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Ethics

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CRUELTY

 

22. Animals don’t feel pain.

Animals have similar physiology to that of humans as far as sensing pain is concerned. They have brains and nervous systems. They show the same desires to avoid being hurt as we do by learning to shun certain situations.

‘Many of their senses are far more acute than ours – visual acuity in certain birds, hearing in most wild animals, and touch in others; these animals depend more than we do today on the sharpest possible awareness of a hostile environment. Apart from the complexity of the cerebral cortex (which does not directly receive pain anyway) their nervous systems are almost identical to ours and reactions to pain remarkably similar.

People are appalled by cruelty to a dog. Why be concerned if animals can’t feel pain? Or is it that concern is just for cuddly animals who become loved companions? Would you care if your dogs were caged in stalls so tiny that they couldn’t turn? Pigs are just as sentient and that’s typical of how they spend their lives (photos 1,2). Those who don’t live with us don’t receive sympathy. Thus killing and eating of dogs attracts strong disapproval from countries where this isn’t part of the cuisine, but no incongruity is seen in killing of peaceful cattle for a particular taste in food.

Not only is there physical suffering but also emotional suffering, the ultimate of which, as we know, is the loss of a loved one. In the animal world, cows show their emotional pain by calling for their calves for days after the calves have been removed for slaughter or to facilitate milk production. Unfortunately consideration isn’t given to them.

Whilst most of us believe that animals suffer, the extent of suffering isn’t realised because it occurs out of sight. Few of us are confronted with animal factory cruelty.

 

23. Fish certainly don’t feel pain.

Observation of a caught fish suggests it isn’t happy with its new situation. Whether in pain or desperately trying to escape, it’s suffering to satisfy human sport or taste preferences.

Studies provide evidence that fish do feel pain. Scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Liverpool placed bee venom on fish’s lips. ‘The pattern of the electrical recordings was typical of those from pain receptors in humans, strongly suggesting that the lips of fish also contain pain receptors ... the neurons show[ing] a similar firing pattern to that in the human nervous system when transmitting a pain signal.

By recommending that in fish experiments ‘humane restraint, analgesia and anaesthetic should be adopted,’ experimenters agree that fish feel pain. ‘Fish use their tongues and lips like hands ... making sport fishing both debilitating and cruel ... Out of water the fish suffocates, rather like we drown when in water ... The peripheral nervous system of fish is very similar to that of humans. All have receptor cells near the skin. The lips and mouths of fish are particularly well supplied with such receptor cells. When a hook pierces the mouth, a fish feels both pain and fear, which is especially intense if the fish is “played” with on the line. Fish produce the same pain-blocking substances as humans.

The above is why fishing has been described as ‘a cruel and destructive way of wasting a day while taking a life.

Psychology professor Steven Siviy asks: ‘If you believe in evolution by natural selection, how can you believe feelings suddenly appeared, out of the blue, with human beings?

If you’re still not sure about pain, note that drift nets kill tens of thousands of dolphins, whales and albatrosses annually.

 

24. I’ve heard it’s been shown that vegetables feel pain, so vegetarians cause suffering too.

Do you believe that vegetables feel pain? If neither of us does, there isn’t much point in an animated discussion of it. But if you’re concerned about this possibility, what is the evidence?

A nervous system and a brain enable feeling of pain. These are possessed by humans and animals, not plants.

Probably the closest that scientists have been to findings of pain in plants is sound waves produced by ethylene gas, emitted by plants when they ‘suffer’ mildew, for example. Such waves have been detected by researchers at the Institute for Applied Physics at Germany’s Bonn University.

Let’s assume that plants (vegetables, fruit, nuts, etc.) do feel pain. How can we avoid that? Without plants we could only survive by eating animals, birds or fish, which doesn’t solve the pain problem, but magnifies it. What we can do is minimise pain. Observing reactions, and their severity, shows that animals suffer far more severely than plants and are more aware of suffering. The vast majority of grains raised today are used as cattle feed. Cows must consume more than 10 kilograms of vegetation to convert it into one kilogram of flesh. By eating plants directly, rather than eating animals, we save many more plants’ lives, freeing those plants from whatever pain they feel and, as a bonus, destroy less land.

