Many of us know that breaches of the regulations that govern the treatment of animals do occur. But consider something else, if you will. There is such a thing as ‘best practice’, of ‘animal husbandry’ done by the book.
Pristine parlours of gleaming and clinical steel do exist. There are places where the most decent of operatives violate pinioned mothers quietly, with clinical precision and without fuss. Without kickings and beatings, they’re just doing their jobs. There is no viciousness to their intent that she will be milked every day of her pregnancy; no malice in the schedule that will take her infant from her after birth. The act will be done calmly and without fuss, and her desolate grief will be accommodated with a pragmatic absence of emotion. The infant will be disposed of in the most decent economically advantageous way, brute force and technology in tandem with chilling efficiency, and milking will continue.
There exist stainless steel abattoirs, spotless and shining, hosed down hygienically; with operatives quiet and businesslike, doing what needs to be done. Quiet pulleys and chains, machines and conveyors, muffled clanking and quiet whirring alongside the knives and the saws, as blood gushes and spurts, drips and congeals, pools and sluggishly slides into drains and down channels, as innards are gathered and grouped to be ‘processed’, as a skin that was once soft and warm and not spattered with gore, is forcibly pulled without fuss from the still twitching corpse of its owner, an owner who just like anyone else, once relished the delightful shiver of a gentle touch, the sweet kiss of a breeze upon that now disembodied raw material for boots, or a handbag, a jacket, a sofa.
We pay the wages of those who operate these places, so by definition they are our agents. Oddly, we regard their roles with faint distaste as they carry out the demands we place upon them, they who are empowered and their actions legitimised by our demands as consumers, as we queue in corner shop, in restaurant, supermarket, department and drugstore.
After all, for these individuals who do not share our species and whom we have caused to exist, have confined for our purpose;
all we want is the milk they make for their infants, the eggs they lay in their vain attempts to be mothers;
all we want is ‘our’ ice cream and cheese, the bloodless packages of dismembered corpses that we cheerfully talk of as ‘protein’, these body parts of our earthling cousins that we think of as ‘ingredients’;
all we want is for our victims to die; but ‘nicely’, ‘kindly’ and without undue fuss, to just quietly, peacefully, willingly, be … dead.
Sentience – how it interrupts the fantasies
So is this clean calm what we imagine to be ‘humane’?
Is this the goal we consider ideal when we’re busy protesting and signing petitions, stridently demanding an end to ‘cruelty’, for regulation of ‘treatment’ and things to be done by the book?
Is this stainless steel tranquillity truly our utopian vision?
But consider something else. Let’s leave aside this world of our imagination where there are only humans, only machines, only the fulfilment of our wants and petulant demands. Why? Because it lacks something. It lacks the warm, vital and terrified victims that we all have sought at one time to ignore in our charade. Our childish fantasies take no account of the fact that – because they are sentient like us – this utopian vision is a completely nonsensical, impossible ideal.
No sentient individual wants to die, that’s part of what sentience is. I desperately want to live. I have fought and I shall fight with my last ounce of strength to stay alive. You want to live. You will fight with your last ounce of strength to stay alive. And our victims are no different from me or from you; no different at all and science accepts this. So let’s edit the scene, shall we? Let’s make it real. Do we dare?
Making it real
With reality comes the high pitched screaming; screaming so desperate as to be almost soundless with the sickening pain of their bleeding, their seared and scalded, electrified flesh, screams distorted by the gurgling of blood in hacked throats, screams of mind-numbing terror, screams wrenched from the panicking hearts of the dying as the grating torment of their agony weaves a cacophony in counterpoint to the dismembering saws and machines. In the gore from which we fastidiously turn our gaze, there are horrors that sear themselves upon vision and haunt sleepless nights. There is vileness to induce despair for our species, to make flesh crawl in the fight not to retch with remorse and revulsion.
There is the sound of despair, of liquid terror gushing and spurting down legs that are quaking too hard to stand. There is the clamour of frantic pleading, of whimpering, of sobbing, of hooves on metal walkways, feet kicking and scrabbling for purchase, struggling to go back, to get away, to hide, to be anywhere but in this place that smells of death and blood; this place that smells of hell.
Even if we succeed in ignoring the reality of the pitiful existences that we inflict upon them while they await this final outrage, this is the reality. This is the missing link. This is the bit that we try to ignore: that every use we make of our victims sets them on the path that ultimately leads to this place. We can pretend that it doesn’t, but that is delusion. When we are uttering salves to our conscience like ‘animals should be treated humanely’ and ‘I don’t believe in cruelty’, this is the bit we ignore. ‘One bad day’, we smile as we comfort ourselves that at least we’re conscientious – while we plan our next meal of ‘humanely’ labelled corpse, walking the supermarket mortuary aisles in our leather and wool, complacent and smug, pondering whether the recipe might be better if we perhaps add some cheese or some yogurt or milk. How do I know it’s like that? I was there. That was me.
Be honest, be vegan
Leaving behind this rose-tinted notion is not easy, we’d much rather not. It hurts. But if we are to leave the fantasies where they belong and be honest with ourselves, it’s the essential first step.
The issue is not HOW we use others.
The issue is THAT we use others.
It’s as simple as that. There IS no just and decent way to take everything another individual has in the world, for something that we have absolutely no need for.
Once we open our eyes to this truth, there is only one way that we can reject our part in the orgy of violence; only one way that we can refuse to cause and pay for this nightmare. And that way is to become vegan. Start today. Be vegan.