To Know a thing and to Experience a thing

Submitted by smeech on Tue, 08/05/2008 - 17:08

I wonder to what extent it would be necessary to force someone to actually kill an animal in order for someone to have 'learnt' or 'engaged'. Many things have to be physically / directly experienced to be incorporated into a true understanding of the world, like ha. But some do not, they simply need to be 'known'. We do not encourage children to play in the road in order to experience how dangerous it is, but try to make them understand in other ways. I think experience is the highest level of understanding, but that maybe not everything needs to be experienced fully and directly to be appreciated.

The Meat License Proposal would force people to engage with the killing of an animal, which i think is an important experience to have, but that needn't be a direct one.  However, this leaves the question open - if you haven't actually killed an animal then you should not be able to eat meat.

Earlier, I saw a lone seagull

Earlier, I saw a lone seagull flying. I was on the terrace of a building, and I was below - not exactly near, but close enough, and more than anyone at that point in time, probably, to feel a connection with its experience. I wasn't flying myself, obviously, but the experience I refer to is my relation as a thinking being to its relaxed flying. In other words, I imainged what it felt like to be that seagull there in the sky, riding the air currents.

And I wasn't far away from the pub that is advertising the availability of locally-sourced seagull meat. When I saw this sign for the first time, I thought it was a joke. And if it wasn't a joke, what about the hygiene issues? What a bad joke if it is one, and peculiar behaviour on the part of the establishment concerned. If, on the other hand, this 'new idea' for seagull meat is a version of the idea of a delicacy you find in other countries (where the delicacy on offer is far more 'palatable' than seagull meat - Japan and whale meat, for instance), what a cheap and tacky idea it is; like the poor man's whale meat.

But it looks like it's a reality. The sign hasn't been taken down and the pub is soon to open in yet another incarnation (excuse the pun!). Seagull meat, it seems, will be available in Liverpool for intrepid diners.

All of this makes me think of the seagull earlier. The momentary feelings I had for the seagull flying are somehow bypassed in the minds of people who wouldn't bat an eyelid at eating the animal concerned. Such people compartmentalise experience, drawing upon categories ('animals were put on earth for our consumption and enjoyment') in order to prevent ethics arising from a moment of empathy. What went through my mind was whether I had the right to deny that seagull the chance of flying again. Behind the ugly lust for seagull meat typified in the Monro, there is a procedure which, as I said, bypasses human empathy in order to obtain the desired object: the seagull would be taken from its natural habitat (killed), its right to exist ignored, precluding the chance of it enjoying such lone flights on a dreary summer's day ever again.

My brief 'experience' of looking and thinking about the flying seagull strengthens my vegetarian will. I could not answer to myself if I shot seagulls down from the sky in order to satisfy a pointless lust or curiosity for 'exotic' and 'novelty' meat. What need do meat eaters have for this meat? Isn't there enough choice? (An aside: Is there no end to the ruthless pursuit of consumerism currently strangling society?)

As you can no doubt guess, I would not have any problem with the Meat Licence; if you like, it would not be necessary for my kind. But if the proposal intends to acitvate a keener sense of engagement with morality and ethics (which is what juridical law stands in for when they have been violated or are threatened), I'm not sure to what extent we would convince people of the subtler feelings for animals as experienced by vegans and vegetarians. We know from our daily news that humans have no problems turning their backs on empathy and adjusting their behaviour accordingly against the greater good of both humans and animals.


The seagull thing was a dumb publicity stunt for the pub reopening after refurbishment. They've done it before on April Fools with lion burgers. It might actually be an issue for trading standards were the sign still up. 

The picture on the pub sign showed the herring gull which is now common to our towns and cities. These gulls, along with others, are protected under the Wildlife And Countryside Act 1981. It is already illegal to kill the bird.

If it were legal to kill the bird for purposes of consumption the process would be subject to the usual hygiene regulations and legislation enforced by the FSA, unless it were for private domestic consumption.

It's damn peculiar to argue it from the hygiene angle - whether it was a coastal dwelling or city-dwelling herring gull, it would be dirty as the next wild animal. If you're referring to the diet of a fish/egg-eating coast dweller compared to a trash/discarded KFC-munching city dweller in terms of how the gull would taste, you would have a point. But hygiene doesn't come into it assuming you're eating a non-diseased animal prepared according to those FSA guidelines.