Your concern highlights the incongruity of defending veganism. We have to counter simultaneously the claims that:

• It’s morally acceptable for animals to be killed and eaten because they don’t feel pain
• It’s morally unacceptable to eat carrots because they do feel pain.

 

25. Cruel treatment of cows, pigs and hens is all in the past. They wouldn’t allow it now.

Who are ‘they’? Your use of that vague term suggests that you’re not familiar with animal factories and the laws, or rather lack of laws, pertaining to them. Don’t believe what I’m saying or anyone else says. Do your own internet search for answers to whether ‘they’ allow ‘cruel treatment’ regarding your food sources:

• Are calves removed from their mothers soon after birth?
• Are sows confined for months in metal crates where they can barely move?
• Are battery cages still used to confine hens?
• Does ‘free range’ include severely-crowded sheds where most hens find it difficult or impossible to access outside?
• Are ‘free range’ as well as battery hens’ beaks cut off without anesthetic because of overcrowding?
• Are cows, pigs and chickens killed, the ultimate cruelty, at a small fraction of their natural lives?
• Do animal cruelty laws apply to companion animals such as cats and dogs but not to those raised to be eaten?

Many more questions could be offered, but we can keep it short and still determine whether ‘they wouldn’t allow it now’.Forgoing half an hour of your time to check answers to these questions is surely not much to ask compared with lifetimes of misery for millions of animals. While doing so, keep in mind image promotion. A large supplier to KFC said on its website in 2011 that its hens weren’t confined in cages and were free to roam in large sheds. It was investigated for false advertising as birds squeezed in barns certainly can’t ‘roam’.If you decline to check, should we deduce that torture of sentient beings is of no concern to you and that you’re content to be a contributor towards it?

 

26. You put horrifying pictures of animals in your magazine. I can’t look at pictures of animals suffering.

If it’s so awful for you just looking at pictures of what’s done to animals (photos 1-7), what must it be for them enduring it?

Animal welfare magazines use pictures of animal suffering because it’s the most graphic way of revealing its extent and nature. Fewer people will grasp from a verbal description what animals endure, inadequate as such descriptions must be concerning something you rightly refer to as ‘horrifying’.

Our magazines would be more appealling if they carried the traditional pretty pictures of smiling pigs and contented cows having a wonderful life out in the paddocks, but that fiction side of modern mass-production of meat and milk is well catered for already. Meat industries, though, appear none too keen to disseminate pictures of confinement crates where pigs spend months being unable to turn around, or of abattoirs.

Let’s come back to your statement, and ask: if you can’t look at pictures of what’s done to animals, how would you cope if it were done to you? How would you handle being locked permanently in a space little bigger than your body? How would you endure lifelong boredom of no means of activity or entertainment? Would you care if your offspring were removed from you, for execution, shortly after birth? If you’re one of those whose execution wasn’t perfect, would you mind being skinned or boiled alive? Or what if all the above were done to your companion dog or cat?

Then please don’t be a party to the torture and killing of other feeling, thinking, intelligent beings.

 

27. Minks are bred for that purpose.

Does breeding ‘for a purpose’ make that purpose acceptable? Especially when the purpose is unnecessary?

Minks are bred for fur coats, which require their death. ‘Fur farmers use the cheapest and cruelest killing methods available including suffocation, gassing and poisoning. Many animals are electrocuted by having rods inserted into their rectums and 240 volts sent through their bodies. The animals convulse, shake and often cry out before they have heart attacks and die. Crude killing methods aren’t always effective, and sometimes animals “wake up” while they are being skinned.’ We have plenty of synthetic fur substitutes to satisfy both warmth and fashion, so why wouldn’t we spare them that horror?

