Beans Don’t Scream by Jane Thurnell-Read
I was recently eating in the Bean Inn
in Carbis Bay, Cornwall and one of the staff was wearing a T shirt saying “Beans Don’t Scream”. This really made me smile, but afterwards I was thinking about the message and the implications of it.
Some people ask me why I’m a vegetarian, and I usually say something along the lines of “It’s perfectly possible to live a healthy life without eating meat, so why do it.” Some confirmed meat eaters respond by asking me how I know that plants don’t suffer pain. Of course, I don’t know this for certain, but it seems unlikely that they experience the same level of pain as animals. If research shows they do, then I would certainly be faced with some very difficult choices about what I eat.
But do animals feel pain? In the past some people have argued that animals are like machines and that the pain characteristics they
demonstrate are not accompanied by feelings that we would characterise as an experience of pain. You may have seen images of animals being devoured by snakes and the animal appears totally unconcerned. This sort of shocking image seems to indicate that the animal’s experience of pain (if it exists) is of a completely different order to our own.
Many of the animals that we eat are prey animals, ones that are vegetarians and are preyed on by other animals. Prey animals will often not show any outward signs of distress . This is an appropriate response for them, because predators look out for injured and distressed animals as easy targets. Whereas we would shout and thrash around, prey animals tend to be still and mute when they are in pain.
Even with species that are closer to our own, there are problems in assessing suffering. When the first chimp returned from space in 1961 it was grinning widely. Commentators took this to mean that the chimp had enjoyed the trip. It took a zoologist, Gilbert Manley, who had extensively studied chimpanzees’ facial gestures, to explain that a wide grin in chimpanzees is a sign of extreme fear. (McFarland D, 2008, Guilty Robots, Happy Dogs, OUP, p.2)
Eating less meat can help the climate. Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has urged people to reduce their meat consumption. In an interview with The Times, Lord Stern of Brentford said: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.” Lord Stern is a former chief economist of the World Bank and now I. G. Patel Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics.
Eating less meat is good for your health too. High meat consumption has been linked to a whole range of health problems including heart disease, many cancers, macular degeneration of the eyes. People often obsess about whether a vegetarian diet is good for your health. They worry about protein intake, iron intake etc. These are certainly issues that need to be addressed to ensure a healthy vegetarian diet, but there are also health issues if you eat meat. Eating less meat means you are likely to eat more fruit and vegetables. High intake of these have been linked to a whole host of health benefits.
Go vegetarian or at least eat more veggie meals for the sake of your health, for the sake of the animals who suffer silently and for the planet.Get a different health and happiness tip delivered to your inbox every day.