UNDERNEATH the cool blue skies of this rich, poor and diverse world lies a dirty secret. Only it’s the kind of secret nobody wants to hear. The kind of secret pushed underground where corpses and rotten things belong. Under the subtle layered colours of diffuse light in the Northern Hemisphere or the vast horizon-stretching light of eternal days in the Southern Hemisphere, this secret is kept quiet – quiet…but only to greater – or – lesser degrees.
Where mankind is poor and unsubtle and living close to his animal neighbours the secret isn’t so hushed. Where man is civilised and praises the art and technique of its finest painters, musicians, poets, composers, architects, philosophers and religious practitioners – then this bestial secret is as silent as incest. My God what can it be this secret so bad? What war or inflicted famine can it refer? What hidden boil of racism as yet un-lanced? What defilement of the planet by Big Business; of International Capitalism? None? None of these? What then – some radical suicidal movement of politically or religiously induced thought? What is there so bad and yet so unsaid?
Beneath our veneer of civilisation…our table-talk civility and UNESCO trumpeting culture of The Family Sitting Round the Table…beneath the high-blown morality of the righteous off to church on a damp Sunday or to worship in the local Mosque or Synagogue there lurks the blood and sinew factory of churned-out death. Perpetual…simultaneously efficient and inefficient barbarity – a civilised humane slaughter on a scale that would make a Jewish survivor laugh.
It IS Big Business and it IS a product of International Capitalism – it is: animal slaughter on a scale unimaginable! ever ending stun-gunned and throat sliced…casual imperious kicks, violent indifference and meaningless banal torture…and within this – even – like the oubliette in a stinking dungeon are those slaughtered without stun – throats sliced and left to bleed-out consciousness – in the name of, God damn it – Religion! Overriding even the tiniest decency and nod to humane-ity the Religious Righteous of Islam and Judaism (with the deaf ears of so many Christians) need their animals to bleed to death – calling out to “their” God; listening to the prayer as their cries fall into the slaughterer’s twitching ears. God Almighty!
Day in day out, night in night out animals are slaughtered so we humans can fatten ourselves on their flesh and blood. Day in day out, night in night out cruelties are visited on animals as if they were the vermin, the lice of Satan himself. No end of creative thought applied to this cruelty – no end to the warped imagination of Man…and yet others after fattening themselves hunt fellow creatures for the pleasure; not the necessity but for fun. And others cut up and into the flesh of beasts for “knowledge”. Others wear animals’ hides and fur. And others stand by and bark their nonsense in defence of religious slaughter, or hunting with dogs, or lethal dose 50 or that it’s natural…
And my God but don’t speak out against any of this. Don’t mention this dirty secret – don’t even wipe the blade across your best suit. Call him/her, this person, that person a racist, a fascist, a capitalist, a paedophile a common murderer but don’t say one word about the bloody conveyor belt, the dangling chains, the gruesome slaughterers, the caged and penned in necessities, of The Factory. Keep that bloody secret tight to the lips.