Billions of other animals are bred for food, experimentation or sport.

Being bred for a purpose and denied roaming in the wild don’t mean that animals lack a craving for freedom. Factory-bred animals and birds are usually confined in cages that give them very little room to move. They lead a miserable exist-ence. Given a choice, they’ll quickly forsake the known breeding area for unknown freedom where they can pursue their instinctive physical desires.

Was (and still in some areas, is) ‘breeding’ slaves ‘for that purpose’ acceptable to you? If not, why not?

Breeding for a purpose doesn’t release the victim from pain or us from moral obligation.

 

28. They’ve never known anything else.

Creatures imprisoned from birth have the instinctive behaviours of wanting to stretch, walk, run, roam, climb, fly or whatever is natural for their species. They want to avoid pain, frustration and boredom just the same as their non-captive relatives.

If we are in any doubt, we can perform our own easy experiments. Open the cage door for a bird that has never known freedom and see what happens. Try the equivalent for any other bird or animal that has spent a whole life in confinement. But we know the experiment results already.

Why would we expect any other outcome? If we’d been confined to a hospital bed or room for our first few years wouldn’t we want to leave it? Does never having been outside our state or country or inside a plane mean we have no desire to travel? Don’t those blind or deaf from birth wish for sight and hearing?

 

29. Anyway, humans are more intelligent than animals.

Is intelligence our guide as to hierarchy? Are cruelty, torture and murder less offensive when directed at the less intelligent?

Intelligent non-humans (eg dogs, pigs, monkeys, dolphins) rank higher than infants and developmentally-disabled adults. Research shows them to be significantly higher.

Arizona University’s Biological Science professor found that prairie dog alarm calls contain ‘descriptive information about the general size, colour and speed of the predator.’
Animals and birds excel and embarrass us in their fields of specialisation, such as tracking or navigating. Some bird species fly thousands of kilometres annually to the same place. Salmon swim thousands of kilometres only to return to their birthplace to die. Albatrosses circumnavigate the globe with-out instruments. Could you do that, or find your way home across the ocean as Blue Whales do? Could you find your partner at a cocktail party with a million guests where everyone was blindfolded, including you? Bats can. Dolphins have their own language which we can't decipher. Elephants com-municate subsonically, using rumbles that go long distances underground. They mourn their dead and cradle their bones.

A chimp trounced British memory champion Ben Pridmore.

Chaser, the world’s smartest dog in 2011, had a 2100-word vocabulary.

Whilst there have been national leaders who believed that their race could be improved by exterminating its lowest intelligence members, one would hope that we have moved beyond that philosophy. And we should acknowledge this absurdity: we are horrified at cruelty to dogs, yet not of far greater cruelty to pigs because the former have the attractive personality and the latter satisfy our taste preference. It’s nothing to do with intelligence.

 

30. ‘Animals have rights’ is a myth. Animals don’t have rights.

Nor did slaves. They were of a different race.

We have ditched that philosophy, because we acknowledge that those of a different race have the right to enjoy pleasure, avoid pain, choose to live how they wish providing they don’t harm others, maximise their potential, vote and so on.

Animals don’t have the ability to speak as we do or vote. But neither do human infants or severely mentally-disabled adults. Because such people can’t utilise their rights to free speech or voting, we don’t deny them their other rights. As philosopher Jeremy Bentham wrote more than 200 years ago, ‘The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

Our companion animals are individuals with their own personalities. They have sufficient interests and personality to merit rights, such as food, water, attention and protection from torture or being killed. We wouldn’t be happy if someone took delight in maiming and killing our dog and gained acquittal on the grounds that our dog had no rights. We have laws to prevent cruelty to animals. If animals have no rights, such laws are pointless.

We can have our interests and rights without denying non-human animals their interests and rights.

