Community vs. The Butcher Chart: An Animal Liberationist's View of the Modern Disaster

By Jude Li-Berry


When we cease to regard one another as beings of value in our own right, and instead break each other down into components of utility, everybody loses.

When we cease to regard one another as beings of value in our own right, and instead break each other down into components of utility, everybody loses.

Ever since seeing a friend’s Facebook post and having a brief discussion about it, I have been wanting to come up with a definition of community. Unfortunately, such a concept is so alien to most of us who live in today’s highly industrialized world — so much so that as soon as I mentioned the word on the wall, before I even had a chance to suggest what I meant, somebody immediately called it romanticization — that I have been at a loss.

This morning, a thought came to me, and it says this:

A community is a society of people who consider each other mutual resource rather than mere liability.

Please note that by ‘people,' I mean all peoples of the Earth— that is, both human animals and nonhuman animals. Hence the fundamental problem with the modernist way of thinking: that they should project a butcher chart (one that imposes dotted lines on top of a cow’s beautiful, living body so as to suggest different “cuts” of so-called “beef”) over Nature, or rather, Others (whoever we consider “Not Us”).

Once, when I tried to briefly explain the animal liberationist’s point of view, someone was deeply appalled and distressed. She said, “But all the animals on earth! They will be WASTED if we don’t use them!” Therein lies the near-sighted, extremely capitalistic and consumerist perspective that has become the norm and the fundamental flaw, the Achilles Heel if you will, of our society today. Each time we see someone, anyone really, we go through this underlying thinking process that is automatic for most of us, and says: “HOW CAN I USE YOU?... Because if you are not used by me one way or the other, then you are WASTED to me!”

What is wrong with this kind of thinking? Doesn’t it fit rather well into the “mutual resources” part of my concept of community? First, resources are mutual; second, and more importantly, this perspective is unsustainable — once you murder members of your community, they can no longer be there for you as your support in the long run. A famous African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” I am afraid we have been going so FAST we have reached the pit of ultimate alienation, that is, the extinction of our species.

Case in point: a brief history of humankind as a human standing by water.

Human looks at a leaf, and forests are cut down and burned.

Human looks at a fish, and billions of animals, of the water, of the air, of land, either are subjected to indescribable physical and psychological torture in concentration camps before being murdered, or go extinct.

Human looks at the stream, and great rivers and oceans of the Earth are filled to the brim with toxic waste.

Human looks at another human, and racism, sexism, slavery, and wars ensue.

Because human wears goggles, and those goggles have preprinted Butcher Chart on them.

If we dare to be so bold, we should say: this is what is wrong with Carnism, this is what’s wrong with the human race today, and this is why liberationist thinking is so crucial to our society in this day and age. We need to be able to finally look at each other without the Butcher Chart. We need to realize we, whoever we define we as, are only members of a larger community. We humans are but a link in nature, and nature is a part of us. Each time we create the artificial dichotomy of Us vs. Them, and impose the Butcher Chart, we impose the Butcher Chart on ourselves. Again, invoking that thesis in agriculture, which basically states whatever happens on the production side is always mirrored on the consumption side, then we see every consumer already has a Butcher Chart printed on them. The systematic oppression that uses the cow uses us as it uses the cow. We are on the same chart together. This, I imagine, is what is meant by “live, and let live.” Where there is a Butcher Chart of any kind, there cannot be a genuine Community, for a Butcher Chart of some kind is never just a Butcher Chart of some kind. Historical social justice movements have taught us this much, and we need to remember it henceforth, as we try to live as a people of the earth. A Butcher Chart, in the final analysis, is the ultimate failure of empathy.