As I write this, a friend has posted horrendous pictures on Facebook from a farmer she knows. The gruesome and highly distressing scenes show the devastation caused by two dogs that have managed to kill 120 of the farmer’s sheep. They are left maimed and torn, but obviously not eaten. This was obviously ‘fun’ for the dogs.
The photos are sickening and would probably shock/anger anyone who viewed them. Their anger would undoubtedly be for the farmer, at the dogs and those who are their owners. They might feel pity for the sheep, so needlessly put to death. Seeing the photos, few would feel any regret if the perpetrating dogs were shot, and this might indeed be the best end for them. For reasons explained in a previous blog regarding our need to experience the taking of life, whilst I do not condone the actions of the dogs. I do understand them, and I can even empathise with them. They have to experience this too. But I am as abhorred by them as the next person. However, I do see the irony in the outrage provoked on Facebook.
A certain number of people will be horrified that the farmer is losing his livelihood as a result of the dogs. After all, these sheep represent his income. They doubtless had a considerable market value at the slaughter house.
Then there will be those who feel pity for the sheep themselves, so cruelly chased and tormented before having their throats ripped out.
I can relate to either perspective. There is another viewpoint however. For those who sympathise with the monetary disadvantage the farmer will suffer, consider that the poor sheep that lost their lives are being viewed as a mere commodity. Sure, the farmer will lose money, but why would we assume that we have rights over the lives of other animals to begin with? Weren't they more than dollars? Didn't they have a right to their lives? How is it that they became mere 'property'. And I wonder if those who sympathise with the sheep and their awful fate, have considered how terrifying an end they would otherwise have met at the abattoir, stunned, strung up and having their throats slit whilst still partially (or often wholly) conscious? I can well imagine that the sheep fled in terror from the marauding canines, but at least they had a chance to escape. In the slaughter house, their end would come to them as if in slow motion, with no possible chance at respite. When we are presented with images of the likes I have described, we go into a mode of thinking that conveniently allows us to forget that even if they had not met this fate, the sheep would still not have been allowed to live out their lives free from fear. The difference is that humans would have been responsible for their demise, not canines. We quickly judge the dogs, but if we do something that is maybe even worse, it’s O.K. We do not condemn ourselves. Sure, we wouldn't be killing them for fun as the dogs did, but then it's not really necessary that they die at all, is it? We all know that the sheep, like all of us, just wanted to stay alive. They wanted to live out their lives in peace, and it is only our assumed proprietorial belief system that allows us to accept that we have the right to dominion over their lives. WE DON'T. It could be that the dogs actually did them a favour.
PS. If you're thinking that maybe these were sheep kept for wool, don't deceive yourself. Do you imagine they get to live full lives and expire naturally?