Animals have fed and clothed us for thousands and thousands of years. Yet across the globe, within its continents; in icy lands and tropical lands; regardless of skin colour; of religious or political belief (with some notable exceptions) animals have been and are slaughtered for their meat; skinned for their fur or hide; kept as playthings and pets; used as hunt prey; used as live bait for hunting other creatures; farmed and (across all seas, in rivers and intensive fish-farms) fished – from ripping out elephants’ and rhinos’ tusks to casual kicking of abattoir animals (or sodomising with knives!), to “religious” slaughter, to breeding animals for their “looks” and incurring severe health problems; to skinning alive; to torturing before slaughter to “improve taste”; to pipes inserted into the livers of bears for their bile; to penning birds in cages as pets; to forcing animals to perform for our amusement; to force-feeding geese; to slaughtering dolphins as a rite of passage; to fighting bulls in arenas; to “kidnapping” chimpanzees; to de-beaking, de-tailing, de-clawing; to boiling lobsters; to chaining dogs; to vivisect!! Insulting animals by anthropomorphising them whilst at the same time visiting on them these untold cruelties – O look at the cute little pig “Babe” he’s talking just like us! And on and on these monstrosities happen across this globe without prejudice to the might and ability of Mankind to exploit and exploit and exploit! But…
Don’t say a word in polite company – not a word. Don’t be a bore. It’s a woman’s right to wear fur; it’s so passé to be anti! No, no, no I never THINK – why of course not – thinking might alter my behaviour, tut tut…It tastes so good…What would people think if I turned vegetarian?…Everything is fine just as it is and always has been…
Okay. Okay. What am I? What are you thinking? Some raving nutcase; some warped nut-burger? Some veggie spouting over-blown sentimental tosh-twaddle? God damn me a vegetarian (or worse were I a vegan! – which by the way doesn’t even exist on my spell-checker). It’s okay to love your cat and dog but it’s just a bit too left field, too eccentric, too ODD to care or show love for any other creature. Cats and dogs are different aren’t they? They’re kind of like us…
I generalise. There are folk who care. Lots of them! Folks who really care and get their hands “dirty” caring. So. This is what I’m saying:
If we are to eat meat – let us at the very least do so in the knowledge of where it comes from, how it is reared, how it is fed and how it is slaughtered. If we ARE civilised beings then let us do all this with humanity and true civility. (If we were TRULY civilised – would we eat meat at all?!) But the whole of animal “management” needs looking at. Just as the small, diverse farms have turned into bigger, narrower concerns, so too have the slaughterhouses (once close by to those older farms) – all been removed, shutdown and in their place Factory Slaughter-Houses (houses?!) created fitting of Factory Farming! Factory – a FACT!
There are climates where – were it not for modern day transport – we couldn’t BE vegetarian. Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to go veggie or vegan? – but by reducing consumption of meat and fish and by insisting on an improved manner of slaughter then things could improve for our fellow animals. As for wearing fur obtained by such procedures as anal electrocution and skinning alive – forget it! No justification whatsoever!
Further, how can – how CAN any religion not have a tolerant attitude towards animals? A religion and its practitioners should be the ones triumphing animal welfare and rights. They should be at the vanguard of Animal Rights! If we humans are the only ones with souls then surely, surely with reason and with spirituality those animals without souls only have their one life on this earth. This one often so short and violently ended life. Thus there should be no religious slaughter in its current barbaric methods. Yes, I know that recent CCTV footage stealthily filming x number of slaughterhouses didn’t film ONE pig slaughtered as it should have been – thus “legitimate” so-called “humane” slaughter is highly unpleasant too – but there are rules to be obeyed (as well as ignored and flouted it seems). Religious slaughter is the utmost in hypocrisy – it’s laughable, risible to be pitied were it not ABOVE the law of England and other lands. A religious practitioner should surely think – when I die, having followed God’s laws I will be rewarded with eternal life, pleasure or whichever…but my religion states that only humans have souls (Christianity, Islam, Judaism etc). How lucky we are! Now these other creatures – created by my God – they only have their life on earth – will die forever; not only should I pity them but also give them the best possible life! Dream on. No. Somehow these other creatures of God are simply for our benefit – our exploitation. I can’t imagine Jesus strangling a lamb or slicing the throat of a cow. It just doesn’t seem worthy – but then, as I’m often told ((basically) – what the heck do I know about the “mind” of God – or – it doesn’t say “be a vegetarian” in the bible (add alternative religious book at will).
A religion that can sanction the stoning of a woman (who may have been raped by a married man, thus, apparently, committing “adultery”) is perhaps unlikely to be as squeamish about the slicing of an animal’s throat. Or a religion that holds that women – in general – are inferior to men (not different but equal – INFERIOR) –will, perhaps, hold that animals are way, way inferior. How curious. Slavery was once legal too wasn’t it? – and often sanctioned by Christianity! There’s a kind of sadism at work here maybe. And sadists might well begin with cruelty to animals before moving on to humans. How we treat animals – especially as refined, “spiritual folk” should automatically alter and improve our treatment of fellow humans. It seems odd to be kind and sympathetic to humans yet indifferent and cold towards animals.
