Saturday, 19 April 2008

Why is killing considered positive?

Shooting humans is wrong, but shooting non-human animals is considered a noble sport by some. Shooting a dog through the head is a shocking act would probably get you in court, but shooting a cow or a pig through the head is humane and perfectly acceptable. Taking a mother's day-old baby away from her would be awful and unimaginably distressing, unless the mother is a cow. Dogs and cats have characters, experience enjoyment, fear, contentment, anger, communicate with each other and with humans, are individuals. But we can't acknowledge that chickens, rabbits, cows, sheep or pigs do the same, unless we have kept one as a pet and therefore are not in a position to deny it.

Killing animals and eating their bodies isn't instinctive. We are desensitized at a young age and taught that it is right and normal and acceptable. A three year old who realises that the meat on his plate might be the same thing as the cow in the field outside doesn't want to eat the cow, he doesn't want to cause pain to animals, even if he is too young to understand death and killing. But Mummy tells him "no, dear, it's beef", and all is well. By the time children are old enough to know for definite that meat is part of an animal's dead body, most are no longer sensitive to it. They have lost the immediate connection between living animals and meat, their brain has successfully acquired the disconnect which allows them, and adults, to look excitedly at photos of their friend's pet chickens and then enjoy eating their yummy chicken nuggets or roast chicken without another thought.

I've heard so many stories from people who have seen their young relatives question, become upset and refuse as best they can to eat animals, but Mummy and Daddy make them stop thinking, lie to them to tell them that the dead animal they're eating isn't a dead animal, give it another name, and those who aren't the parents have to keep their mouths shut because it's not their place to give a truthful answer to their nephew or niece's question. There was the story on the BBC a while ago about an infant school who visited a city farm, and as the lunchtime ham sandwiches were handed round someone made a remark about ham being made from pigs, and the children became upset and refused to eat the sandwiches. That is a normal, natural reaction. In general, children like animals, they don't want to hurt them. Inflicting hurt is wrong. Isn't it?

Killing. Inflicting violence. Inflicting suffering. Is it wrong?

I don't want to kill. I don't want to take away the day-old calf of a cow. I don't want to force cows and chickens to produce ten times the amount of milk or eggs that their bodies would if left free of our interference. I don't want to force chickens with a natural seven-year lifespan to grow to the size of an adult bird in the space of six weeks, while their bones and hearts cannot cope with the size of their bodies and they become unable to walk or die of heart failure. I don't want pigs and cows to spend most of their lives in a shed, stressed because they can't carry out their instinctive behaviour, get so bored that all they can do is chew the bars of their cages, feel unnerved by being too close to the dominant animals in the herd, become lame from standing on hard, wet flooring. I don't want free-range chickens to live in massive sheds, crammed in with thousands of others, losing space by the day as they all become fatter, never finding the openings to the outside space because they can't reach them, can't get past the aggressive birds blocking them, and would most likely get agoraphobic if they did manage to make it outside. I don't want cows to be pregnant and lactating at the same time for nine months every year. I don't want animals to be pushed beyond their physical limits so that they can 'give' us their products and then be killed when they are no longer profitable, living only a fifth or a seventh of their natural lifespan. And regardless of how they lived their lives, I don't want animals to be killed just so that I can eat.

If that makes me 'strange', I'd rather be strange than normal.