The Meat of the Matter

Eating meat is not necessarily about ‘natural, normal, necessary and nice’ but there are other factors on why we eat it and why we don’t

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

There is a secret for the vegetarians in our town and I’m not responsible for spilling it out. The silent fry: Anything made with fish is ‘not’ non-veggie. Fish are no meat. Nothing’s fishy here because we are a ngari- or fermented-fish-eating people and life is almost impossible without bits and pieces of fish in our daily plate of rice and dishes. As found in others’ kitchens and menus, a lot of people in east India and the surrounding areas also have the same ‘vegetarian’ habit.

For me I’m a meat-eater and more interested in knowing the ethics of all these eating ‘stories’ rather than, say, listening to my mother explaining the nuances of a catla or mrigal delicacy, separating the differences as much as there is in being a vegan and a vegetarian. Truth be told, sometimes I cannot even digest the difference between the most popular rou. In my life I have tried cooking it only once and unsurprisingly it turned out to be a grand success of bad cooking. In general, I prefer rou-ataoba thongba (fried and cooked) to sareng but on my debut I did a faulty deep fry. Since then, till now, I have been mostly on to my ‘specialities’: pork and chicken.

In my college days, I visited several ‘battalions’ and branches of the Universal Friendship Organisation, a Sophist-sort of cultural organisation of the Meiteis. I like everything about its ideals but it got two issues that turned me off. First, it was the extreme adherence to religion and the second, the endorsement of a vegan life. Here’s its argument: when we eat meat, their blood flows into ours and makes us ‘an’ animal, an unthinking, unreasonable and brutal living being.

Ironically, this will be exactly the opposite view of other veg-proponents because if these are the qualities we see in animals then we shoud better eat them all! Their lack of thinking and reason can be destructive for others in the animal world.

In this case, do epigenetics endorse the view that we get animalised by consuming meat? 

Of course, in addition to the view that animals are also sentient beings, there are as well reasons pertaining to ethical and moral principles. But again, if we reconsider, how should we classify the genetically modified foods that raise the same ethical concerns as those issues from, for instance, eating dog meat?

A similar write-up on the issue: The Politics of Food—From the Perspectives of Fundamental Flavours

From evolutionary studies we are one of those very few animals that began lives as herbivores but turn into carnivores. Today, after millennia of conditioning and reasoning, we have come to a conclusion that our sin stems primarily from the mode of production as far as food is concerned. Briefly, some people cannot digest it that animals are reared just for the sake of consumption. There are lots of moral issues on different levels.

Cruelty towards the animals and ‘inhumane’ conditions at slaughterhouses have been a matter that divides people sharply. Those who are against meat consumption are also concerned about the interest of the animals: to live freely, to live free from pain and to exist on its own. But when did we become so rational? Just consider the fact that India is the largest exporter of beef in the world. You heard it right: beef it is. This must be quite a headache for the Hindu right-wing organisation even if their moderate associates are ruling India presently.

There’s also a thing called the survival of the fittest. One Indian personality would say that the earth can provide all our needs but not our greed. Eating, we know, is about anything but our greed. But then consider this: the Bamons (or the low-caste Brahmins in Manipur) would eat beef and some Muslims would even eat pork because it’s none of others’ business to mind the palate of the consumer. If it is good, why not eat it.

Most of the arguments on animal rights and animal liberation have their origin in the West. It is just a factor of its reach and influence that we keep hearing about the rights and liberation and so on. The contention of these critics is based on the fact that we should not hurt animals as we would not harm our fellow beings. In a perfect world, that rhetoric could be worthwhile but in this world of relative good, bad and ugly, the argument is too lame.

Just see the armed conflicts and social unrest and what not, in which we become nothing less than a beast to live up to our expectation of what is wrong and right—but never what we should eat and what we should not. The West has all the excuse because it does not worry about what diseases would kill the people or how the police and the army are a commander of state terrorism. So why not see what that meat of the matter is. 

Some of the people in the West have as well come up with the concept of meat paradox, which states, briefly, that we care about animals but simultaneously we also eat them. They would even go to the extent of proving that meat consumption is related to masculinity.

All of these anti-meat rhetoric would gain some ground if their foundation is based on scientific reasons like getting too much fat, obesity, nutrition or environmental impacts on account of meat consumption. However, when we are considering from a morality perspective, the universe becomes extra-relative. One person’s soup is another’s kangsoi. To prove it, I have another case.

Experts who are cooking the vegetarian stories believed that those who believe in non-vegetarianism supports inequality and domination. Maybe they have not visited India. In this country, followers of major religions like Hinduism and Jainism are essentially vegetarians. However, mainland India has been notorious for its high-handedness ever since the British left for its cold storage in 1947. Now I’m not sure who is supporting inequality and domination.

This whole issue is just another who-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg story. Yet it doesn’t matter who came first: if you want some snacks, prepare an omelette and if you are planning for a dinner, get a kilo or two of chicken. This is no secret for non-vegetarians but just a fact. 



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