Here is a fair warning about today’s post. I’m going pretty deep here with how I feel. If you eat meat, it will take you out of your comfort zone, but this is exactly how I felt 3 years ago–uncomfortable.
I recently watched the movie Instinct, in which Anthony Hopkins plays an anthropologist that goes to live with a family of gorillas in the jungle. When a group of hunters comes into the forest and starts killing the gorillas, Hopkins’ character murders a few of the men while trying to defend his new family. He is imprisoned in a mental institution for the murders and Cuba Gooding Jr plays the psychiatrist that is assigned to his case.
The psychiatrist learns much more than he anticipated in this case and the movie is really wonderful on so many levels. But one thing that Hopkins’ character said stood out to me. There is a scene where Hopkins’ character is explaining to the psychiatrist that the world is full of “takers.” He explains that long ago, before what we would call “civilization” existed, humans lived with/within the Earth. We only took what we need, as the animals do, and we had a place within Nature. At some point, we became takers. We took from other humans. We took from the Earth. We took from the animals. We took much more than we needed and our greed changed us into a species that lives on the Earth, but not with it–not within it as a part of the cycle of things.
The psychiatrist asks him what we are supposed to do about that at this point. How do we undo all that we have done? Should we tear down our office buildings and schools and hospitals? Should we tear up the streets and stop driving cars? Hopkin’s character explains that we have only one thing to give up: Dominion.
There are several different definitions of dominion. According to Webster’s, dominion is supreme authority or absolute ownership. Other sources bring in word “control.” I will also include the Biblical verse that often comes to mind when discussing Dominion, which is in Genesis 1:26, where God says,
Let us make man in our image after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the Earth.
Now let me stop here and say that I don’t want to bring any specific religion into this discussion for several reasons. The main reason is that I want this topic to be applicable to everyone. I feel that humans in general, regardless of race, nationality, religion, sex, or age have a sense of what dominion means in some way or another. Because it is true. We are takers. We shouldn’t be, but we are. We look out for ourselves, our family, our friends, our community, our country, and our planet. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the issue of dominion comes in when we have a sense of entitlement or “betterness” about us. We develop the notion of “other,” meaning that in the example of looking out for ourselves, everyone else is the “other” that is somehow less. When we look out for our household, other households are the “others.” In looking at our own country as being apart from the rest of the world, concepts such as “better than” start to form in our minds. We may have no idea what it is like to be the “other,” but somehow we assume that we are better.
This is where problems start to arise. This is where we begin to feel the need to control those that we see as others because we feel we are entitled to that control because we are better. We’ve seen this with war, in the past when women weren’t allowed to vote or own property, the Holocaust, with slavery, child and spousal abuse, and countless other examples we could add to the list. History is full of examples and even in my lifetime I have witnessed how humans seem to simultaneously be the most wonderful beings capable of great change and also the most terrible, cruel, selfish monsters.
I’ve witnessed how truly wonderful and selfless people can be. My most recent example is of the tornado that I posted about previously. There are an overwhelming amount of people banning together to restore homes for those that have lost everything they had. People, business, and other countries are sending in money and supplies. Community members young and old are going out and offering to volunteer. But in my experience, it takes a huge disaster to get most people motivated to help others. A sad truth.
So without delving too deep into the debate on whether or not laws, government control, and punishment is needed, I just want to say one thing about dominion:
In a society where different titles and statuses entitle someone, or a group of people, to control over others, I think we need to take a step back and look at what that control means, why it is necessary (if it even is at all), and what we should do with it. Dominion doesn’t mean that we have the right to exploit, abuse, torture, and murder others–humans or animals. I want to say that again:
Dominion doesn’t mean that we have the right to exploit, abuse, torture, and murder others.
What I think dominion means, both in the Bible and what it originally meant for civilization, is stewardship. Rather than giving you the power to dominate and exploit, stewardship is the responsibility to care for and watch over others. Whenever it was that humans decided they had dominion over animals, whether you believe God gave us that right or that our higher state of evolution did, I cannot possibly believe that we were meant to exploit, torture, and abuse them. That is not what it means to be a “higher” being. That is what a barbarian would do. We can turn our heads away and blindfold ourselves all we want, but when support these horrible actions of what we feel is entitlement, WE become LESS. When we say it is okay to let others (and in this case, I’m talking about animals) suffer to death, because we were given dominion, I believe we become the monsters here.
I can’t believe that God or Nature or anyone else put animals here so that we can do what I’ve seen done in documentaries like Meet Your Meat.
In closing, I want to say something to my friends and family, and readers I may not know, who eat meat. I’m not saying that I think you are a horrible person. I ate meat my whole life without thinking about any of these things. It wasn’t that I turned a blind eye. It wasn’t that I didn’t care or I thought I was entitled to a steak. It’s just how things are and I didn’t know to think or feel any differently from everyone else. You grow up and your parents feed you meat and you don’t think anything about it because it has always been that way. But at some point, you begin to think, “Hey, why do I do this.” Your mom stops decorating your room for you, you get your own place, you cook your own meals, and you make your own decisions.
I can’t honestly say that going veg is for you. That is your own decision to make. I encourage you to read and watch everything you can about this topic so that you will be informed when you make choices. What you put into your body affects you in so many ways. I believe that when we consume the product of sickness, abuse, fear, and suffering, that it affects us physically. I’m not saying I am perfect either, but in working to better ourselves, we need to look at this aspect of our lives. Perhaps you will still choose to eat meat, but you will only buy from a local farmer and you will know how the animals are treated. Perhaps you will choose to only buy organic meat. Maybe you will cut out meat from your diet one or more days a week, or maybe you won’t change anything. It’s a very personal decision. I only ask that in everything you do, you consider the bigger picture. Consider your place in this world and what it means to live within the larger aspect of life on the only planet we are able to call home. I will try my best to do the same.