Man Is The Animal (#HAWMC Day 2)

The devils of past religions have always, at least in part, had animal characteristics, evidence of man’s constant need to deny that he too is an animal, for to do so would serve a mighty blow to his impoverished ego. -Anton LaVey

Today’s quote comes from the founder of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey. LaVey was an eccentric character; he easily took the aesthetic value of Satanism to its extremes to grab headlines and get attention, while still preaching the anti-Christian, anti-theist nature of Satanism and its accompanying decadence. Whether Satanism (LaVeyan satanism, that is, not Luciferianism) is valid is not something I want to debate right now. While there may be merit to some of its principles, the quote above deftly sums up the resistance most people have to veganism: our long held belief that we must be above the animals, or else our precious ego might suffer, as LaVey alludes.

Why else is the devil a goat? Why are pigs and pork products considered “unclean” in Muslim and Jewish tradition? If the devil is in them, then it cannot be in “us.” But are we really that much different from the goat, the pig, or the animal with the “cloven hoof?” No, of course not. Sentience is the criteria for moral consideration – whether pain matters – not some arbitrary maxim on high from a divine entity. LaVey’s quote is inspiration to me because it cuts through the bullshit about our relationship to the world. We are just another species, another group of mammals trying to survive, and while we may have done a “decent” job by some standards, we’re wrecking the world for the rest of our fellow animals. Orangutans are being murdered for palm oil, bees are dying from crop pesticides, and the fish of the world continue to die off in massive numbers. Some will say, “so what?” but a healthy earth relies on a diversity of species – us included – and humans have a penchant for saying “me first” almost exclusively.

So remember, we are animals. We love, and want love, just like dogs and cats, pigs and chickens, cows and whales. If we’re going to pet one (see: dogs and cats), why it is okay to breed, abuse, and kill others (see: all farm animals ever)? I would argue it’s not, and to believe otherwise is speciesism. If that topic sounds interesting to you (as it did to me!) then keep an eye out for Speciesism The Movie which should debut later this year.

Note: This is Day 2 of WEGOHealth’s “Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge!” I’m 2/2! Today’s prompt was to pick a quote that inspires me and “free write” for fifteen minutes. Mine  turned into an hour…oh well! Here’s to staying on track! Photo via f. bearclaw.

  • Beet-Eating Heeb

    Congratulations on getting published in Veg News! The Beet-Eating Heeb salutes your veganism and your vegan advocacy.

    BEH would like to offer this observation: Another Veg News contributor, Nick Cooney, hit the proverbial nail on the head (pun intended) when he recommended that vegan advocates “Don’t be weird. In any way.”

    Citing Satanists or railing against “speciesism” is a sure-fire way to relegate our movement to the thin, outer margins of society. 

    As readers of The Beet-Eating Heeb have learned, the Judeo-Christian Bible vividly and clearly expresses the vegan ideal. We need to connect to the meat-eating audience where they are. 

    BEH looks forward to your future blog posts.

    • Sam

      Hey there – while I agree that advocacy for veganism needs a variety of facets, I disagree that it can’t be “weird.” The weird, unusual, strange, or abnormal has often been what has shaped this country, or our civilization. That’s the idea behind “the nail that sticks up:” the outlier, the revolutionary, the feminist, etc. They are all a little bit different from what the standard is, but find a way to connect anyway.

      I agree that satanism is fringe – and I’m not a satanist – but LaVey’s quote is important. Why do we deny that we are an animal? Why do  we demonize animals in religion, the goat, the dragon, the sea beast? These are important questions that I think should be reflected upon regardless of their source, whether a crazy satanist or a bible-thumper. Veganism often comes from thinking critically about our relation to food, ethics, and the environmental; why shouldn’t do we the same with philosophy or religion?

      As for speciesism, I also disagree. The close proximity of speciesism to racism is one that more people need to realize – and will realize soon. We simply can’t treat species differently because they aren’t homo sapiens, and that’s a moral imperative, not a term reserved for scholars and philosophy books.

      Would I drop all this to someone on the street after handing them a Compassionate Eating guide? No. But as the conversation unfolds, we have to stand our ground to promote veganism, and in our society right now, that may be a little “weird.” I’m okay with that.

      • The Beet-Eating Heeb

        This is the kind of mutually respectful dialogue that our country needs more of.

        As for speciesism, The Beet-Eating Heeb would observe that we live in a complex world, where both this and that can be true simultaneously. Human beings are both special and unique among living entities, but yet share much in common with animals.

        The Beet-Eating Heeb’s vegan advocacy, for what it’s worth, emanates from the starting point that human beings — as beings endowed with incredible intelligence and divine souls by our Creator — have an absolute responsibility to extend compassion and mercy to animals. The fact that we exploit our God-given powers to impose suffering and death on animals is a horrible sin.

    • Sam

      As a side note, I appreciate your thoughtful comment on this post. Thank you!