 

31. Don’t you realise that if animals or chooks weren’t happy, they wouldn’t give as much milk or eggs in return?

Do racehorses run faster when they are being patted or when whipped? Do experimental rats perform ‘better’ (i.e. do what the experimenter wants them to do) when they are happy or when given electric shocks? Are you more likely to hand over $1000 to a needy person when you’re asked politely or when the person places a gun to your head?

Performance isn’t always related to pleasure, but often to fear or force. The performance of factory-produced animals and chicken is certainly not related to pleasure (photos 1-5).

They haven’t known that state.* They produce for reasons such as being force-fed or having other unnatural conditions including continuous lighting or exercise restraint.

Factory animal and bird production establishments are interested in output, not contented cows or happy hens. The Australian Egg Corporation wanted the definition of ‘free-range’ to allow as many as 20,000 hens per hectare instead of the 1500 in the bill before the New South Wales parliament in 2011.

Profit for factory farms comes from the economies of mass production rather than individual contentment.

 

SLAUGHTER Back to top

 

32. Animals are only killed when their useful life is over. Better for them to be killed than to grow old and be in bad health.

The opposite is true. Most animals are killed well before their declining years.

Where do you believe your lamb and chicken come from? Consider those who are killed when their useful life has hardly started. Lambs providing 25 million servings to Australians weekly are slaughtered at around 12 months. Most of the beef from butcher shops or supermarkets is the bodies of yearlings.

Chickens fare worst. They’re killed at about two months (or even within a day or two of birth), a little short of ‘growing old’ at the nearly 20 years they could otherwise have. And how enjoyable is their shortened life? One of Australia’s top-selling newspapers was unimpressed. Its editorial, ‘Put an end to this appalling practice,’ said that ‘intensive farming of chicken is an indefensible practice. It exploits both the farmer and tens of thousands of birds bred purely for the financial benefit of processing companies ... 15,000 chickens are held in sheds on intensive farms (photo 4) for [six or seven weeks] of purgatory before being slaughtered.’ The editorial could have enlarged on the ‘purgatory’: crippling from forced growth, faeces-laden sheds causing dehydration and suffocation, survivors thrown in trucks for transport and, on arrival, throat cutting and dumping into scalding water even if conscious.

To avoid growing old and facing declining health, should humans be removed similarly, say at retiring age? Even then, we would live a massively higher percentage of our natural life spans than that which animals experience, and of which so many of us approve. If we don’t believe this proposal would be beneficial for us, why would we believe it is for animals?

 

33. Abattoirs kill humanely – the animals don’t suffer.

If you believe that, you won’t mind visiting an abattoir. See if any of the animals appear terrified when they sense what’s coming as they stand in the chute, trying to avoid slaughter.

Here’s a slaughterhouse worker’s account. ‘Cattle get their heads stuck under the gate guards, and the only way you can get it out is to cut their heads off while they’re alive ... I’ve seen cows hit with whips, chains, hoes, shovels, boards. Any-thing they can use to move them. Seen them laid wide open across their nose and stuff ... You take an electric winch, latch it on to one of her legs – it’s supposed to be a leg – and drag her all the way through the kill alley to the knocking box ... If you couldn’t get her leg, it would go around her neck, and by the time she gets up here she’s almost dead – it’s choking her. You’re in such a hurry, and people get so mad at you if you don’t get the job done on time, that your adrenaline’s flowing and you don’t care what you do.

Why are we so violent to those who are so gentle?
‘He struggles upside down as he swings out over the kill floor where men stand in gore with long knives slitting each steer’s throat and puncturing the jugular vein.
If you can’t get permission to watch this3, might it be because a visit will destroy the image of the happy cow or pig frolick-ing in the yard, keen to become our dinner?
We don’t want to know what goes on in abattoirs. It doesn’t help enjoyment of the next meal. So conditioned are we to animal killing being normal that suffering goes unrecognised.

 

34. The cow’s going to die sometime – might as well be now.

Are you saying that because she’s going to die sometime we are justified in eating her body now?

