Does life consume death? It was the question I had when traveling to London, seeing so many commercials appealing to human consciences for warning inhumane consequences. The humane approach to justify love for the animal and for the mother Earth cannot avoid its critics where to draw the line to distinguish life and death, especially mentioning the life of plants and insects. This argument cannot escape from a speciesism, as the documentary Earthlings (2005) tackled. If it is same life, is it not okay to wear an animal skin instead of a wool cloth? We even have difficulties, politically and culturally rather economically, to draw line between domesticated animals to kill and pets to breed. I said that it is rather easier to draw the line economically since it’s the matter of industry producing the death in accordance with the demand of human lives.
Industry, then, seems the inevitable evil that sustains both the demand of population and the line between lives of animals and plants. But all plants that the modern life consumes are genetically modified for the purpose of mass production and better nutrition. To reduce the land occupancy, the industry invented a design to put more individuals in the same cell and better chemicals to grow them faster and disease-free. This mechanism works same not only for poultry but for grain. Modern banana, strawberry, bean, eggplant, carrot, potato and tomato are commonly genetically modified plants that became bigger and appealing, for example. Eggplant is the most interesting case, personally, that the name itself came from its original appearance that looked like an egg. The ex-modified eggplant was a white egg-size vegetable which turned into post-modified eggplant as we now know, which is a big and purple coloured vegetable.
What matters then, is the cruelty and mistreat? If it is a same industrial mechanism, the scream of the recipient isn’t the factor that decides which is crueler. Both industries of plant production and of meat production should be considered as samely cruel.
Another question comes then, knowing the death one consumes to live, should one take for granted the death that sustains her life? or should she try to minimise as less as she could? To examine the question, we put a metaphor to understand the gravity of this question:
You are driving a sinking boat. You are the captain and you are holding the wheel. There are 10 people including yourself in the boat, and the boat is sinking (let’s say it has been scientifically proven that the boat is sinking). To make it to the shore, or to say, to make the boat run as long as possible, you need to throw 2 people away from the boat (and let’s say it has been studied that this number is the minimum for the sustainability of the boat). In this case, would you just kill 2 people to save other 8, or since there will be anyway a killing, you would kill 6 people to make a more comfortable trip for other 4 people? It’s never a democratic decision since you can only make the decision of which people to be thrown away to the ocean. Since it is your decision to make, it should be your responsibility for those deaths.
Knowledge and responsibility limit freedom in such case, it seems. But here in this post, it’s not my intention to moralise myself or other people of their daily choices. If the situation is well aware, then it’s up to each one’s choice and responsibility to live in her way. If life consumes death, certain death is inevitable. I should consume at least vegetables to nurture my dignity of being. Some decided to nurture them with other ingredients. But in other words, then, death provides life. Death is not a negative thing, as any religion argues, and even in Taoism philosophy of Yin and Yang, death and life always make their balance in the universe. One is inevitable for the sake of the other. What we should look for is the balance, understanding the interaction between those two different variables that life consumes death, and death produces life.
Furthermore, we have witnessed that some religious extremists take a distinct interpretation of this hypothesis, focusing only on the death side to guarantee their lives justified by their religious viewpoint. It’s universal over many orthodox religions, and Christianity isn’t an exception.
It’s not anymore a discussion of vegetarianism or veganism, animal right, and climate change. This is where to set a moral standard, based on the understanding of life and death. In this scenario where the driver needs to choose at least 2 to be thrown away, the question lays: is there a difference if he chooses 3 over 2, or 5 over 2? As this question develops, we encounter ourselves in a typical moral puzzle of justice. As we live in an era where profit is personalised and loss is socialised, the responsibility also is socialised yet since it’s everyone’s loss of freedom we tend to not personalise the responsibility. Anyone has the qualification to judge others or moralise others since their lives also are depending on some deaths to consume. If it is a moral issue, there is not such thing right and wrong. Every individual does his best based on what he perceives to be the best for himself, first, and for others, if his capacity allows.
From the metaphor mentioned above in this post, we might conclude that it’s our arrogance to presume that we are the one with the wheel, putting other lives on the hand of our decision. Chances are that we even don’t know where we are heading and how far is left to arrive. It’s a nonsense when to think about; we wouldn’t let a child drive a car in the middle of the night, risking all other passengers’ lives. The tragedy is that this child is on the wheel and we are risking. But since we all want to arrive safely to the destination, at least being conscious of it, the child will be stressed to figure out how to manage the situation for everyone’s satisfaction, if not give up and cry. Being stressed out for such matter may reflect the very human gesture before the situation, for it recalls a form of responsibility coming from the grabbing the wheel to drive. One will do whatever one’s best would be, and maybe that will be just enough for now. The ideal would be a guideline from individual action to collective action, but this policy matter is still under the investigation by many academic institutions worldwide.