I never fail to be amazed when I hear people—including well-known promoters of animal welfare—claim quite remarkably that animals do not have an interest in continued life; they just have an interest in not suffering. They do not care that we use them; they care only about how we use them.
As long as they have a reasonably painless life and a relatively painless death, they do not care if we consume them or products made from them. I have discussed this issue in a number of essays on this site (see, e.g., 1; 2; 3) and in my books and articles. It will be a central topic in my forthcoming book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, which I have co-authored with Professor Robert Garner and that will be published by Columbia University Press this fall.
On our video page, we have two videos from slaughterhouses. A significant number of visitors have viewed these videos and have written to us about them, particularly the video that does not show any slaughter. That video has obviously made an impact on many people and so I wanted to highlight it in a blog post.
The video shows two cows waiting in a chute to be led into the abattoir. An employee comes out and uses an electric prod to get the first cow to enter the abattoir. The second cow remains behind the door that has closed. She is clearly terrified. She knows that she is in trouble and this is not simply a matter of “instinct” (I do not even know what that means.) She is desperately looking for a way to get out of the chute. She may not have the same sorts of thoughts that beings who, like us, use symbolic communication, but it is clear that she has some equivalent sort of cognition. To say that she does not have a sense of having a life is beyond absurdity.
I find this video to be profoundly tragic on many levels. Watch it and then ask yourself whether animal organizations should be investing their time and your resources in trying to design “better” slaughterhouses or promoting “happy” meat, or whether we should all commit ourselves to veganism and to clear, unequivocal, nonviolent vegan education.
The video is apparently from a French slaughterhouse. But it does not really matter. All slaughterhouses are places of hell and unspeakable violence against the vulnerable. Never believe that such a place can ever be described as “humane” except by someone who is very deeply confused about fundamental issues of morality.
Someone who saw this video wrote to me and said the following:
I am a vegetarian but have found it difficult to transition to veganism. My two weaknesses: ice cream and good Cheshire cheese. I watched this video. I looked into her eyes and I answered the question that you asked on your video page: “Is there anything that you want to eat that badly?” The answer was clear to me in a way it never was before. I am now a vegan. I also recognised that all of the suffering and death that is going on is not because of what “they” are doing but because of what “we” demand. You are right to say that “the people who are ultimately responsible are not those who own and operate the slaughterhouses; those who consume meat and animal products, who create the demand, bear the ultimate moral responsibility.”
Go vegan. Educate others in creative, nonviolent ways about veganism.