A recent posting on a pro-vegan Facebook page showed pictures of ‘farmed animals’ (the exact ones shown above - I stole them!) eating, relaxing and generally being in repose in natural settings. The accompanying text simply said: “Living as they intended, having experiences without human exploitation.”
It was a pleasant, positive and inoffensive. Yet it prompted the following, somewhat defensive response, from one observer.
"Without human intervention not one of those species would exist. Furthermore without human stewardship none of them would continue to exist.
Cows, pigs, sheep, dogs, honey bees, and horses are the product of centuries of hybridization and selective breeding. Without humans none of them with the exception of some breeds of pigs, dogs and horses would survive the majority of the ecosystems they currently occupy.
I find factory farming more disgusting than you could imagine and what people do to animals is absolutely deplorable. I care deeply for my animals and love having them around but in order for me to have them they need to be profitable and I'll go as far as saying my animals only have 1 bad day in their lives."
I find this a flawed, ill-considered and really, rather silly response, on so many levels. Allow me to dissect it:
As yet, humankind is not responsible for the creation of any species. The first DNA genome to be sequenced was in 1977, and in the 40+ years since (at least as far as has been shared with the general public), we have not gained enough technical capability to do any more with the knowledge than meddle with what nature creates. So whilst the author of the comments may perceive humanity as being somewhat godlike, to claim that “Without human intervention not one of those species would exist” is utter nonsense.
Isn’t it common knowledge that all animals have their origins in a wild or natural state, without intervention by us? They have indeed been “the product of centuries of hybridization and selective breeding”,often to their severe physical detriment. Yet he writes as if, through some great benevolence, we have done them a service. What is true is that our insatiable desire to change other living beings has arrived at the point where meddling with dog breeding for appearance sake, is recognised to have caused life threatening genetic disorders in at least a dozen popular breeds. Similar interference with (for instance) certain fowls, renders them ideal for consumption, but unable to even move as was intended. Where’s the favour there? Our 'domestication' of previously wild creatures has been solely for our benefit.
To claim that none of them would continue to exist is not only unfounded, but farcical. There is no evidence to support this belief (if only because livestock is considered too valuable to be left to its own devices). Granted, many animals are by no means in their natural ecosystems and would suffer hardship if abandoned by their human feeders. But does the writer not know that nature adapts? It finds a way. There are countless examples of creatures living in the harshest of habitats that have evolved to cope with what they face. Does he not know that pigs will revert happily to a wild foraging existence within a generation? Does he not know that horses are still naturally wild creatures that have to be ‘broken’; or that tens of thousands still live without any human interference in the US alone? Is he not aware that dogs can survive by catching their own food or scavenging? If animals like cows and sheep cannot adapt, it would only be because we have robbed them of their ability to do so, and put them in places where they shouldn’t be. And as for bees. Are there no other bees than those that live in hives? Oh please! If that’s the case, we’re all going to be in a lot of trouble very soon.
If his first two paragraphs demonstrate a curious degree of thoughtlessness, or even ignorance, the final paragraph reveals something else entirely. It’s great that the writer finds factory farming deplorable. It is. It’s vile. Clearly this individual is one of the ‘old school’ farmers, and if there is an acceptable face to farming, this is surely it. But the point of the posting that sparked his comments, is to highlight the fact that to those who have eschewed carnism because they value animal lives, there simply is no acceptable face to animal farming. So why leap in to contradict that and make unfounded claims? Could it be that at the crux of the matter is a self-serving delusion, which this individual obviously finds it necessary to perpetrate upon himself...
He claims to “care deeply for my animals and love having them around”, but it’s a funny sort of love that will allow us to slaughter something that we genuinely feel something for, with good conscience. This speaks of love in the same way that one might love going on a rollercoaster ride, or going outside for a picnic on a summer’s day. It’s an abstract, uninvolved kind of love, that doesn’t involve connecting emotionally with another sentient being. If we are truly engaged in loving and caring for a creature, how can we bear to bring about its end, unless it is an act of mercy?
Is herding your gentle and harmless cattle, in a state of blind fear and desperation, into a truck that reeks of despair, before sending them on a potentially long and highly traumatic journey, where they will arrive at a soulless building exuding the vibration and sounds of death, where they must wait agonisingly in line, terrified, amidst the screams of those they love and the inner sounds of their own dread, until uncaring (and maybe despicably cruel) individuals hoist them upside down, tearing their bones and sinews, before brutally stunning them and callously slit their throats, (and all this whilst they may still be partially conscious and aware of everything that is going on around them) a caring and loving thing to do?
Maybe this person does their own slaughtering, so the herding and the journey bit can be cut out, and the stunning and having your throat slit bit is done by a kind person who loves you.
Our commentator says: “I'll go as far as saying my animals only have 1 bad day in their lives.”
Well, from my perspective, if what is described above is the worst day of your life, that might just trump any joy that comes in the (for beef cattle) 18 months of life that you’ve been allowed, out of your potential 20-year lifespan. And the fact that you've been robbed of the remaining 92.5% of your life that was still to come? Who could complain about that?
This writer needs a dose of 'get real'. The most truthful and telling phrase in his exposition is:
“…in order for me to have them they need to be profitable”.
That is the justification for everything, isn’t it?
I get that farmers need to make a living. I get that not all farmers live in places where growing crops is an option. I get that there's a demand for meat. I get that while the demand exists, somebody's going to fill it. I get that this guy is one of these people. I get that he doesn't want to associate himself with the evils for factory farming methodologies. I get that he thinks he's taking the kinder option.
But here’s what he needs to get.
You don’t have to have these animals.
You can make a living another way.
You’ve chosen this.
You’ve chosen to keep animals to make a profit from their lives.
You’ve decided their lives are yours to do with as you please.
You believe that you have some God-given right to make money out of their suffering and death, even if it is only for that one “bad day”.
You’ve decided it’s O.K. for the suffering of other creatures to line your pockets.
When you write as if you’re doing them a big favour by keeping them alive and enabling them to survive as a result of your munificence, you are deluding yourself.
You are not helping them.
You are using them, plain and simple.
You look after them because it serves your interests to do so.
At the end of the day, their lives will put coins in your pocket.
When people put up postings suggesting that animals have a right to their lives, they're not wrong just because you make a living from those lives.
If you need vacuous justification to assuage your conscience, maybe somewhere inside you know it’s wrong.
Maybe one day, you’ll get to the point where the knowledge of what you send these poor animals to will bear so heavily upon your soul that you’ll give it up. I hope it’s soon. For their sake.