Meat Eating : Some Perspective

This article shared by a friend on Facebook started out a discussion on killing of animals for food. I’ve summarised some thoughts below

Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

This is a direct response to an earlier comment about how all killing of animals be it for sport or food – is wrong. Hence it might reflect such a language.

There are two issues that are being discussed here – The issue of hunting animals for sport & The issue of killing animals for food. What also needs to be understood is that a separate issue – the unethical treatment of animals has been conflated with killing. In doing this, one has gone from saying that since unethical and unkind treatment of animals is wrong – the prohibition of all killing will prevent unethical treatment

This is a disingenuous position to take.

But first things first –

1) Do human being’s treat animals unethically – Yes
2) Can certain animals be bred successfully and thus their population grown in shorter periods compared to other animals – Yes
3) Is modern industrial farming a source of great pain to animals – Yes
4) Is animal meat a source of nutrition? Are human beings physically and naturally capable of eating/digesting meat – Yes & Yes
(In fact for certain proteins there are no alternate plant sources)
5) Is one obligated to eat meat of animals – No

The above are premises on which a reasoned debate can take place.

The killing of animals for food is not a modern habit – it is an act that has been established in antiquity. Secondly most people are predisposed to eating meat even if they don’t do the killing themselves and thus are okay with allowing it to happen .
Thus if we look at the argument of killing animals for food then there are two main drivers to it – antiquity and public acceptance.

If you were to say that it is wrong that there is public acceptance  towards killing of animals for food it would be a highly disingenuous position take because modern liberal democratic society is based on public acceptance for legislating laws (for e.g Homosexuality) in its barest sense. Thus it would be unlikely that killing of animals for food will be banned as this is not considered unethical/immoral/unacceptable.

In fact the prohibition to ban beef slaughter in India is based on conservative understanding of Hindu/Indian society and has nothing to do with its well being.

Also Hunting animals for sport is banned around the world even though it was widely accepted in the past. In this case current public acceptance is geared towards protecting animal heritage and the environment as this is considered ethical/moral/acceptable. Hunting for animal products is also banned and animal product market generally regulated

Thus if one were to rely on public acceptance to gain rulings and sources of guidance it could lead to positions that change as time passes and people understanding changes.

The distinction Saad was trying to make however is that as Muslims – our source of Guidance is based on the Transcendent reality that is God. Allah (God) has created all of creation with purpose and we are answerable for our actions. In the case of animals He has sanctioned its use for food and guided us through the Prophet as to how exactly they should be treated in life and death. This transcendent morality extends to many issues in human life and is independent of the current public acceptance/understanding

Having said that it would be wrong and dishonest of me If I fail to point out that our Prophet (Peace be upon him)- who is our role model and guide – barely ate meat. in fact he would have very limited quantities of food and encouraged his followers from filling their bellies with food. The concept of eating food for pleasure was not a practice we are taught. There are many famous narrations from him about being especially moderate when it came to food. His eating habits were limited to survival and gluttony and over consumption are considered as a means of destroying spirituality

Secondly there are many narrations concerned with the ill treatment of animals and the resulting wrath of God. Thus there have been people whom the Prophet (Peace be upon him) has pointed out as gaining eternal reward for simple acts of kindness to animal whereas those who have gained eternal punishment for ill treatment of animals.
Additionally there are only certain animals whose meat are considered permissible (generally animals that can be domesticated) and the killing has to be performed in a way shown by our Prophet (Peace be upon him). As muslims we believe that this way causes least harm to animals as it has been revealed by God Himself. Since we understand God to be just, merciful and knowledgeable among His other attributes so we consider him to be the one best placed to instruct us when it comes to killing animals

As pointed out though – modern practices of industrial killing is inhumane(unfortunate that we don’t have a word such as “inanimale”)

The killing of animals for food in such large numbers however is a modern human habit based on the capitalist system. Modern animal factories – for the lack of a better word are ruthless and cruel. They result in much pain to animals and if one were to see the way their food is produced then he would reject it if there was any humanity (forget faith in God) left in him.

Capitalism is predicated on the logic that if you can make money out of, among other things, killing animals then there is no reason you shouldn’t. Rather you should just get more efficient at it. Couple that with highly lucrative business of selling food and you have a killer combo(unfortunate again but pun intended)

Thus as a muslim I would be the first in decrying the current state of affairs when it comes to treatment of animals and our lack of sufficient moral outrage and action. As a muslim I would also advocate consuming less meat, preferring organic and free range over broiler and if possible growing your own animals. Though this seems impractical what one learns one raises his own meat is that it is difficult to illtreat if one see oneself answerable to God. Secondly he would find it difficult to kill because he has spent time and effort in raising it. (That is the point of sacrifice on Eid ul Adha btw)

To conclude I understand where you are coming from and say that meat that is not sourced ethically to begin with should be prohibited. However I am not with you when it comes to saying that killing animals for meat is absolutely wrong based on reasons I gave above.