When it comes to the spectrum of treating animals like animals and treating them like people, I know both types, those who keep their dogs outside year round, treating them as a security system and those who cook daily meals for their furry kids using only organic meats and vegetables. I fall somewhere in the middle. While I believe that animals are sentient beings who feel pain and emotion, I don’t equate a human life with that of an animal, I still eat meat (even if only the humanely-raised kind) and I don’t let my dogs sleep in my bed (although I have lost the couch battle).
No matter where on the spectrum you fall on, I strongly believe that we all must raise our standards of how we treat our farm animals. While none of us are directly abusing the cows, the chickens or the pigs, when we eat meat from animals mistreated by the commercial farms we indirectly contribute to their suffering.
Raising our animal welfare standards becomes even more important if you agree with Dr. Marc Bekoff who says that “how we treat other animals has direct effects on how we feel about ourselves“.
Reading about the recent findings at a Tyson Foods pig breeding facility made me sick to my stomach. Which is the reason why I usually stay away from graphic, visual descriptions such as “workers kicking piglets like soccer balls, swinging sick piglets in circles, and ruthlessly beating mother pigs.” I don’t mean to be ignorant but it breaks my heart and so I try to focus on the positive.
In this case, I got far enough to read those details and as I was having a small angry crying episode, I kept asking the question “why“. I understand people taking the only available job at a slaughter house and having to deal with the standard abuses at commercial farms (minuscule cages, gestation crates, etc). I don’t agree with it, I think there are alternatives, but I get it. But why add to the cruelty? Even if you’re not an animal activist and don’t believe that pigs and chickens and cows have feelings and think of them as purely food, why proactively add to their pain?
An interesting perspective in an article from Bettendorf.com:
“As we depend on factory produced food, we become as much a product of the factory as have the animals on whom we feed. All of us, livestock and humans alike, are caught up in a system that is torturous to them and that dehumanizes us.”
I find the notion of our “dehumanization” very powerful. It seems that many, if not most, animal welfare, vegetarian and vegan movements naturally focus on the animals. What I find interesting is that very few focus on what it means for us humans. (more…)