Of course we are all hypocrites. I’m a hypocrite! But I know it. I should be vegan and though I haven’t eaten meat or fish for over 35 years and have given up milk in tea and coffee and try and eat only goats’ milk I DO eat milk and cow’s cheese. I have begun to reduce my consumption and may well give it up entirely.
It IS hard for us humans to comprehend death (until it’s too late?) – hence our seemingly hard-wired ability to believe we will live forever (or some glib, O I know I’ll die – but not actually truly comprehending this eventuality). Thus – it’s hard to comprehend the never-ending mechanised slaughter of our fellow creatures. So how about this for an idea (it doesn’t have to last beyond a week though I have included an “ending”– maybe it’ll end much sooner and hit home effectively); if you have a cat or a dog (or can “borrow” one) put it in your front-room/lounge in an elevated cage with no flooring except the wire mesh. Make sure the cage is just big enough for the animal but small enough so that it can’t turn round, groom itself or do – well anything but breathe, eat, drink, urinate and defecate (it will have the “luxury” of smelling only its own waste). Set a little feeding trough and drink dispenser – it’s the least we can do – it has to grow fatter so we can fatten upon it.
Leave your pet in the lounge – next to the TV – TURN THE TV UP! – though I would presume after a day or two it will have given up crying (meowing/barking – but you never know). Watch it. Watch. Okay a little boring – just watching. Never touch it and just scoop some other animals meat into the trough at regulated intervals. Keep watching. It might amuse for a while its attempts at biting the wires of the cage – but, well, nothing happens…nothing really happens. You move away for a few hours – and, well, when you come back – there it is. It’s not going anywhere and it’s not doing anything. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. Nothing. Eating when food arrives; drinking when there’s water to be drunk. Hour in hour out, hour in hour out. Well it’s kind of hard to have that animal – sorry, YOUR animal, your PET in the room with you now isn’t it? Even if you borrowed someone ELSE’S pet – actually even harder, the guilt, THE ABSOLUTE GUILT. But, well, one day merges into another – maybe it gets harder feeding this animal; harder to look at it; harder to look at its eyes; INTO its eyes; harder to bear the smell and clean up. Harder to watch it – well, diminish – DIMINISH and grow fatter in its cage simultaneously. As if it isn’t your animal anymore – not really a personal thing any more – sort of…just a THING.
Well there is no longer any purpose to your once adored pet – it grows fat only to help you grow fat…its waste has to be collected and disposed of; it is no fun there in its cage and you can feel, sense its deep, deep misery. No running outside, stretching those limbs, chasing and living like a cat or dog should! There’s only one thing you can do – slaughter! Kill it. Get rid of it (or at this point halt the experiment and spend a long, long time winning back that pet’s confidence in you). The experiment must continue…
Now there may have been a time when you could have killed your pet right there at home – or taken it to the vet nearby to be “put to sleep”. You could have held it in your arms at least as you chose your method of death. But this is no longer a “pet” it’s a factory animal and due for factory slaughter. You can staple information to its ear, de-claw it and maybe de-fang it (just for everyone’s protection) and then it can be picked-up by a lorry full of other cats and dogs – no water, little light; cramped inside. A modern day cattle-truck for persecuted people only it’s a real cattle (animal) truck full of sentient creatures destined for the mouths and stomachs of people.
Wave your animal goodbye. Maybe a little concern as the lorry driver “helps” it into the acrid smelling trailer with a little sharp boot. And off. Off on a long journey to the factory slaughterhouse. If it’s “lucky” it’ll be a successful stun gun to the head and know nothing of its death – though it could smell death approaching. If it’s unlucky it may regain consciousness as its hind-legs are shacked to the conveyor belt. Then, for all its struggles it will feel the ice-steel of a knife bite across its throat. If it’s VERY unlucky it will go for RELIGIOUS slaughter.
Is the animal religious? Ummm no!
Is it an animal that follows the God of the Muslims or Jews? Ummm no!
So how can it be slaughtered religiously?
