Why I No Longer Eat Meat (II)

By Erasmo Clazadilla

Traditionally, in philosophy classes in Cuba, those taught to all undergraduates in the course Philosophy and Society, very little emphasis is put on trying to elucidate what is the individual. Certainly this is a topic that can lead us far. It can guide us to deep self-examination of our lives and actions, but bureaucratic instruction is quite distant from these aims.

The teachers are usually satisfied with emphasizing that we are the superior rung of an evolutionary process that originated with the most elementary forms of the organization of matter, and not from an act of divine creation.

Philosophy teachers also repeat that they believe that the key of Marxism is that people are social beings; that the individual person is the sum of their social relations, that beings act based on their thinking – and other questions similar to these.

It is not that these are completely bad answers, but rather they are just that: answers. They don’t push for true reflection about our presence in this world, or about our responsibilities for our actions.

Parting from these principles of what was supposedly Marxism, but wanting to arrive at them deductively, I gradually found that the limits that separate reality from well-defined conceptual properties began to dissolve. It was becoming particularly difficult to find the human essence that was said to be shared exclusively among humans and not by animals.

What I was supposed to say in class was that humans are distinguished from animals by their “conscious work.” However, I saw that this conscious work was the product of long and slow progression, and therefore the clear cutoff point that definitively separated some from others did not exist.

Beneath what quantity of “conscious work” is it legal to sacrifice or exploit a living being? How does a greater quantity of conscious work ethically validate the murder and exploitation of animals? Or is it that by carrying out greater conscious work we are stronger, and therefore force legitimates the use of force?

Although uncertainty is upsetting -and dangerous- I noticed with excitement that I had entered that realm, and that these questions were driving my students to the same thresholds of philosophy, where everything must be reconsidered. It seems that my superiors didn’t care for this a great deal; they ended up doing without my services.

But since we are speaking now of philosophy, I’ll present the syllogism that led me not to want to eat animals:

Given that:

  • I am young and romantic, perhaps too much so for my age.
  • That I consider that I should be consistent with my words, especially before my students.
  • As I had not been able to discover in classes, when I attempted to, the essential limit that separates humans from animals.
  • As this drove me inevitably to the idea that to kill an animal was not a scientifically justified act, but one of practical convenience for “superior beings.”
  • That by accepting practical convenience of the superior beings as justification in this case, this would require its acceptance in all other cases.
  • That this would mean also accepting the invasion of Iraq, the exploitation of “man by man” and everything else against which Marxism supposedly struggles.
  • As the orientation of the philosophy course is Marxist, and also as I cannot withstand cruelty and abuse.
  • But also, because I ate lunch in the same dining room as the students and sat down at their same table.

Because of this I decided: I would not eat the meat of those “aunts” that we call hens, nor of any other distant relative.

I say it like that because this all started when my joking students saw me choking down a chicken thigh, and one came up to me teasing, “Hey Teach, does that man taste good?”

Later I thought about that seriously, and today I have 100 more justifications for not eating meat, even when nobody’s looking.

In summary, I feel calmer and healthier, at least in those terms. What I have not been able to avoid, because I too am an animal, is that my mouth still waters when I smell the scent of roast beef.

I’ll close with a quote that someone told me was from Ghandi:

“The culture of a people can be measured by how they treat their animals.”

8 thoughts on “<em>Why I No Longer Eat Meat (II)</em>

  • dime porfis donde encuentro esos videos pa mostrarselos a yasser que no para de comer carne rojas y de todon en realidad

  • pinga erasmito te extrañamos!!!! rompiste mi expectativas

  • erasmo te felicito, me impresiona tu trabajo!!! sin coments

  • Tienes toda la razón.
    Al carajo la carne de puerco y el pollo (la de res ya está allá hace rato).

    Tengo un montón de cucarachas circulando por la casa y estoy pensando hacer una ensalada fría con ellas, para empezar mi nueva dieta. Por supuesto acompañadas de un mazo frito de marabú.
    Ya te contaré.

  • Part of the problem here as I see it, Erasmus, is that you’re trying very hard to live by the spirit of what is claimed by marxism — whereas the letter and practice of it on your island fall far short of your ideals. The point is to keep in perspective where exactly you live: because it’s damned near impossible to usher in socialism in a society with few resources — and which is under constant siege by powerful enemies, to boot. It takes special, concerted effort, doesn’t it?

    The problem with marxism as practiced in Cuba however, appears to be the usual one: being constantly on the defensive, there is the relentless pressure to circle the wagons against any criticism. We see this pathology even now, in Venezuela too. But of course, marxism — all independent, advancing thought and praxis for that matter — dies if it is not critical in essence. This was the utter failure of stalinism, for instance; but it has long also been the failure of all bourgeois ideology. Terminally so. And so while you are indeed fighting the proper fight here — just don’t fall into the usual trap of coming to the false conclusion that it is marxism itself which is to blame for the ills of your society. I’ve seen those conclusions drawn often enough — most recently in the CCCP and China, etc., as well as here in the West. I also know that the imperialists are expert at exploiting such doubts — the reasoning behind the hard hand of the cuban bureaucracy. So my word to you: be critical, sure — but also be aware of the wider context you live in.

  • It is amazing the amount of words that you needed to justify your philosophically-sophisticated nutritional pattern. I understand that it is required a great deal of sophistication to alleviate the pain that should produce you this simple fact: to sustain your life you have take another’s being life.

    Why do I have to “feel” that as a living being I’m closer to an animal than to a plant, a bacteria, a mushroom?
    It takes a lot of hypocrisy to put the “criminal” label to those that have put the limit of what is edible on a different evolutionary level.



  • Erasmo,

    I have followed your struggle to teach on nature’s grass with authorities going amock. I salute you, and your courage to take the authorities on. I truly hope that the court system, which should be independent of the executive, smacks the executive over its knarled fingers and reinstates you in a university of true learning.

    As to your insight about eating “lower”, but yes lower on the evolution scale, animals I see your point. I again congratulate you for being sensitive, and Marxist, enough to listen to a student who perceives contradictions, and that you take it to heart and stop eating meat.

    Though will I say that some of your leaps in logic are just that, unsubstantiated leaps: for example, that if you accept “superiority” in one sense, you must in all, and then you go on to imperialism’s wars. Surely, one could eat meat and still be a Marxist, a revoutionary, and struggle against all wars and all inequality. OK, where does inequality begin and end. Let us begin, at least, with the human race. Once, and if, we achieve that, then we could perhaps go down the scale, although, I agree, saving the planet and the “lesser” animals must be on our agenda even today. But not to eat what we are biologically meant to is too great a leap for the humanity of today.

    I salute your existence and thoughtful thinking.
    In solidarity,

  • Erasmo,

    Si entonces ves los videos que yo vi aqui en Internet, te mueres. Imaginate que yo comia carne tambien, como todo buen cubano salido de la isla y que se empata con tanta carne. Pero un dia me sente a ver unos videos y vi uno que me dejo llorando el resto del dia.
    Eso fue hace un anno y pico y no he probado mas nunca la carne roja. He comido muy pocas veces pollo despues de eso.

    Saludos desde la Florida

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