About two months ago, I reblogged a post from Loki’s Little Hippie Witch, adding my two cents to the ongoing debate about whether or not it is right to sacrifice animals to satisfy religious beliefs. Today, I read an interesting argument posted at the Magick from Scratch blog, bringing up the possibility that there is a degree of hypocrisy among those in Western society who advocate telling people of various faiths that animal sacrifice is no longer an acceptable means of worship.
In my previous post on this subject, I responded mainly to the argument stating that animal sacrifice is acceptable because it is what our ancestors did. I followed up with my thoughts on this logic in this post, and concluded that the argument is not sound. The hypocrisy argument, however, holds more water: people who guzzle down meat, with no regard for the animal(s) involved; and at the same time criticize adherents of religions who slaughter animals in the name of their deities, run the risk of engaging in hypocrisy. Major sporting events were examples brought up in the “Western Hypocrites” post – I will go one step further and mention the uncounted masses of turkeys that get slaughtered for major holidays in some countries, events that perhaps more closely represent the religious sacrifice of animals.
There are a few differences, however, though the lines are fairly blurred. One article on the subject of animal sacrifice in India describes heaps or piles of carcasses, left by officiates of the sacrifice who have little or no training in the butchering of animals. The piles of carcasses are a concern for various diseases, which suggests that the meat is not completely eaten, that much gets wasted. In Western cultures with which I am familiar, the controls for how animals are butchered and how the carcasses are disposed of are more strict (though not as rigidly enforced as they should be, due to politics and economics, rather than religion). This does not, however, mean that the meat from the animal does not go to waste: gorging one’s self over a turkey (for example), eating more than one’s fill just for the pleasure of eating, and with no mind for eating only what is necessary, is just as wasteful as if the meat were left to rot on the ground – perhaps even more so, as at least meat left out to rot will provide food for carrion eaters. That much of this orgiastic approach to feasting takes place with absolutely no sense of gratitude to the animal(s) involved (common prayers give thanks to a deity as the source for the meal, ignoring the animal’s involvement) is unconscionable to me.
However, while I will certainly agree that the hypocrisy exists, this is not a valid argument with which to support the practice of animal sacrifice. In fact, it’s a fairly good reason why someone who disapproves of animal sacrifice (and there are many who do) should work at least as much within their own culture to eradicate this practice as in the cultures of others. While the “Western Hypocrites” post singles out and generalizes animal rights activists as being guilty of hypocrisy, it ignores the possibility that many of these activists are dedicated advocates for the rights of animals, and might very well not be guilty of hypocrisy, regardless of the politics some of their organizations might engage in … there are quite a few sources available that show animal rights activists taking on Western governments, corporations and practices as well as governments, corporations and practices from other regions of the world.
Specifically, the author of the “Western Hypocrites” post lists several key points or arguments at the end of the post, of which I consider only the first to be a valid argument: that, despite this practice among Hindus, more animals are slaughtered in other countries, like the US, Brazil, and countries within the EU (and according to the graphic attached to the post, also China) than in India. Point two on this list, that the animals being slaughtered for sacrifice are not being tortured, is not valid: standing around in a mass of animals being slaughtered, with no recourse other than to simply await one’s turn to be beheaded by someone who is not necessarily trained in techniques to ensure speed and efficiency of the kill (to include how to keep their blades sharp), surrounded by a crowd of cheering onlookers, is torture. This may not be much worse than slaughterhouse practices in Western nations; but this does not mean that the rituals to Gadhimai do not amount to the torture of animals.
Point three, that animal sacrifice is an element of ancient religions falls partially under the same logic that I refuted in the post I linked to above, namely that the practice is acceptable because our ancestors did it. In a number of ancient religions, human sacrifice was also a component, as was the taking of slaves. Yet these practices are currently legislated against in the majority of countries around the world … does this mean we should stop all current legislative measures against these practices, so that we do not cross the lines of ancient religious practices? This ties in neatly with point four on the list, that insisting upon the cessation of a religious practice because it makes one uncomfortable makes out of that person a bigot. Considering the counter argument presented above, halting human sacrifice and slavery risks turning most of us into bigots … the logic simply fails to support this kind of argument. Further, bigotry is defined as an unreasonable intolerance to beliefs or practices differing from one’s own, usually on the simple grounds that said beliefs or practices are different. At the core of bigotry is a fear of what is different. I think, especially considering this with the counter arguments I’ve presented here, slapping anyone who rejects the practice of animal sacrifice with the label of ‘bigot’ is unfair, and more rant than reasonable argument. I say this because there has been no sound argument to support this kind of generalized attack; and because of this, it places the author of the “Western Hypocrites” post very close to the degree of hypocrisy that the post goes out of its way to expose.
The fifth and final argument presented in the original post I’m responding to states: “Prioritizing an attack on religious animal sacrifice over either throwing away half a dead cow (sorry, 30-40% of a dead cow), or factory farming shows that you don’t care about animal rights. You care about religious supremacy.” This is a conclusion that has no support anywhere in the original post. To say that this mentality demonstrates hypocrisy would be valid, and would be supported by the post’s arguments. Religious supremacy, however, is another generalized label that is simply not supported: at no point in the article was information presented that suggested that animal rights activists are religiously motivated in their perspectives concerning the ethical treatment of animals; that is what would have qualified as an argument in support of the motivation by religious supremacy.
While I will agree that hypocrisy in this regard is something that needs to be looked at and dealt with, I do not think the existence of it negates the cruelty to animals that exists in these kinds of practices – it does a very good job, however, at exposing other areas in which animal activists could stand to improve their efforts at helping the plight of animals. I personally do not feel that the practice of animal sacrifice is necessary to appease the gods; and there have been no arguments I’ve encountered that would persuade me to believe otherwise. While I have explored some of the arguments presented to support this practice, I am not judging the people who adhere to the sacrifice of animals, or their religions. I simply disagree.