You’re going to die sometime. Am I therefore justified in taking your life, house and car now? You’re not going to have them forever. You have to lose them sometime. Might as well be now.

No, it’s your life and your property. You choose what you do with them until such time as your life ends naturally.

Since we don’t need the body of the cow, or any other creature, to survive and survive well, isn’t it reasonable to allow the cow also to enjoy her natural life instead of terminat-ing it at a fraction of what it might have been?

 

35. It’s already dead anyhow.

Yes, ‘it’, meaning the cow from whom your steak or hambur-ger has come, is dead. That cow’s dead because people didn’t consider the suffering of animals.

One of the most effective campaigns on behalf of animals was the series of newspaper advertisements asking ‘Mr Revlon’ how many animals he had blinded that day. People reading the large-print question and seeing the experimental rabbit didn’t continue using Revlon products on the basis that the rabbit was ‘already tested’. Rather, they got the message and stopped using Revlon products. Revlon got the message, too. Fearing further loss of sales, the company opted for alter-native testing methods.

You can’t help that cow. It’s too late. However, continuing to eat animal products increases the demand and consequent future suffering and death. Not only will your refraining from eating ‘already dead’ animals help reduce cruelty, but your example to and conversation with others will lead them to consider what they’re doing.

 

36. I didn’t kill it.

If you look at how association with a crime is regarded, you find that it’s normal for the law to apply partially or equally to an accomplice. You’re not in the clear if you benefitted. ‘I didn’t steal it’ won’t assist you if you planned the theft, employed the robber or pocketed the proceeds.

When we eat meat we are the equivalent of the accomplice. We planned the purchase of the meat, employed those involved in the killing (our purchase price helped pay the slaughterhouse workers’ salaries) and we ate the proceeds.

 

DAIRY Back to top

 

37. You say you don’t eat meat because it’s cruel. But that’s no argument for not drinking milk.

Is killing cruel? What happens to every dairy cow when she no longer produces sufficient milk? She goes to the slaughter-house.

But before she reaches it, our drinking of milk is contributing to her suffering and that of her calves. Soon after birth, usually within 24 hours, her calves are removed so that her milk, which was meant for them, can be taken for humans. Cows can be heard calling for days for their lost offspring, but it’s too late.

What happens to the calves in the mass milk production industry? These are some of their options, none of which is attractive:

• Be killed shortly after birth to become pet food.
• Become a milk machine, reared on milk substitutes instead of mum’s milk and have annual forced pregnancies in order to produce milk.
• In some countries, spend whole life (shortened to 14-16 weeks) confined without water in a stall where even turning around is impossible, being fed growth stimulators and antibiotics but having iron and fibre withheld (causing gnawing at the crate bars for iron) because of a preference for white over red veal, and be kept in the dark for more than 20 hours a day.

The life expectancy of a dairy cow is now around six years. What was it a century ago? Twenty years.

If we drink milk, we are involved in cruelty. We can do a favour for the cows and their calves, as well as ourselves, by using milk substitutes.

 

38. It’s cruel if you don’t milk cows.They have to be milked.

And who did nature ordain should milk them? Their calves. We interfere with nature by drinking the milk that the cow produces for offspring. To do this, we remove the offspring soon after birth. Excess female calves are killed; the males can also expect an early death unless veal is an option. If it is, they’re in isolated detention for four months, with hardly enough room to even move, before being killed for veal.

Denying cows their calves so that we can have their milk is far from meeting the demand. In order to fulfil this demand, they’re impregnated and fed growth hormones, resulting in an output of milk that dwarfs what they’d provide naturally and causes suffering such as from swollen udders (photo 6).

We are the only species to drink milk after infancy. We are also the only one to drink the milk of another species. Milk is good for the calves, or would be if we allowed them to have it. It’s not so good for us.

 

EGGS Back to top

 

39. Why aren’t you allowed to eat eggs?

I’m ‘allowed’ to eat eggs. I choose not to.

