First posted on The Lady Shed 6/3/15
Further to Sophia’s article on Halal meat and Maddie’s article on humanity, I wondered what we understand when we say humane or what we mean when we speak of humanity. Conversely, how do we define barbaric?
Words like humane or barbaric awake strong gut feelings, they depict images buried in our mind; these feelings and images (or the reality for people who have suffered barbaric events) drive humans’ actions or reactions. Take the words immigrant and expat, they describe one person from different angles, they mean different things to different people. Do all expats see themselves as immigrants? Says this incomer.
Barbarique is an Old French word derived from Greek barbarikos, meaning foreign. The first definition of barbaric in the Oxford Dictionaries is ‘Savagely cruel’. So what does savage mean? Fierce, violent, uncontrolled; cruel and vicious; aggressively hostile. Or in historical context, primitive and uncivilised.
The second definition of barbaric is primitive, unsophisticated or uncivilised, uncultured.
With an undisputed meaning of uncivilised, we need to understand what civilisation means. The Oxford Dictionaries website gives this definition:
The stage of human social development and organization which is considered most advanced:
the Victorians equated the railways with progress and civilization
I thought the Oxford dictionary was British, but considering the spelling, it looks rather American. Are British and American civilisations the same? Are the UK and the US the most advanced civilisations? What do you think Amerindians looking back at a way of life forever destroyed feel about ‘advanced’, or the woodland tribes of the 21st century that see their forests destroyed for our palm oil consumption, or the African families whose countries export cocoa yet who no longer have any land to grow food for their own families.
If ‘most advanced’ there is, behind or lower there will be. We may no longer want to live in the middle of a forest with none of the comfort we are used to, does it mean our ways of treating humans in certain areas of the planet is more civilised than other civilisations?
In our number centric world where we have to measure everything, how on earth do we measure human social development to decide what is most advanced? By whose values? Or for that matter what is an advanced organisation. One so complicated normal citizens can no longer understand it?
Citizens all over the world think that ‘others’ are barbaric, therefore ‘we’ are civilised. Kind, or gentle are the other antonyms for barbaric in thesaurus.com. Families whose children are killed by rich countries’ drones are unlikely to see the westerners that gave the go ahead as gentle or kind; or for that matter civilised.
We think it is barbaric to kill an animal by cutting its throat.
How do we measure humane?
How do we measure pain?
We do not see the reality of our abattoirs. They do the job we, the meat eaters, do not want to deal with.
Is it more barbaric to kill a chicken by stopping the blood flow to the brain in one precise cut, by a human hand, or by hanging it by one leg, upside down on a conveyor belt next to its mates on either side, then lowering them all into a water bath, finally sticking electricity in that water. Sometimes, when the water gets dirty with feathers it takes longer to work. How long does it take between arriving at the abattoir and death? We don’t like to think about that do we? I’ve probably lost readers by now.
Whilst we are busy pointing the finger at Halal meat, using bad abattoirs as examples, our supermarket shelves have tons of chicken killed ‘the right way’ filled with antibiotics and poison. According to The Grocer, to solve the problem of campylobacter in our supermarket chickens, a poison found in 73% of fresh chickens, the FSA is looking at the immersion of chickens in lactic acid. Who knows, the UK may start doing what is allowed in the US, use chlorine. Old Europe won’t allow chlorine chicken but nobody knows what will happen after May 2015 in Britain.
Now, if killing there is to be done, why is a human hand killing an animal in a calm environment, one to one, (the correct way for Halal or Kosher) any less humane than machines killing millions of birds in a stressful environment? If humane means compassionate, where is the compassion for the chicken looking at death whilst hanging upside down; more importantly when considering suffering, where is our compassion for that animal during his life, living in boxes, fed antibiotics, ending its life with poison like campylobacter in its flesh?
Are we hand on heart talking about humane, or advanced civilisation when we consider our Sunday roast?
The idea of hand and knife to throat is unbearable. Quite rightly, as should any killing. It bring visions of knifes on human throats we may refuse to look at but cannot fail but imagine since the Middle East and its negative stories of violent men is the centre of the universe, if some British media (including one paid by our taxes for its main news) is anything to go by.
The two thoughts should not be mixed up though, as they distract us from an issue that faces meat eaters daily. Bad abattoirs distract us from looking at how we get our meat so cheap. Like we get distracted from looking at violence as a whole, rather than mainly from one religion. There are Americans and South Africans killing each other with guns every day, it may not be for allegedly religious reasons, but it happens; yet these equally inhumane actions and the roots of these actions do not fill our daily 10 o’clock BBC news.
As the sight of blood alerts us to danger — like when we cut ourselves whilst chopping vegetables means ‘potential danger of bleeding to death, so deal with it’; even when there is not necessarily instant pain — the use of words should equally alert us to a potential danger of unnecessary aggravation fuelled by division, that can only lead to further alienation, perpetuate continuous hate and feed never ending revenge. As it has forever. At home, and abroad.
He or she who thinks that any religion is above another, any civilisation more advanced than another forgets that all humans are born equal; no human is going to react kindly to being thought of or treated as a lower class citizen, or a believer of a less worthy religion. There is hope when we see religions standing hand in hand showing respect and protecting each other.
These positive news that bring us hope do not get reported enough in our main media. We need to go and look for them.
Humans will only understand the meaning of humanity when civilisations are no longer measured on a scale. We still have a long way to go, but more and more people realise this. Thank humankind. Or God, if you like, so long as God is an inspiration for good, not an excuse for revenge.