I was reading something just now that reminded me of a video a friend posted on Facebook, of a small child refusing to eat his squid (octopus?) after finding out it was an animal, and not wanting to eat animals. Of course, I didn’t respond to this as one of the vegetarian religion does – not being of that persuasion – as being Moral Wisdom From Children, who don’t actually possess Moral Wisdom, they just say things that adults have been socially conditioned to not say out loud. Sometimes that can be un-PC wisdom (as in the case of the naked emperor) but mostly it’s pretty much nonsense.
In any case, after thinking about it, if a modern-day (very young) urban child first made the connection between the meat on his plate having come from an animal that had been killed, and was NOT disturbed somewhat by this revelation (presuming the child understood “death” to some extent), I would be EXTREMELY concerned.
Why? Well, think of all the children’s books: filled with anthropomorphic animals that are People. Just as a child who abuses dolls is cause for deep concern, a child raised to think of animals as people from reading stories in which the animals ARE people certainly OUGHT to be deeply disturbed by eating meat! Now, I suppose in nomadic and agrarian societies, children come into contact with farm/meat animals from the beginning, so that the stories of talking animals who are people are contrasted with actual examples of real animals (and of course, stories with people and contact with real people) so that the child learns by experience that the talking animals who are people are mythical, and that only humans talk and are people, not cows and chickens and fish and such.
I’m just kind of glad I don’t have to explain the difference between imaginary People Animals and the reality of animals to a kid who’s been conditioned by children’s stories and no experience with real animals to regard animals as people. Somehow I think “all those stories we tell you? Those are lies” isn’t quite the right approach…. I mean, here’s a person totally dependent on you to learn how the world really works, and then you go and feed them a bunch of hooey with talking animals and such, now how is the kid supposed to trust anything you say after that?? Or maybe I’m overthinking it. I suppose “trust, but verify” and “others may not always tell you the truth” are good life lessons, too.
Hmm. Personally, I don’t actually remember any devastating childhood revelations to the effect of “I’m eating an ANIMAL?!” although I can remember a much-loved cardboard book featuring a chick as the main character. Probably because my dad likes to make jokes about eating animals. Pretty sure young-enough children can hold the “animals might be people” and “animals are food” concepts at once without suffering any undue mental stress – after all, primitive societies have a tendency towards cannibalism… and children DO have to be taught not to bite. 😉