Is it one animal – a sacrifice – a REAL sacrifice for many, many animals – a token expression (as the animals aren’t Muslims or Jews)? One animal sacrifice as God allowed Abraham in place of his son? Ummm no! Many, many animals – those destined for religious homes and bellies (or sold stealthily through money-stained supermarkets) are killed in the name of HUMAN’S Gods!! It is human’s Gods (and they are mutually exclusive religions so even by THAT logic some of these animals have been killed for a non-God!). The Gods of humans demand the slaughter of animals as an act of sacrifice in HUMAN’S name. Ummm.
Would the slaughterer of these animals choose to be killed in this fashion? No sir! Stun first. Effective stun (if nothing more humane!) and then the throat slit. But these animals have no choice anyway.
The animals that go for religious slaughter can sense the fear and smell the blood as they wait in turn (though this is meant to be forbidden!). Your once beloved cat or dog will be upturned throat cut, gurgling on that warm blood in its throat; fighting to breathe; kicking its legs…hoisted up by its hind legs…what still not dead? Still struggling. Open the throat more so that it can drown in its blood or – as it wields its head (your pet!!) – lose consciousness slowly but surely. The last minutes for this animal are slow, packed with fear, packed with utter terror and pain – no where to run, to escape – held captive and dying.
And these slaughterers – what does this chain, unending gruelling chain of slicing animal throats do to THEIR soul?! With every gashing knife slash isn’t their soul diminished – its own spirit-essence draining away like the blood of their victims?
O God…O my God! Have pity on them all – and why would you make creatures so close to us so alien!! How like us they are (the vivisector’s argument) and yet – of course – unlike us! Eyes, ears, mouths, legs…feelings…
And so your pet is dead. And in this nightmare all pets would be slaughtered all the time. A factory. A business. What an alien world.
And you know, talking of things alien – what would another species make of this world and our treatment of animals if they visited? What would they make of the unending slaughter? It would take them time to find out our dirty secret – but can you imagine the confusion? Cuddly lambs and pigs in the toyshops for tiny children – carcasses and flesh on the dinner table! A whole lot of sentimental guff in the media and conversely – factory-farmed and slaughtered animals. And to find out a God (he/she/it), a deity, way, way above our intellectual scope has fashioned beings simply to satisfy our hunger! Almost as if allowing cannibalism. What would the aliens make of us? Maybe they would fatten upon and farm us?!
That’s what it’s all about in the end isn’t it? Hunger and taste. Hunger, warmth and fun and taste.
Hunger – well we need to eat; some have a choice and some haven’t. Some have the choice to be omnivorous, vegetarian or vegan. It’s easier to be omnivorous…and if you are and you’ve read this I would simply ask you to at least choose your meat carefully: buy organic; buy free-range; buy local; buy meat that hasn’t been factory-reared or halal/kosher slaughtered. But you must be responsible – and ALL slaughter is bad! It might be more expensive to eat free-range meat but eat a little bit less – eat good quality meat less often than cruelly slaughtered, cheap cuts every day. Just do that. Make a start! It WILL make a difference. Be aware. Be aware of what you’re popping into your mouth and digesting in your gut. Everything you think, feel, do is propelled by that meat and the vegetables, pulses, fruit and other such foods that you eat. You really ARE what you eat. Would you eat your dog or cat “slaughtered” in the experiment? No? Then why a pig, a lamb or a cow? Give it some thought…please.
Maybe you could have days when you eat “vegetarian”. Just call it an “alternative” diet – it’s just great food that doesn’t consist of meat or fish dishes. Don’t get hung-up on a word. Explore all the range of foods that are available to so many of us NOW! Eat those seasonal vegetables and fruit. There are so many combinations of vegetarian food – food that looks good, tastes good and IS good! Don’t be put off by lazy chefs in restaurants that can’t seem to grasp creating a meal that hasn’t had blood dripping from some part of it.
