Permaculture & The Vegan way

Toby Hemenway hemenway at
Sun Mar 11 15:13:19 EST 2001

on 3/10/01 6:37 PM, permed at at permed at wrote:

> I can't help but wonder if there is an underlying neurotic fear of death
> that drives unnatural philosophies -

I found myself thinking something similar when I was writing my earlier
post. It may be significant that veganism and strict vegetarianism have
taken hold in a culture so removed from natural cycles. While I certainly

respect someone's moral decision not to take part in the killing of animals,
all animals and most non-industrialized humans live in intimate relationship
with death. Whether it's a mouse cowering in the shadow of a hawk's looming
wing, or the neighbor wringing a chicken's neck, any being in a
non-industrial setting knows how close, and how natural, death is.

So I wonder if we are projecting our own fear of death onto those animals
whom we want to "save" from what appears to us to be a brutal and
unnecessary fate. Death, and killing to eat, are the most natural things in
the world. Setting the cruel practices of industrial agriculture aside, are
we truly minimizing suffering by not killing animals for food, or are we
avoiding uncomfortable "negative" actions and feelings while distancing
ourselves further from natural cycles? I don't mean to accuse anyone here,
as this mirrors my own path from unthinking omnivore to a slightly
self-righteous vegetarian (not all are, of course) to conscious omnivore.
Maybe vegetarianism is a more highly evolved way to live, or maybe it's
based on a misunderstanding of the role of death and its mysteries. As I
wrote before, I have a hard time seeing how nature could rely so heavily on
the predator/prey relationship if it is evil.

My own personal neurosis here, and why I think intolerance persists, is that
I often feel as if I'm being regarded as a murderer by non-meat eaters,
while I can't eliminate my own feelings that they are misguided idealists.
With that dynamic as an unspoken undercurrent, there are bound to be
tensions. So I admire Graham's efforts to bring these feelings out into the
open and search for, if not common ground, a way to find room for both.


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