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Sailesh Rao

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If we count human on animal violence, are we living in the most violent era ever?

As an example of the decline in violence, Steven Pinker uses the fact that in the middle ages, we used to consider a burning cat to be entertainment. And yet, Steven Pinker appears not to take into account human on animal violence in his statistical analysis of violence. Otherwise, I would think that the 60 billion animals that we routinely raise and slaughter for food each year would overwhelm all the violence that we were committing in the past, even on a per capita basis, and make this the most violent era ever.

Killing a cow for food is a violent act, even if it isn't done in public like burning a cat on stage for entertainment. In the past, I don't believe that we used to consume animal foods in the same proportion as we do now. At least, from 1960 to 2000, while population doubled, the consumption of animal foods quadrupled. The animal foods that we consume are mainly a result of unseen, outsourced violence, but violence on par with cat burning.

As our technological prowess increased, we became more adept at inflicting systematic violence on animals, birds, fishes and the Earth. Climate change, environmental degradation and human ill health can all be viewed as the Earth's reactions to this violence. Therefore, it is important that we measure violence correctly so that we may respond accurately and save ourselves.

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    Jul 8 2012: I think you're idea of calling cattle slaughter violence is limited by the fact it's sheer nature. It's natural for one species to kill and eat another, we've just got really good at doing it.
    I'd also add that we mainly do it out of necessity not for entertainment or for malice, burning a cat is 1)not natural 2) I think contains a lot of malice.
    A good analogy I can think of is this, if you've ever seen a cat kill a mouse you think to yourself "O good cat" but if you see a cat teasing the mouse, i.e letting it run for a bit then catching it again and repeating this (at least I think) "bad cat!" and I normally chase my cat away at this point to let the mouse get away.
    So the difference is one is nature HAVING to takes its course whilst the other is needless suffering.
    • Jul 8 2012: Interesting distinction, but I'm not sure that it applies. For instance, in the dairy industry, we kill male calves and in the egg industry, we grind up male chicks in what is seemingly gratuitous violence. Nature never intended the male of a species to be so mass slaughtered at birth.

      To a point, yes, Nature intends one species to kill and eat another to maintain a balance in an ecosystem, but when one species burns down a Florida sized area of tropical forests every two years in order to raise and slaughter billions of farm animals, the violence is no longer natural. Besides, since consuming animal foods is a matter of choice, the suffering of the farmed animals can also be viewed as needless.
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        Jul 8 2012: Few things, we've evolved to eat meat, our appendixes have shrunk and our wisdom teeth come too late to be of any use in grinding plant material.
        And I didn't say I agree with all foods, I disagree with veal etc, anything that you have to go out of yoru way to achieve is almost always just not worth it.
        And nor did I agree to the cutting down of forests.
        I'd say we've to get better at our farming techniques
        Create sustainable methods of development
        But meat is in our diet, it has been for the past 100,000 years and it isn't going to go anytime soon.
        I'm not 100% sure on how they kill cattle but saying just lopping their heads off really quickly, it's quick and virtually painless, but if we saw off their limbs bit by bit, then that's cruel violence.
        So there's another angle, methods used.
        • Jul 9 2012: Unfortunately, the animal food industry has achieved its productivity improvements over the past few decades, mainly by ratcheting up the suffering and the violence. Killing male calves and male chicks improves the efficiency of dairy and egg production. Keeping animals in tiny crates improves the productivity of factory farming. And yet, the increase in demand for animal foods is such that forests continue to be destroyed on an continual basis.

          It is also established that humans do not need to perpetrate this violence. We can all live very healthy lives on plant-based diets. Therefore, the violence is being committed as a matter of choice.

          While it is true that meat has been in our diet until now, we have also shown that we are perfectly capable of making significant changes in our cultural practices on short notice. Slavery and discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, caste etc. all fell out of favor in the past two centuries alone. In the face of climate change and other environmental catastrophes, I feel that the violent practice of animal agriculture is up for such consideration.

          All violence has consequences. And the consequences of animal agriculture are being meted out to all of us, including those who are not consuming the products of this violence, and indeed all Life on Earth.
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        Jul 9 2012: What makes you think plants are very different from animals in terms of a life form. I can argue eating plants is more violence than eating animals, plants are highly respectable life forms.

        You have to research and innovate an energy source for human body other than life form, like from non life form of matter like coal or sunlight or electricity.
        • Jul 9 2012: Even if eating plants is defined as a violent act, it stands to reason that far more plants are violently affected when we feed them to animals and then wait 1-2 years for the animals to grow before eating the animals.

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