Veganism! It’s an adored topic, free from even an iota of ignorance. People far and wide love conversations concerning the ethical sacrifice of luxuries, scrutiny of societal normalization, and uncomfortable moral analysis. Hence, veganism, gun control, and not being a transphobic heap of human garbage are greeted with glowing open-mindedness.
I jest. People hate vegans. “Down with the new, stick with the old” reigns as humanity’s mantra. Opposition to the status quo is shunned. Veganism is rarely portrayed in a positive, or even neutral, light in entertainment. And when it does crop up, it’s to dish out generic jabs at vegans being preachy pretentious pussies (awesome alliteration alert!). So, when once in a bajillion years a show makes a case for veganism, it’s worth checking out.
The Promised Neverland is a 2019 anime based on a manga by Kaiu Shirai. Its premise is as follows:
Grace Field House is an orphanage chock-full of, unsurprisingly, orphans (37 to be exact). Protagonist Emma is 11 and loves life in her peacefully perfect home. Periodically, children are adopted, upon which they’re ushered to their new life.
Alas, this is but a front to a sinister truth. Grace Field House is a human farm, where children exist as food for a species higher in the food chain: demons. Taking our real-world role of farm animals, Emma and her friends are bred, raised, and murdered, all so a ‘better’ species can relish the crispy skin and juicy flesh of ‘meat’.
The parallels with animal farming are blatant. So, let’s dive into the moral questions posed by this divisive topic, and give ourselves some food for thought (pun intended).
Yas vegan, preach!
Irrespective of one’s tone when discussing veganism, it’ll inevitably be triggering because it challenges rigidly deep-rooted opinions. The pushback to veganism is understandable because upon accepting it, we must abandon eggs, ditch dairy, and sacrifice steak. That’s a nuisance, so we champion the battle cry of “Love animals, except when we must question our own behavior.” Sure, it’s a shit battle cry, but it’s easy to abide by. It’s convenient to condemn lab testing and trophy hunting because they don’t give us joy, but a bacon and cheese sandwich…
We all don the badge of ‘animal lover’ when discussing the indiscriminate beating of a dog, but what about when the victim’s pain benefits us?
The Promised Neverland poses questions regarding our relationship with animals. Is killing animals moral if:
- We’re a ‘better’ species?
- We find their meat tastier than a plant-based alternative?
- The life they’ve lived prior to slaughter has been peaceful?
If the answer is yes, then The Promised Neverland’s demons bear identical morality to us. Therefore, is our antagonistic perception of them not hypocritical? Albeit, humans (whom we naturally hold dearer) replace animals in The Promised Neverland, but are the moral principles not transferable? Demons, a ‘better’ species, are rightfully reigning supreme. Why should they abstain from eating humans if they don’t want to? What are you, vegan? Pussy! Eating humans is a convenient source of protein. Humans exist for a reason. It’s the circle of life. Our ancestors ate humans. Why do you think you’re better for not eating humans?
If livestock lives a good life, can its slaughter be justified? Does humane slaughter exist? We defend animal farming by saying “With high farming and slaughterhouse standards, our eating of animals is moral.” Assuming this was the case, are the demons’ diets in The Promised Neverland not defendable? Emma and her friends live in peace before they’re slaughtered in a predominantly painless manner (blood extraction into a vampiric plant). If this isn’t humane, then what is?
The dictionary definition of humane is ‘having or showing compassion or benevolence’. So, is it possible to implement compassion and benevolence into the act of slaughtering a human or animal that’s happy, healthy, and doesn’t want to die? If not, then is humane slaughter an oxymoron? Why would the meat industry coin a term like ‘humane slaughter’ anyway?
Kill the cow, pet the dog.
Demons’ morality regarding life and species is flimsily inconsistent too. In the very first episode, an exchange between two demons when discussing the potential source of a noise goes:
“If it was a stray cat, I would have caught it and ate it.”
“You eat things like cats?”
The notion of demons chomping down humans but raising eyebrows (assuming they have eyebrows) at the thought of cat consumption, mirrors us nonchalantly eating farm animals but questioning the notion of eating pets. For both demons and us, our perception and treatment of species are dictated by cultural and societal norms. Said norms affect parameters between humans too — like the acceptance of minority races and LGBTQ+ people. If cultural and societal norms justify our perception and treatment of animals, do they justify our perception and treatment of humans?
- If yes, can a country like Iran, which imposes the death penalty on homosexuality, be defended under the banner of “It’s their cultural and societal norm, as well as their historical identity”?
- If no, why is this drastic distinction between species made? Is it a product of logic, or bias?
Speciesism will always exist, and we will naturally prioritize some lives over others (like demons over humans, humans over dogs, and dogs over flies). But do we deserve complete control over the physical and biological autonomy of farm animals? Where do we draw the line regarding the freedom we have over other species?
“But bacon…” said the deep thinker.
Personal gain is something to consider too, as The Promised Neverland’s demons no doubt love the taste of humans. On this note of our pleasure overriding others’ suffering: is robbery moral if the stolen money pays for our dream car? Is sexual assault moral if the victim is attractive enough? Do our entitled demands of privilege matter more than the lives of others? If no, then how can demons defend eating humans, and similarly, how can we defend eating animals (when not as an act of self-preservation, but of taste luxury)?
The Promised Neverland’s manga later explores more animal themed topics, such as factory farms and hunting for ‘sport’ (killing for fun). With it being said there are infinitely more factory farms than premium farms like Grace Field House, it holds up a repulsive mirror to reality. The humans live, if one could even call it that, in hellish conditions. With no quality of existence, they’re painfully exploited, strapped to machines, and fattened for slaughter. If the bulk of America’s farms are factory farms like this, should we intervene?
The Promised Neverland is a rare instance where entertainment embraces the controversial topic of veganism and explores it through an addictively riveting story. To ignore its blatant themes of animal liberation is like watching The Great Dictator and disregarding its anti-fascist politics. It’s a disservice to the creator’s vision.
Nobody is at fault for eating animals, as when something is so prevalently normalized it’s natural to live in a bubble of disconnect. Similarly, a demon residing in a world where eating humans is accepted (and celebrated) isn’t at fault. But, when material as powerful as The Promised Neverland comes along, should we not ponder what is on our plates, and ask if we can defend how it got there?
Just as The Promised Neverland listens to humans, it’s time we listen to animals. Veganism is not about putting animals first, it’s about considering them in the conversation. Where do our hearts lie if not with victims?
Watch The Promised Neverland on Crunchyroll HERE!