Bulliet’s stages of human-animal are very interesting and mostly correct. It seems obvious that societies change over time in regards to their relationships with their animals. I for one have only been on an actual farm once, and that was a grade school field trip. Other than that, my closest contact with domesticated animals is petting my cat or seeing some cows or horses while driving down 460. I probably have very different feelings concerning animals than someone who had grown up on a farm.
I do disagree with his idea that our postdomestic separation from animals explains our fascination with graphic violence. Humans enjoyed graphic violence before people moved off farms. Ancient Romans made a spectacle of brutal violence in the Coliseum. Public executions are common throughout history and make a display of violence. Bulliet mentions these as part of being desensitized from violence, but I fail to see how they are meaningfully different from a violent film or other modern depiction of violence. People went to see these things because people like to see violence. I think it has less to do with how we interact with animals and is just a basic part of being human. I don’t mean to imply that we all enjoy seeing violence all the time, just that, at some level, some part of us enjoys seeing violence.
Bulliet’s description of vegetarianism is somewhat shallow. He characterizes elective vegetarianism being based on a feeling of guilt, which is a totally reductive claim. Elective vegetarianism is based on a wide variety of moral and health reasons. Bulliet’s claim that people become vegetarians just because they feel guilty about the way animals are treated simplifies the matter unfairly. Guilt can play in to the decision to become a vegetarian, but it is more than a simple knee jerk reaction to being guilty about animals being treated poorly. Being a vegetarian myself, I can say my choice was driven by more than just guilt.
How do non vegetarians feel about Bulliet’s claims? I’m interested in how someone who isn’t a vegetarian felt about it because I feel like I might be biased. So, how does everyone else feel about guilt and vegetarianism?