There's a festival called Bacon Fest coming up in Cape Town where you can have 'all the bacon you can eat'. I can imagine for many people that sounds amazing, but if we look a little deeper it becomes very easy to see the problems with this capitalistic consumerism.
Bacon has become a icon over the past few years. It has gone from a breakfast ingredient to a symbol wrapped in bravado and masculinity. It's not completely clear why or how this meme began, but it's undeniably there. And what is even more weird is that the slaughter of pigs are celebrated as part of this macho-consumerist driven love of pork. And perhaps this celebration is not so much out of callousness, but a way to avoid having to actually deal with the reality of slaughtering animals
One of the most interesting memes is the t-shirts and posters with butcher's diagrams where the pig is carved up into sections of meat. What is interesting is that we move from celebrating the tastiness of bacon, to celebrating the slaughter of pigs. We now don't see the pig as an intelligent, playful animal, but simply as pieces of meat. This becomes easy to accept when the lives of pigs only have value in relation to our desire to eat them. And that's what I really have a problem with, and the question I'd like to ask - do animals only have value in relation to me?
This problem of anthropocentricism becomes even more clear when we look at pets. People are disgusted by the idea of eating pets (and rightly so), but would happily eat another animal. The problem here is that instead of the animal's life having value because I can eat it, the animal's life now has value because I love it/ find it cute. The animal's life doesn't have value simply because it exists as a fellow creature, but because I, as the human, give it that value.
Surely the lives of animals can have value in and of themselves? Surely animals have a right to life and ethical treatment?
There exists a weird prejudice in people because we know that killing and exploitation are wrong, but we are able to suspend this intuitive belief when it comes to our dinner plates. We are able to put on hold one of the things that make us human, our ability to express human loving-kindness, and subject animals to torture and slaughter simply for reasons of taste.
Leo Tolstoy once wrote "Such a situation, is dreadful. Not the suffering and death of the
animals, but that man suppresses in himself unnecessarily, the highest
spiritual capacity - that of sympathy and pity towards living
creatures - and by violating his own feelings, becomes cruel. And how
deeply seated in the human heart is the injunction not to take life.
But by the assertion that God ordained the slaughter of animals, and
above all as a result of habit, people entirely lose their natural
Perhaps we need to regain that natural feeling which tells us that killing and exploitation are not things to be celebrated with t-shirts and festivals, but rather we should find love within ourselves to express to fellow creatures.
From my own perspective, the message of Christ is one of love. And if we can't extend that love to fellow creatures then we haven't understood the message of the Gospel - that Christ came to redeem all things, things in heaven and things on earth. The Sermon on the Mount emphasises the fact that Christ is with the down-trodden and oppressed, the marginalised and the exploited. Animals are being exploited and marginalised, and perhaps the Church needs to be more concerned about that.