2012 is a prophesied time, a year some forward thinkers believe will be a great time of human transformation and a willful evolution of our consciousness. Nowhere could our species use a novel approach more than in our relationship with animals. As Marc Bekoff explains in this powerful article, all creatures–be that a grasshopper or elephant–have a unique relationship with the planet, and deserve our respect and stewardship.
Dead Cow Walking: The Case Against Born-Again Carnivorism by Marc Bekoff, The Atlantic
Pigs, chickens, and other animals raised for food are sentient beings with rich emotional lives. They feel everything from joy to grief.
“Eating Animals,” by Nicolette Hahn Niman, a livestock rancher, with help from deer hunter Tovar Cerulli and butcher Joshua Applestone, caught my eye because, at first, I thought this essay was authored by Jonathan Safran Foer, who wrote a best-selling book with the same title. While Niman and her friends do rightly argue against consuming factory-farmed animals — who live utterly horrible lives from the time that they’re born to the time that they’re transported to slaughterhouses and barbarically killed — these three born-again carnivores, all former vegetarians or vegans, now proudly eat animals and think that it’s just fine to do so. They gloss over the fact that even if the animals they eat are “humanely” raised and slaughtered, an arguable claim, they’re still taking a life. These animals are merely a means to an end: a tasty meal.
The defensive and apologetic tone of this essay also caught my eye, as did the conveniently utilitarian framework of the argument. The animals they eat were raised simply to become meals because Niman and others choose to eat meat. I like to say that whom we choose to eat is a moral question, and just because these three now choose to eat animals doesn’t mean that other people should make the same choice. Note that I wrote “whom” we eat, not “what.” Cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals raised for food are sentient beings who have rich emotional lives. They can feel everything from sheer joy to deep grief. They can also suffer enduring pain and misery, and they don’t deserve to have the good and happy lives provided by Niman and others ended early just so that their flesh can wind up on what really is a platter of death.
Cows, for example, are very intelligent. They worry over what they don’t understand and have been shown to experience “eureka” moments when they solve a puzzle, such as when they figure out how to open a particularly difficult gate. Cows communicate by staring, and it’s likely that we don’t fully understand their very subtle forms of communication. They also form close and enduring relationships with family members and friends and don’t like to have their families and social networks disrupted. Chickens are also emotional beings, and detailed scientific research has shown that they empathize with the pain of other chickens.
Raising happy animals just so that they can be killed is really an egregious double cross. The “raise them, love them, and then kill them” line of reasoning doesn’t have a meaningful ring of compassion. And this isn’t mercy killing (euthanasia) performed because these animals need to be put out of their pain. No, these healthy and happy animals are slaughtered, and if you dare to look into their eyes, you know that they’re suffering. If you wouldn’t treat a dog like this, then you shouldn’t treat a cow, a pig, or any other animal in this way.