Yesterday I subjected myself to my (at least) weekly torment of observing footage taken from a slaughter house. It wasn't the usual harrowing and gruesome stuff. Instead it featured a couple of cows in a corridor, waiting to be killed. The soundtrack consisted of the background noises of screams (yes, really) piteous lowing, and pathetic cries made by those further down the execution line.
The footage showed the reactions of two hapless beasts as they became increasingly more distressed. They were utterly traumatised by the horrors they obviously knew were to come. As they shifted uneasily in the narrow passage from which there was no possible escape, the camera focused in on their faces. With each tormented, unseen and unheeded plea for mercy from their fellow bovines, their eyes widened in terror. Then as the brief picture show came to an end, the camera zoomed in to give a close up of one of the cow’s eyes. Tears were streaming down its face. In spite of the total lack of blood and gore, the effect upon me was devastating. I felt sick to the pit of my stomach. My heart felt like it was being tugged out of my chest. I felt tormented, powerless and angry. My own tear ducts worked in sympathy with those of the cows, and i was overcome with a sense of futility and grief for what inevitably befell them,
But it's just my normal viewing experience. So why, you may ask, do I chose to subject myself to this hideous routine of video observation? (And it really is at least once a week - sometimes more.) Why would any self-professed animal lover in their right mind repeatedly put themselves through something so deeply upsetting? Am I?:
In possession of a deep-seated desire to punish myself.
The equivalent of a self-flagellating monk.
A closet psychopath who takes pleasure in the pain and suffering of other beings.
None of the above.
(In case you’re struggling, because you don’t know me, or can’t really tell, the answer is 5.) There's quite a simple explanation really: I watch to remind myself of what happens to helpless, harmless, gentle creatures, because the vast majority of the population won't accept the rights of animals to their lives, or are so lacking in empathy for their plight that they are not prepared to say "No more". Not satisfied with the explanation? Still wondering why, when I am already an obviously committed animal rights supporter and (would-be) activist, is this necessary? Let me clarify that I don't have a ‘roll up’ memory that mercifully obliterates the ghastly images already seared into my memory. (In fact, I forget precious little of what I see that makes an impression upon me, and I can still vividly recall, and relate, scenes of animal slaughter footage I witnessed decades ago.) So, what is the point?
As far as my own life goes, there's not a great deal more that I may do to make it cruelty free. Sharon, Tristan and I, are all resolute vegans and totally immersed in the no-harm lifestyle. (Our daughter Jenny, to my great disappointment and despite my best efforts - remember my open letter? - still pursues her unfeeling and compassionless, if tacit, endorsement of animal murder. Her indifference allows her to use the pathetic excuses of taste and tradition, but mostly habit and convenience, to convince herself that carnism is not really a problem.) But I'm also human. Like everyone else of our kind, I am prone to weaknesses of failing resolution and lapse of purpose. We live in a world that embraces complacency as a means of controlling both the content and the pace of change; where it is easier to do nothing, than do something - about anything; where there is seldom any apparent repercussion or payback for doing what is harmful, unless it is a blatant abuse of a legal system; where that legal system favours the mighty and domineering and supports dogma and the commercial profit imperative, rather than focusing upon what is right. And we’re all so, so content to look away. So I watch these horror films, these ‘snuff movies’ that graphically demonstrate the nightmares wrought upon those beings that might allows us to treat as lesser than ourselves. It doesn't help me stay vegan (because that's an unimpeachable, lifelong, lifestyle pledge for me now. I don't need help with that!), but to fuel my drive, refresh my impetus, deepen my commitment and reinvigorate my determination to try to do something to right the hideous wrong of theriocide. I see it as something necessary to keep my mind focused on something that is of vital importance to the billions that are so egregiously and unnecessarily robbed of their lives each year. I think it’s vital because: So many of us claim to be animal lovers form a comfortable delineation between pets and food animals. So many of us who claim to be animal lovers don’t love them enough to stop eating them. So many of us who have eschewed red meat, don’t think that white meat counts. So many of us who have sworn off meat altogether think that fishes don’t care if their lives are stolen from them. So many vegetarians don’t care enough to banish the cruelty of dairy, eggs and other products from their lives. So many vegans don’t recognise the need to do more than just change themselves. This is only a beginning. So many of us simply turn away. I do it because I really do love animals. I care about the lives of the two pathetic creatures I watched writhing in unspoken torment last night. I do it because every time I watch such vile things, I know I need to do more to change this evil which we seem to find acceptable. We all need to do more. All animal lovers should expose themselves to watching animal cruelty videos. It might stop their complacency and give their empathy skills a good shakedown. It might spur them to action and help raise the slow trickle of support for animal rights into a raging, roaring tide of change. It’s what the animals need from us. Now.
If you're an animal lover, please ask yourself what you're doing to make a difference to all animals. I don't expect you to expose yourself to monstrous as things I do. But if you care enough, please share this blog. PS. If you’ve never heard the word ‘theriocide’ before, don’t bother to look it up. I made it up. We have a word for the mass destruction of people: Genocide. It comes from the Greek word ‘genos’ (race or people) and the Latin suffix ‘cide’ (act of killing). I have merely substituted a derivative of the Greek word ‘therion’ (beast) to create the new word. I find it quite extraordinary that no such word, to describe the mass murder of animals, exists. Feel free to use it.