A scorpion was wandering along the bank of the river, wondering how to get to the other side. Suddenly he saw a fox. He asked the fox to take him on his back across the river.
The fox said, “No. If I do that, you’ll sting me and I’ll drown.”
The scorpion assured him, “If I did that, we’d both drown.”
So the fox thought about it and finally agreed. So the scorpion climbed up on his back and the fox began to swim. But halfway across the river, the scorpion stung him.
As the poison filled his veins, the fox turned to the scorpion and said, “Why did you do that? Now you’ll drown too.”
“I couldn’t help it,” said the scorpion. “It’s my nature.”
The argument is simple. Many animals, just like humans, are capable of suffering. But humans, unlike many other animals, are able to recognize that suffering of a different species and have the physiological and psychological power to choose to prevent or minimize it.
Humans seem to be the only animals that have a conflicted nature. We enjoy sex, but many wish not to have children. So we use contraceptives that enable us to indulge in this evolutionarily programmed pleasure without having to engage in the purpose for why evolution made this activity pleasurable in the first place. If we find that a close friend or family member has been murdered, our first instinct is our animal nature telling us to seek revenge. But then our human nature overcomes that and tells us instead to seek justice. If there is one characteristic about humans that is more unique than any other, it is that we use our brains to overcome our nature, rather than give in to it.
Using animals for food and clothing should be no exception. Evolution programmed humans to enjoy the taste of meat, because back then, living was a zero sum game. If you didn’t eat whatever you could find, then you will die. This is certainly not the occasion to be advocating for a more compassionate diet. But for many of us, living is no longer a zero sum game. We no longer have to eat meat in order to live, or be perfectly healthy for that matter. Here is where the option of a more compassionate diet should be considered.
It is our animal nature to care only about our own pleasures in spite of those actions contributing to the suffering of others. But it is our human nature to look beyond our own pleasures and actually care about the consequences that our actions have toward beings who may not even be in our immediate group and would otherwise have nothing to offer us, but peace of mind.
I don’t think that humans who choose to eat meat are evil monsters. After all, it is our nature. I just wish that we can begin to recognize the unique position we are in that allows us to make a choice. Let’s say for a moment that meat did not taste good. Would you then need any time at all to make the decision between choosing to minimize or maximize the unnecessary suffering of beings just as intelligent and personable as your dog or cat? We have a choice; a choice to either give in to our animal nature and allow these animals to exact their revenge by killing us with cholesterol, or to overcome that nature and embrace our humanity. Please, choose compassion. Thanks.