anyway, here it goes! If you’ve actually made it this far in reading this reply and let me know what you think!)
The idea from the excerpt that our disgust with being exposed to the food process of livestock is caused by the confrontation of our own mortality is very interesting to me.
I think it is a very valid explanation that brings to light many unhealthy aspects of contemporary modern societies such as our fear of death and how it’s so difficult to talk about, how the dead and dying are hidden from our daily lives (including dead and dying animals, its rare to meet people who have ever actually been to a slaughterhouse), the taboos and social confusion that accompany bereavement and the grieving process, the way we push to the fringes of society these things and others that we are fearful of or don’t understand (for instance imprisonment, sex and sexuality).
Is there any truth in this theory, could it be that our fear of death drives us to shield the livestock industry from ourselves, hoisting up a curtain between the dinner table and the slaughter house?
How is it that we rationalize the consumption of something that, when confronted with its reality, we find morally incomprehensible, disturbing and disgusting?
Why is it that various cultures have varying degrees of acceptability of live animals as food (eating live octopus-Japan, eating the fried brain of a live monkey-China, eating live maggots in cheese-France, etc) as well as varying degrees of acceptance of the methods of processing animals into meat?
And how did we come to this place where we have allowed ourselves to turn a blind eye to it in Western culture?