Mixed martial arts and the violence of everyday eating
Category : Uncategorized
There’s been a lot of discussion in the local Vancouver media about whether or not to allow mixed martial arts events in Vancouver. The latest news was that the city council had voted to provisionally allow these events for a 2-year trial.
What’s interested me about this whole thing is the issue people have with the violence of mixed martial arts. Councillor Raymond Louie voted against it because of the “complete desensitization of violence to children” and Councillor Andrea Reimer voted against it due to “the issue of the inherent violence in mixed martial arts marketing.”
A lot of time has been spent worrying about the (consensual) violence of mixed martial arts and the dangers of exposing children to messages of violence. This makes sense, since children emulate adults – and approval of violence could mean a more violent society.
But what about the violence of our meals? Animal agriculture (conventional, organic, free-range, all of it) is dependent on violence. Killing is a violent act. Artificial insemination, branding, castration, stealing children away from mothers, not to mention slaughter – 99% of Canadians endorse these kinds of violence every time they sit down at the table to eat.
This violence which is largely hidden from view still permeates our world. It is reflected in the way we interact with the natural world. Slaughterhouse workers face increased risk of physical harm and abuse (see Eric Schlosser’s work). We wear violence in the form of leather, fur, wool, and silk. We sit on violence in waiting rooms and on living room couches. We eat violence in the form of eggs, cheese, and meat. We drink violence in the form of milk.
We are absorbed in this deep, systemic violence everyday, and only a handful of people denounce it. It seems to me that if we were really going to be concerned with what we are teaching our children about violence, then we should be working to make our everyday lives less dependent on (and endorsing of) violence.
The incongruity of the debate about the consensual violence of martial arts in Vancouver juxtaposed with the lack of debate about the slaughterhouse on Hastings and Commercial is a striking example. On the one hand MMA fighters enter the ring by their own choice, decide whether to compete, and are able to leave the fight at any time. The chickens at the slaughterhouse have zero choice at any time in their lives. They are confined for their entire lives, and are then torn apart by machines and people. They can’t tap out of the slaughter process. They don’t have a chance to quit their “career.” They can’t retire and spend more time with their family.
Until we end the violence on which so much of what we do is based, worrying about the violence of a game is mostly absurd. A violent culture breeds violence – we need to think about that every time we sit down to eat.