Is Eating an Act of Violence?

by: EJ on 10/22/2015
Posted in: Activism

Violence, what it is and how it occurs, is a central theme of Mark Boyle's new book, Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi.  His book intends to take you on a troubling journey from what you understand violence to be now, down a "wild, untrodden path that our dominant culture has hoped you would never tread."

In Chapter One, "The Pacifist's Guide to Violence", Mark attempts to answer "What is this mysterious thing we call violence?"  Starting at what he calls an unimaginative but important place, Mark refers to the Collins and Oxford dictionary definitions of violence which include:

“the exercise or an instance of physical force, usually effecting or intended to effect injuries, destruction, etc.” and “behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.”

Under this definition, if you view an animal or plant as a "someone" or a "something", eating is an act of violence.  Obviously, this seems ridiculous.  Eating is part of the transformation of energy from one form to another and is essential to all life. Mark argues that every species occupies a niche in the ecosystem which is essential to the flow of nutrients that allow life to flourish.

Instead, Mark offers this more encompassing and specific definition of violence:

Violence is the unjustified use of force in ways that are intentionally or culpably injurious to another entity, or insensitive to that entity’s own needs or The Whole of which it is one part. It encompasses actions that, through willful neglect, indirect conscious complicity, or the imposition of a set of conditions, contribute to the injury of another entity.

Mark gives the example of caging an animal for its entire life, only to slaughter it at the end. "Many stages of this process of factory farming are undoubtedly violent, even through a conventional lens. Yet few, if anyone, would currently consider their act of buying plasticated meat from the supermarket an act of violence. They are simply buying veal or chicken." 

Mark doesn't not expect his readers to accept his point of view.  His purpose in writing Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi is to encourage readers "... to question our narratives concerning what violence is, and just as importantly, what it isn't."

Your can read Chapter One from Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi in its entirety here.



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