If you were stranded on an island where there’s nothing to eat and only a dog for company, what would you do? Would you kill and eat the dog? Or would you choose to die of hunger?
A few days back, during a violent vegan vs non-vegan war on FB (which of these ‘wars’ isn’t ‘violent’?), one of my non-vegan friends posed this old ethical dilemma. (This of course assumes you aren’t from China or North-East India and love dogs/animals.) My response, a not very unfamiliar one, was that I would not; maybe the dog would eventually help me find food, and also give me company. The same friend responded hoping that we never need to face this situation, for people are known to do the most unimaginable things in dire times. One of my other friends, also non-vegan, lauded me for my response, for being consistent all along; another vegan friend had committed a capitulation of sorts by admitting that if he were in a deserted desert with only an antelope, he would go ahead with the killing and eating. (Antelopes in deserts? On a lighter note, he should have thought through that one.)
I obviously felt good at my friend lauding me. And yes, it’s consistent with my beliefs. For the same reason, I wouldn’t go to the pyramids at Giza if camel transport were the only way to get there. Similarly, when watching ‘Everest’ and noticing yaks haul heavy-duty necessities to the base camp, I thanked myself for not wanting to be a mountaineer.
And then, a few days back, I had this thought: I’m marooned during a flood, and some folk have come to rescue me… on a bullock-cart. Would I take that ride? Would animal-freedom-advocate and non-carnist me chuck my precious principles, take that person’s hand, and get into that cart? (Of course, there could be other questions like ‘Wouldn’t a boat, rather than a bullock-cart, come during a flood?’, ‘Do you know swimming?’, ‘Could you make a boat?’ But as I told you, this thought just came to me, the way random thoughts do, just like ‘If I don’t know swimming, could I learn swimming then and there?’ See, I told you. So, let’s stay with this, shall we?)
There are enough and more such examples… If I were Pi on the sea in ‘Life of Pi’. Would I kill and eat fish? (Pi does beat and dig into a large fish that lands into his boat. If so, would I have released it back into the water?) Would I kill the tiger… both to protect myself and for food? If I were washed away to the Arctic. How would I be a vegan Eskimo, avoiding spearing a seal? Would I live only on water and… ice?
I think I have an answer. I would… go ahead and take that ride, kill the tiger/fish, spear that seal. Not because of the standard answer of “It’s a case of survival”. But more like this…
In an episode of ‘Untamed and Uncut’, a series on Animal Planet about rescuing animals in peril or rescuing humans and animals from each other when both come into conflict, they featured the renowned US animal-rights activist, Vicki Moore. One of her campaigns took her to the Spanish province of Zamora, which had a festival where a group of young men throws a goat from a church tower to another group on the ground who would hopefully catch the frightened animal with a canvas sheet. The activist felt sorry for the goat and for filming him/her rather than trying to save him/her, and apologised with the thought, ‘I have to let you get hurt/die now, only because I can show this cruelty to the world later’. (Incidentally, the practice was banned in 2002 after protests by animal groups. Also, Vicki got gored by a bull during the Pamplona run of 1995. She survived, and continued her campaigns for several years before eventually passing away in February 2000.)
In short, it’s like this… I think I would go ahead and kill and eat and ride that animal NOW. So I could hopefully save more animals LATER. After all, only humans can talk to humans about animal cruelty. And many a time, even they can’t.
So, maybe that question should not be ‘Would you kill the dog?’, but ‘When would you kill him/her?’, and even ‘Why?’ Whatever your answer, one can only hope you are asking yourself these questions.
To find out more about Vicki Moore and her foundation, go here: VickiMooreFoundation.org
To know what Irfilosophy is, click here: Irfilosophy: Here’s Presenting