Death on Display

Have you ever taken a second to stop and think about how weird our surroundings actually are?

You’re walking through the grocery store, simply shopping for whatever is on your list. Or maybe you have no list, and you’re spontaneously searching for foods that jump out at you. But has the meat section ever jumped out at you as being “weird” or did you not even give it a second thought?

Take a look.


Take  notice of how each piece of meat is so carefully placed by the workers, as if they could try and make it look any more appetizing or any less cruel. Now that you and I have navigated through this labyrinth of a course together, I’m sure we can both see through this ugly facade.

And I’m sure Deborah Bird Rose wouldn’t be fooled for a second.

According to Rose, even if a certain type of animal is new to an area, animals “are still part of a wider creation” and therefore, we should “respect the diversity of life” (Rose, 2008). Human or animal, no matter how big or how small, “we are all brothers and sisters of the world.”

Considering what I know now, this display is definitely considered weird, especially if humans and all animals are equal by existing together on this earth. So why is it that we, as a society, display the dead in such an inconsiderate way? Or display it at all for that matter? I think we can all agree that the display of human flesh would be completely unacceptable and disturbing, yet we seem so desensitized to seeing raw meat from an animal in our everyday lives. How inconsistent with the idea that human and animals are equal, right?

Deborah Bird Rose goes into more detail about the morality of animal life that I believe should be shared. “If all parts of the living world participate in the continuities of life, then it is reasonable to imagine that that which bubbles up in humans as empathy or compassion also bubbles up in other life forms in a manner consistent with their own species-being” (Rose, 2008).

As humans, we interact with others regularly, contributing to our established, complex social structure that even we can’t always fully comprehend; however, it seems we don’t take too much time to think that animals interact with one another like this as well. Most of us are able to feel empathy for others and animals as well, but only to an extent. We don’t, as a whole, fully rank animals as being on the same level of us. This does not mean we shouldn’t. “One does not need any special insight into donkey sociality to understand that the Judas collar is effective because donkey sociality exists” (Rose, 2008). We may not fully understand every non-human species we encounter, but we don’t need to in order to view and treat them as equal.

With what we all know at this point in our lives, we should be seeing all species as equal. This means that it shouldn’t be normal to display former life as no more than body parts. It’s weird. And the fact that I didn’t even notice how cruel and odd this is until now is quite frightening.

Rose explains that while the death of a donkey becomes a gift to new generations of donkeys as well as other animals through providing sustenance, let’s not forget that “Judas may be the last one to die, but whether she is killed or dies of old age, or a broken heart, there will be no future generations of donkeys to whom her death is a gift” (Rose, 2008).

The mass murder of species other than our own is most certainly not a gift. Animals don’t live to serve us. They don’t exist so they can be raised for slaughter and I, for one, think it’s ignorant and cruel for some people to make this a reality, assuming that they have no value other than for our consumption. Putting the slabs of meat in an aligned fashion in the store so we can choose which piece looks best doesn’t make it any less terrible, for anyone who thinks otherwise.

“[Jenny’s] capacity to be for others has been put at odds with her desire to be with others; in order to be for she must be apart. She embodies the bubbling spring of empathy” (Rose, 2008). I encourage you to read that quote one more time.

She embodies the bubbling spring of empathy, yet… we seem to have none. We force species like this to have to choose whether or not to be for their entire kind, which ends up being no choice at all in the end. And ultimately, we force them to be for us. Serving our purpose, but when given the choice, we choose to put their death on display. We choose to kill. We choose to consume. Given the choice, humanity proves hypocritical. This killing is not for others. It is for ourselves.

So answer this if you can. How can we expect a species to be for others when we can’t even dedicate a fraction of our existence to do the same? Or maybe, we could stop pretending that their death was a sacrifice for us when it wasn’t even their choice? Better yet, we could at least stop pretending that it’s not weird.


Rose, D. B. (2008). Judas Work: Four Modes of Sorrow. Environmental Philosophy. Environmental Philosophy.


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