What you think you are when you eat

If you are what you eat, Mrs Lomez would be a carrot and Dr Sin would be a cow. Which makes the meat-eater more like an animal than the apparently empathic animal flesh abstainer. Animal cells are digested and absorbed into the body. In some traditions and on some lands, the animal spirit enters the body of the human that eats of its flesh. The meat-eater may be 90% human, 10% animal, a ratio which can only be workable if we start from the premise that the distinction is readily identified. It’s unclear whether this is easier to tell at the cellular level or the spiritual.

the cells of a vegetable or a vegetarian?
(image by Kriss Szkurlatowski; 12frames.eu)

The longed for transhuman may arise from a diet of animal products, a heart valve transplant from a pig, and a 100% merino wool bodysuit grafted onto the skin. It is meant to happen at the cellular level, this crossing over from a total human to a bit of an animal. The eyes of the owl, the ear of the mouse, the tail of the rat all injected into the human genome to create an improved species. What does the sum of these body parts impart? A different perspective, another way of seeing, another way of feeling that is

animal.

It is meant to be different. We are meant to be different. Not animal.

Many vegans do it for the animals. Or do they do it because they want to be animal? Mrs Lomez cannot think what it is like to be a carrot; a cow, however, is a herbivore and this is not such a far stretch of the imagination. But by removing themselves from the possibility of animal contamination, vegans move further away from the sphere of interaction with animal others. This is not to preclude other forms of interaction, however.

The question on Mrs Lomez’s mind is: how does the vegan know what it feels like to be animal? Do the meat-eaters of the world enjoy some telekinetic connection to the animal kingdom? The meat-eaters of the world carry on, assuming their place as brothers and sisters to animals, herbivorous and carnivorous, while the vegans stay behind in a genetic pool that is increasingly human, narrowly ‘pure’, devoid of interaction with the non-human. The animals among us go wild.

How easy it is to slip into the language of the eugenicist and the animal breeder. How easy it is to believe in the dichotomies of human and non, domesticated and wild, learned and instinctual.

But back to empathy. Vegans keep their distance as a form of respect, don’t approach an animal but let it come to them. The animal is an other, an individual, a life that exists and continues irrespective of human interference. Do we know less about animal others by retreating into our animal selves?

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