We vegetarians and vegans – don’t be too judgemental (it may well work against our ideals). I don’t know why everyone isn’t vegetarian (at least) but I’m married to a meat-eater – she’s cooked me the most amazing vegetarian meals for over twenty-years. Incredible stuff. But she’s hooked on meat – part of her (French) culture. It’s ingrained – but doesn’t have to last forever – culture’s CAN change! But she likes the taste! That’s it. She doesn’t buy meat that’s been factory-farmed or sacrificed to a religion. She cares where the meat comes from – but she’s never (it seems) going to be vegetarian. Meat eating seems hard-wired into human society and we vegetarians and vegans have to acknowledge that. We have to BE vegetarian and vegan and show society around us that it’s okay, it’s healthy – it’s better! But we’re not going to get anywhere by forcing folk. Direct action has its place and is the only answer sometimes – but if we are to convert people to non meat-eating we have to take a different and subtler tack.
I turned vegetarian after seeing a sticker on the back window of a car over 35 years ago (I’ve lost count if it’s 36 or 37!). I’ve stuck to it! I’ve moved towards veganism – I understand THEIR arguments. I’m doing my best. The movement is in the right direction. I’m trying to look at the world and how it might be – how it might treat animals; how we might survive…how we COULD go vegetarian in great numbers…but veganism would be too hard for some – held in contempt by those who were vegan through poverty (think rural China) but now glorify in the gory. Eating meat has been the historical privilege of the wealthy.
I can’t argue the case for vegans other than to say – that it makes logical sense to move from meat eating to vegetarianism to being vegan. But the logic is stretched by the actual ability to be vegan (in Northern climates) and having to depend on modern supplements – yet we DO live in a modern world and it is this modern world that is killing animals in such a “modern” way! That is treating cows so abysmally in dairy “production”! My son – who is beginning to think about being vegetarian – finds it odd/interesting that if I DID eat meat – I would enjoy the taste. Maybe. But my response is that nothing is truly worthwhile without an element of sacrifice. Not to martyr oneself with that sacrifice – but to accept and acknowledge it. Maybe I’d LOVE to eat meat and fish – well, it’s irrelevant because I’m never going to. And what I DO eat I find excellent in taste, health AND spirituality.
While I write – and I confess that this has been hard to write – like wrenching out bad stuff…nothing much will have changed. How many animals have been in fear; been tortured; been hunted; been slaughtered? But. Also – maybe just a sense that the tide is turning…yes, yes, I know and have heard of the Islamic economic movement to use FOOD (halal) as the way to conquer the world – but each of US no matter what religion or none can use our MINDS to say NO. Use our courage to say no. Use our influence to help others reject inhumanely slaughtered animals (as if there were a humane way!); use our skills and sensitivities to wake people up. PLEASE. I beg all of you who agree with most of what I’ve written to pass this article to someone who is “asleep”. We need religious folk to change their minds – we need Muslims and Jews to work at changing the attitudes and mores of their religion…We need Christians to begin to re-evaluate their relationship with our fellow animals – just as they re-evaluated their attitude to our fellow men who were once enslaved!
We are the converted and we don’t need any further conversion (but yes, we need to stay firm at times and feel nourished in our beliefs and maybe improve our diet and beliefs). We need to ask those religious folk to analyse WHY their books tell them to do this or that…why their prophet or guru (if TRULY a spiritual leader) wouldn’t swipe away the factory farms as Jesus swiped away the money-lenders tables and contents. Sweep them away. Sweep away the old style of thinking. Ask why those religious folk who follow Jesus think it’s okay to slaughter their fellow animals. Ask what is truly spiritual and acceptable in our treatment of and relationship with our fellow animals!
Do a little. A little is so much more than nothing. Don’t give in to despair – because each minor revolution of the mind and heart and spirit will make for a better world not just for our fellow animals but for US TOO!
We will be forced to make hard choices soon. As our world population increases to near unsustainable levels how we produce our food will become more and more vital. Animals will either suffer in greater numbers and in utterly appalling conditions to satisfy our growth or we’ll begin – at last – to understand the nature of being human; a sentient creature with such intelligence on this finite little globe revolving through space. Please God; Please US that we make the right decisions…we won’t be able to get this one wrong.
Expose this “dirty secret” – once it’s been voiced it cannot remain a secret…it cannot remain un-thought of. Once it is no longer secret – it can be challenged and changed. And the power to change lies within us all.
Tim Bragg – December 2010/January 2011