A Challenge for Mr. ZuckerbergPosted by Carter Dillard, ALDF's Director of Litigation on June 1, 2011
By now many readers will have heard of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent announcement that he will only eat animals that he personally killed. He’s since boiled to death a lobster and cut a goat’s throat. Why? Zuckerberg is known for taking on personal challenges, and he believes people “should take responsibility and be thankful for what they eat rather than trying to ignore where it came from."
Zuckerberg deserves credit for getting at least halfway through a mental lesson most people never bother to start. A new personal challenge could be for him to take this thought process to its logical conclusion, and to then act.
Zuckerberg is right. People don’t want to know the truth about the suffering and death that goes into their meat. They don’t want to know because they foresee themselves – as animals hardwired to understand the feelings of other animals – empathizing with the lobster or goat, seeing that creature mirror back a shared ability to suffer, and valuing its life the way they do. It’s not a pleasant mental experience. But, as Mr. Zuckerberg points out, ignoring all of that seems unfair – like getting something for nothing.
But Mr. Zuckerberg falls a bit short by not taking the thought where it obviously wants to go: Suffering and death are not only so meaningful that we should be compelled to see them, but they are so because qualitatively, and inescapably, they are horrifying things. They are things all living animals, humans, goats, and lobsters alike, do almost everything to avoid. To appreciate their significance as Mr. Zuckerberg has opted to do is admirable. But to do so completely he will have to also share the horror those animals have, as he has, of the experience.
To ignore the qualities of suffering and death is as objectionable as ignoring their significance. Once he has truly empathized with animals, he will have all the reasons not to inflict suffering and death on them that he has to prevent the same from being inflicted on him. He will then only need to act on those reasons.
Yes, we should know the pain and death we cause when we eat meat – but that means truly feeling and absorbing the horror they entail. And, yes, if we have done that, because we would not want to experience these things, we will not inflict them on others. Mr. Zuckerberg’s next personal challenge could be to act on this insight and go vegan. Doing so would show animals not just the attention but also the compassion they, like us, yearn for.