Los Angeles Times:
We Americans like to think of ourselves as animal lovers. But is this claim true? One way to answer this question is to follow the money. According to government, industry and interest group stats, we spend about $50 billion on our pets annually and donate another $6 billion to animal-related and environmental charities. This sounds like a lot until you compare it to the amount we collectively devote to killing members of other species: $72 billion on hunting and fishing, $60 billion on animal research and $240 billion on meat, poultry and seafood. In short, Americans fork out nearly seven times more toward harming animals than toward protecting them.
Our cultural schizophrenia over the treatment of other species is also reflected in our behavior. In 2010, PETA named Bill Clinton Man of the Year because he had forsworn the consumption of animal products and become a vegan — no meat, no dairy, no honey. Yet on CNN last year, while extolling the benefits of his new vegetable-only lifestyle, the former president casually added, “Now I try to eat salmon once a week.”
Clinton’s convoluted culinary taxonomy shouldn’t be surprising. Studies show that most “vegetarians” eat flesh. For example, in a national telephone survey, USDA researchers found that two-thirds of self-identified vegetarians admitted that they had eaten meat in the previous 24 hours.
Current thinking in psychology is that our moral judgments are the product of two mental processes. The first is intuition, a process that is unconscious, instantaneous and ruled by emotion. The second is rationality — it is logical, conscious and slow. Often heart and head disagree, and this conflict plays out in our attitudes toward other species. For example, pure reason tells me that it is wrong to eat animals simply because they taste good, yet my “gut feel” is that the sublime taste of slow-cooked Carolina barbecue makes the death of the pig I am about to eat worthwhile. Logic leads Dunayer to conclude that there is no difference in the moral worth of a dog and a human child. My moral intuition says she is wrong.
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