Mixed martial arts and the violence of everyday eating

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Mixed martial arts and the violence of everyday eating

Photo by flickr user toddsmithdesign

Photo by flickr user toddsmithdesign

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.

photo by Farm Sanctuary

photo by Farm Sanctuary

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.


3 Comments

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December 19, 2009 at 11:13 am

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Joanne

December 19, 2009 at 8:57 pm

I agree. There’s a clear link between violence to animals and violence towards people. How confusing it must be for kids when their parents say to them, it’s okay to murder and eat a cow but not okay to kill a human. And why? Because it’s legal, everyone does it, they don’t look like us, and we are superior. Wait a minute… there’s nothing about violence in all those reasons, so that must mean violence is really okay as long as it is practiced on victims from marginalized communities. People are essentially teaching their kids that violence, discrimination & oppression are perfectly fine as long as no one cares about the victims. And we wonder why there’s so much violent crime in our society?

Glenn

December 19, 2009 at 9:41 pm

“People are essentially teaching their kids that violence, discrimination & oppression are perfectly fine as long as no one cares about the victims.”

Thanks for pointing out this aspect of the issue, Joanne. I’d missed the detail about no one caring about the victims.

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