The world is really a weird place. There seems to be an inconsistency in the mindset of people that is nothing short but stunning. On the one hand, smoking is labelled as wreaking havoc on one’s health while eating meat is promoted as excellent iron source although the World Health Organisation ranks processed meat and smoking in the same cancer-causing category. On the other hand, things become even more contradictory watching people spending money for animal charity while holding a beef burger in the other hand. Unfortunately, this double moral standard is not even noticed by most of them. The following article is written to get to the bottom of this distorted mindset.
“The World Health Organisation ranks bacon, ham and sausages alongside smoking as a cause of cancer, placing processed meats in the same carcinogenic category as asbestos, alcohol and arsenic. The World Cancer Research Fund advises eating cured meats as little as possible – ideally not at all. And there’s persuasive evidence that, compared to a solely plant-based diet, eating meat shortens life and makes people sicker and fatter.
Against this background, the NHS allows fast food chains in its hospitals. Patientmenus offer a wide selection of meats every day. And creamed potatoes, beef casserole and sweet chilli pork and rice are recommended “healthier choices”. Patients can tuck into disease-promoting animal flesh, but do not enjoy unrestricted hedonism. Meat eaters who enjoy a relaxing cigarette after dinner are prevented from doing so, apparently in their own and others’ best interests, thanks to a blanket ban on smoking.
But how can the NHS sensibly ban cigarettes as a known health hazard while simultaneously promoting meat? To endorse one known danger while completely banning a similar one makes no sense. Either it’s OK to allow free choice or it’s OK to prevent “unhealthy behaviours”, but you can’t have it both ways. If you ban smoking you have to ban meat, which causes considerably more damage to animals, the environment and individuals than smoking. If you don’t ban meat, then you can’t ban smoking. Which is it to be? George Orwell coined the idea of doublethink in his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four to highlight the troubling phenomenon where we simultaneously accept mutually contradictory beliefs as true, blissfully unaware there’s any conflict.
In doublethink we fail to notice even the most stunning inconsistencies. Most people like to think of themselves as animal lovers – in the UK for example about half of all households keep pets – yet it’s estimated that only 2%–10% of the UK population is vegetarian (will eat dairy and eggs) and less than 1% is vegan (will not eat or use any animal matter). So it seems that at least 50 million British animal lovers are happy to eat them, which is surely more than a little weird. We’ve all seen people putting money in animal charity collection boxes with one hand, while eating a beef burger with the other. But even staring absurdity in the face, most of us don’t notice a problem. We only see it once we’re ready to. Until then we flick it away: “pets are different”, “pigs are meant to be eaten”, “we have to have our iron”, “all farmed animals are treated well”, “you can slaughter animals humanely”, and so on.
We are plagued by doublethink because we habitually separate the world into unrelated packets. Smoking is a health issue. Meat is normal. Alcohol is bad. Not allowing tobacco products to be displayed is health promotion. Allowing body parts of slaughtered animals on public view in supermarkets is wholesome. Illogical beliefs appear compatible if their true connections are disguised. Smoking is tightly wrapped in a packet labelled “Very bad for your health”, whereas eating meat is in a quite different packet called “a balanced diet” or “you need your protein”. So long as we see the world in disconnected chunks, we can avoid serious thought, and preserve the status quo. We need more opportunity to think deeply for ourselves. And where better to begin than in the NHS, which should offer balanced information about many life choices, not just those which it’s fashionable to ban.”