OPINION: How We Allow Animals To Be Treated Says Alot About What Is Happening To Us…
I admit it. I’ve been a vegetarian most of my life. Not for health reasons. Although to be fair I do enjoy better health than most of my peers. But because I love animals and see no reason to inflict pain on them for my own survival. Or to slaughter them. I know not all would agree. And I can respect that, from a farming or nutritional point of view. I know many feel that we need to eat meat in order to survive, that it is our right, the way things are meant to be, and even perhaps that it is traditional. But I guess I’ve always felt it was so unnecessary when we can survive perfectly well without eating meat…
But I digress. My issue here is not whether we should or should not eat meat, but whether we have the right to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on any creature. Certainly all animal testing for cosmetic products was rightly banned in the UK and across Europe in 2013, but it did take many years of protest, some companies gave it up immediately and some were very resistant to doing so , and still continue to test in places like China etc.
Medical research is of course a contentious issue. We have gone so far down the path of testing for medical reasons on animals that it is hard to turn back, although some progress has been achieved here as well, but I appreciate it is more difficult and the pressures to achieve results for terrible diseases are urgent. There are many organisations now though who try to prevent or cure diseases by more natural methods and without testing on animals so we are making progress.
So, what we are left with to look at is unnecessary infliction of pain on animals that are used for food. Work has been done here too. A huge amount of hens are still kept in battery cages but we have the option to buy free range which means the birds are allowed outside to roam. The law on veal has changed too. Veal pens are banned and the calves must be able to move around inside the cages. Not great but at least we are moving in the right direction. The law in the EU is not as favourable to the calves though, so once again perhaps this is something we can address after Brexit.
One of the main cruelties is the production of Foie Gras, whereby geese and ducks have food forcibly fed down their necks to produce extra fatty livers for pate which is apparently classed as a delicacy! So cruelty is a delicacy?! However this is also now banned in the UK but unfortunately not in quite a few other countries and this is still imported here via China, that haven of animal kindness (not!).
There is more than one organisation espousing the idea of compassion in farming and this is something we need to continue to develop.
Nowadays we eat far more meat than we ever have and indeed perhaps far more food in general than we ever have and this is part of the problem – the pressure to produce more and more food and ever more exotic types of food including massive amounts of meat has perhaps forced or tempted the farming industry as a whole to use more factory type methods. Fish are animals too of course and there are concerns about cruelty in factory farming of them too by squeezing as many fish as possible into the tiniest space. The deeper you dig the more cruelty you will find.
I cannot speak about cruelty towards animals without also mentioning the ‘non stun’ method of slaughter used in the production of Halal and in some cases of Kosher meat. There is no point in us working to get rid of cruelty in animal farming if various groups are allowed to use this method of meat production. To kill an animal without first prestunning it to numb the pain is unthinkable to me. How can anyone bear to do it? Why would you want to inflict extra and unnecessary pain? The increase in non stun slaughter for halal meat has lowered animal welfare standards in our country hugely. Even vets are now speaking out about it. It was made illegal for a good reason – it is cruel! But to now allow it for religious or any other reasons is wrong. To add to this many main stream restaurants and food manufacturers are now making their meat and all kinds of other products halal so as to be able to attract the Muslim market. Whatever happened to just choosing the vegetarian option if the food or meat on offer was not to your liking or religious or cultural acceptability? This was the usual way of dealing with this issue amongst friends that I grew up with from different religious backgrounds to myself and it worked well. Since when did we agree that if we order a pizza for instance that the meat will be Halal – ie slaughtered without stunning first and therefore having inflicted unnecessary pain…! I do not know if this is cultural pressure or just pure greed of the side of the food manufacturers. (How do we know that cultural groups have even asked for the general food chain to be changed). Does everything have to be down to money? We are now at a point where nearly a QUARTER of all animal slaughter is non stun! And this will continue to rise.
(And now we find that the fur trade, recently stamped out in the UK, is back in fashion! But perhaps that is for a discussion all of its own..)
When I was growing up, I was deeply influenced in my concern for animals when reading about Leonardo da Vinci – a great architect, painter, Inventor, musician, anatomist, engineer and philosopher. A man way ahead of his time and still ahead of us to this day. He said “The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals in the same way as they now look upon the murder of men”. Surely our consideration should be not whether we should kill animals or not but ‘do they feel pain?’ and the answer is of course yes. We must eradicate cruelty in animal farming and slaughter and experimentation, but right now we are heading in the opposite direction for the usual reason – political correctness! It is suffocating our natural instincts to move towards a more compassionate and kind way of farming.
Animals are our friends, our pets, our companions, our work partners, as well as a source of food for us. We have a duty to look after them and to be as compassionate and considerate as we can towards these beautiful creatures who give us so much, including their lives.
Only once we face up to what is happening and do something about it can we become the compassionate and civilised people we were always meant to be.