Most hens spend their lives in crammed cages to mass-produce eggs (photos 3,4). Picture a hen confined to a space smaller than an A4 sheet. She can’t even stretch her wings. For life! Imagine being unable to stretch your arms or legs for a day.

Yet she’s crushed in with up to five other hens. So now imagine your whole life locked in a shower cubicle jammed against five of your fellow-humans. The unbearably-cramped conditions cause hens to peck each other, so they’re ‘de-beaked’ (photo 5), an operation which causes severe, lasting pain. From standing on wire they become lame. More than half of caged hens suffer painful bone fractures.

‘TV coverage of de-beaked, de-feathered, sick, dying and dead hens, crammed into cages in filthy conditions, of eggs laid by living hens on the rotting corpses of their cage mates – scenes such as this have sickened viewers and convinced them they want no part of this cruel, polluting, unhealthy industry.

A Sydney newspaper found that some photos of factory chicken production that it obtained ‘were too horrific to publish’, but it editorialised that ‘suffering of any living creature is too big a price for cheap food at the checkout.

Remember, too, that nearly half of ‘free-range’ birds are crowded in sheds where they can barely move and all suffer premature death, killed when their useful laying life is over. The majority of free-range farms also slaughter male chicks when only a day old and practise debeaking.

 

40. Hens in what you emotionally call battery cages are much better looked after than they would be outside. They have permanent shelter, air-conditioning and safety from predators.

Let the hens choose. Line them up in front of a battery cage and an open yard and see which they head for.

Yes, the hens have permanent shelter. They also have perma-nent crowding so that they can’t stretch, permanent pain from deformed bodies or the operations that removed their beaks, permanent filth from the cages above them and permanent death (by beheading, crushing, mincing, drowning, gassing or suffocation) at one-fiftieth of their natural life.

In outside freedom they’re far safer from predators. Some will fall victim to predators, but in the battery cages and intensive barns all fall victim to the ultimate predators, humans. Life expectancy is minimised and life enjoyment nullified by these appalling conditions. The hens might get some of their own back, though, as the predator’s life expectancy is minimised by consuming an egg each day. Harvard Medical School researchers revealed in 2008 that this can increase risk of death by over 20 per cent. And men eating 2½ eggs each week have an 81 per cent greater risk of deadly prostate cancer compared with those on 1½ eggs.

 

WOOL Back to top

 

41. You’re being fanatical when you won’t even wear wool. That’s not eating or drinking any-thing.

I don’t wear wool for the same reason as I don’t eat meat or eggs or drink milk – I don’t wish to be a partner of cruelty.

Australia’s merino sheep are unsuited to the climate. When carrying a full load of wool they’re subject to heat exhaustion during the day; when shorn they’re subject to dying from cold at night, as a million of them do in Australia each year.

I don’t wear wool for the same reason as I don’t eat meat or eggs or drink milk – I don’t wish to be a partner of cruelty.

Mulesing, the industry’s most notorious and painful feature, is a skin-removal operation done swiftly without anaesthetic. It’s performed to avoid later misery for sheep from blowflies, but is an outcome of this breed’s unsuitability. Mulesing saves labour costs, but at a cost of weeks or months of suffering for the sheep. Some farmers spare the sheep that ordeal and also that of fly strike by regularly inspecting their sheep. If all farmers did likewise, wool products would cost more. We pay to relieve our dogs’ pain; why then wouldn’t we be prepared to do likewise for sheep? Unfortunately, as former inspector Ben Lund says, today it’s ‘avoid paying workers, mutilate the poor creatures and pretend there’s no other way.

More cruelty follows wool. Millions of Australian and New Zealand sheep, once they produce less wool, endure being packed on ships for a month, when about 20,000 die each year.

We can avoid being part of the suffering of sheep by select-ing from the many wool alternatives.

It remains true, though, that sheep are more fortunate than other animals used for human desires. They at least have some freedom that intensively-produced animals and birds lack.

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