I'm serving the last week of my notice period at a big, busy company, which means I'm having a ball treating office as a free cyber café with cool benefits such as air conditioning, subsidised food and chatty friends.
Yesterday, I finally completed a week-long binge on best Sheldon Cooper jokes across Google, YouTube and Quora. Needing a new topic to rot my mind with, I logged on to Twitter, the easiest way to participate in the outrage of the moment. And expectedly, I found my meat (accidental pun) - the Yulin dog meat festival in China.
As a person struggling to choose between the pleasures of KFC's crispy chicken and the joys of a clean conscience, I was instantly hooked. This was a chance to use office time and Wifi to develop a clear stand on the one question I've been evading since I gobbled my first half-fry at the age of 12-- to eat meat (and what kinds of meat), or not to eat?
Here's how my thoughts unfolded.
Who are these devils killing such cuddly creatures? Down with Yulin!
Posts and petitions labelling the Chinese barbaric for killing, beating, boiling dogs to death filled the internet. No two ways about this one, I thought, fighting back tears at the pictures of these innocent, cute little animals (that I'm otherwise petrified of) turned mercilessly into meat.
"Whether you view doggies as your best friend or favourite meat is purely the product of your cultural influences and personal choices."
Ban the festival, they demanded, ban dog meat!
Hey, hold on.
Do we have a problem with the way dogs are slaughtered, or the fact that dogs are slaughtered?
Because that's just discriminatory, I thought, slightly indignant at the unanimous bias towards good-lookers.
Many others felt the same way, and I read post upon post deriding Western hypocrisy for bad-mouthing China when it slaughters cows, pigs, goats, hens and hordes of other less loved animals in equally painful ways.
A dog is just another animal, they said. It's as simple as pet-ness lying in the eyes of the beholder. Whether you view doggies as your best friend or favourite meat is purely the product of your cultural influences and personal choices. And there's no reason why the people of Yulin should give a damn to the culture and choices of others.
But, cried the meat-eating dog lovers, there's a reason why most of the world looks at dogs as pets and not meat!
Don't you know they're more loyal, loving and intelligent than pigs and chicks?
The internet, as always, had more than one opinion on the subject.
Some people claimed that chicken are cannibalistic, boring, and dumb - therefore, best suited to become meat for our plates (one can only feel grateful being dumb doesn't justify your death if you're human).
Science, however, suggests otherwise. Turns out nobody ever ran a complex talent hunt to zero in on the best pets. The only reason why we've historically preferred dogs and cats for pets is because we're lazy and would rather have animals that can be kept in our houses with ease. That's all.
"Are we comfortable eating plants just because we can't see their pain and so it won't hurt our conscience?"
It became clear that 1) you can either oppose meat-eating entirely, or 2) you can be okay with anybody eating any animal they want, only you want them treated kindly until the big bang.
Right, I thought, tilting greedily towards 2), which promised to satisfy one's ethical as well as culinary desires.
And then this disturbingly scary question popped up.
If it's not okay to rape an animal for sex, why is it okay to kill an animal for food?
Because the former is too gross to even think of?
But that's just because we're so used to the latter!
Indeed, if we are okay with killing animals and giving them a lot of pain to satiate our hunger, how is it considered wrong to rape animals to fulfill our sexual appetite (bestiality)?
Oh my god.
I vowed to vegetarianism.
Feeling nauseated at the thought of all the animals whose objectification, rape and torture I had facilitated, I determined to never touch animal flesh again. And just when I was on the verge of climbing the moral high ground, I stumbled upon this post, suggesting that plants feel pain too.
So, I thought frantically, can plants also suffer like us?
Vegans, vegetarians and scientists combined to say that plants lack a nervous system and are not 'sentient' like animals and human beings. Which means, they exist in some sort of permanent nirvana and cannot feel pain like those of us with faces do.
But in jumped other scientists and imaginative people. They can't feel pain like we do, but what if they feel and show pain in ways other than we can understand or perceive?
Are we comfortable eating plants just because we can't see their pain and so it won't hurt our conscience? Aren't they even more deserving of our pity, considering how the poor things can't even move to save themselves?
OH MY GOD.
Can I even eat anything without it being a cooked dead body?
Having amassed nine hours worth of guilt, confusion and contradictory arguments, I completely freaked out. The picture of my mother trying to fry besan-covered soil into some sort of mud pakora made me clutch at my heart in fear and shut my laptop in haste.
"The picture of my mother trying to fry besan-covered soil into some sort of mud pakora made me clutch at my heart in fear..."
With that, my intellectual journey for the "right answers" came to an end. There are none, and all we can do is eat what we want and try to minimise the pain it suffers before it becomes food for us.
So I'm turning to vegetarianism with enthusiasm (although the thought of Paneer Zingers for life does make me a little sad and nostalgic), hoping that scientists don't turn up with more evidence and ruin pakoras, the smallest of life's joys, for me.
As for Yulin, I'm going with "Who are these devils killing such cuddly creatures? Down with Yulin!"