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[Ed. Note: There is no such thing as "humane slaughter." This letter brilliantly explains why that is so, animal by animal. Please also read: NYT Opens the Door to the Humane Myth, Humane Farming FAQs, Humane Myths. The only way to end your participation in the slaughter of animals for food is to GO VEGAN!]
[Ed. Note: Download and share PDFs in English, German, Spanish and Italian. Feel free to download and share everywhere!]
By Joanna Lucas, Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary
At a time when many animal protection organization are actively promoting, advocating and rewarding "humane" animal products and farming methods, I am writing to you on behalf of three of the recipients of those actions.
To the industry, they are known as production units #6, #35, and #33,595. To the "compassionate" consumer, they are known as feel-good labels: "organic dairy", "rose veal", "free-range eggs". To welfare advocates, they are known as "humane alternatives.” To each other, they are known as mother, son, sister, friend. To themselves, they are simply what you and I are to ourselves: a self-aware, self-contained world of subjective experiences, feelings, fears, memories—someone with the absolute certainty that his or her life is worth living.
#6 is a first time mother. She is frantic. Her baby is missing. She is pacing desperately up and down the paddock, bellowing and crying and calling for her lost boy, fearing the worst, having her fears confirmed. She is one of the thousands of defenseless females born into a quaint, verdant, organic dairy farm. She will spend her entire short life grieving the loss of baby after baby. She will be milked relentlessly through repeated cycles of pregnancies and bereavements. Her only experience of motherhood will be a mother's worst loss. In the prime of her life, her body will break, her spirit will wilt, her milk production will decline, and she will be trucked to slaughter.
She is the face of organic milk.
#35 is a two-days old baby, his umbilical chord is still attached, his coat is still slick with birth fluids, his eyes are unfocused, his legs wobbly. He is crying pitifully for his mother. No one answers. He'll live his entire short life an orphan, his only experience of mother love will be that of yearning for it. Soon, the memory of her presence, her voice, her scent will fade, but the painful, irrepressible yearning for her warmth will still be there. The only emotional connection allowed in his diminished world will be one of absence. At 4 months old, he will be corralled into trucks with other orphans like himself and he'll be trucked to slaughter. And, as he will be dragged onto the killing floor, he will still be looking for his mother, still desperately needing her nurturing presence, especially at that dark time, when he will be frightened and needing her protection more than ever in midst of the terrible sounds and sights and scents of death all around him, and, in his despair, in his need for a shred of consolation and protection, he, like most baby calves, will try to suckle the fingers of his killers.
He is the face of the "rose" veal "responsible restaurant leaders" are being encouraged to use.
#33,595 is one of the 80,000 birds in a family owned free-range egg facility. She has never seen the sun or felt the grass under her feet, never met her mother, never seen any adults or males of her species. Her eyes are burning with the sting of ammonia fumes, her featherless body is covered in bruises and abrasions, her bones are brittle from the constant drain of egg production, her severed beak is throbbing in pain. She is exhausted, depleted and defeated. After nearly two years of social, psychological, emotional, physical deprivation, she copes by pecking neurotically at phantom targets, for hours on end. She is 2 years old and her life is over. Her egg production has declined and she will be disposed of by the cheapest means possible—she will be gassed along with the other 80,000 birds in her community. It will take three full work days to finish the job. For two long days, she will hear the sounds and breathe the smells of her sisters being killed in the gas drums outside her shed. On the third day, it will be her turn. She will be grabbed by the legs and taken outdoors for the first time in her life and, like every single one of the 80,000, like every single one of the 50 billion annual victims of our appetites, she will fight to go on living, and she will accept no explanation and no justification for being robbed of her pathetic only life.
She is the face of the "free-range" eggs college campuses, businesses and consumers are being encouraged to use.
These are the "beneficiaries" of the "humane farming practices" that some animals' defenders are developing, promoting, and publicly rewarding by encouraging "compassionate" consumers to buy the products of what we know to be nothing but misery. Humane practices that, if any of us were forced to endure, none of us would experience as "humane.”
We, the activists, know that there is no such thing as compassionate, responsible or ethical farming on any scale. We know that the only humane and ethical alternative is vegan living. Why are so few of us telling the truth? Why are we describing "free-range" products as "humane" when we know the horror such practices inflict on their victims? Why are we lying to the public, and ourselves, that "compassionate" animal farming is anything but a myth, a deceptive label? Why are so many willing to offer up the lives of animals by encouraging the consumption of their flesh, eggs and milk, when our only duty is to fight for their lives as if they were our own?
Why promote the practice of consuming animals when we know it to be brutal, inexcusable, unconscionable and completely unnecessary? Why reward consumers for demanding more of the the very thing we are struggling to eliminate? Why strengthen and reward the worlds' entrenched speciesist assumptions when our job, our only job, as vegan educators and activists, is to challenge and change those assumptions? We could be offering a new model of thinking about nonhuman animals, a new model of interacting with them, a new practice of living, a new way of being in the world.
Many animal defenders endorsement of "humane" farming and pursuit of welfare reforms say that the world is not ready to change, that it will never go vegan, and that the most we can hope to accomplish is to reduce the suffering of today's doomed animals. This is not true. It is not a fact. It is a fear—a fear of action, a failure of will, a self- defeating attitude and, ultimately, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The truth is, the world can change. Indeed, the world has changed many times before, and it has changed in ways that seemed impossible at the time. The truth is, the world will change, but only if we work towards creating that change. It will stay the same if we, the self-proclaimed agents of change, encourage it to stay the same. It will change if all of us tell the whole truth that there is no such thing as humane animal farming or animal use of any kind, the truth that the only humane alternative is vegan living, the truth that animal farming on any scale is an ethical and environmental disaster, the truth that animals are persons like you and me who happen to be nonhuman and have the same inherent right to life and liberty as you and me, the truth that vegan living is not a "lifestyle choice", but a moral imperative.
We can do better. Indeed, it is our duty to do better.
I invite you to see for yourselves how much can be accomplished when a small group of dedicated activists commits all of its time and resources to vegan education that is consistent with, not undermining of, our ultimate goal—Animal Liberation—and when the Go Vegan message is central to every single one of its communications, form online resources to printed literature to ads, demos and billboards, to outreach events, to the in-depth exploration of farmed animal personhood detailed in the individual portraits published on the Prairie Blog.
On a shoestring budget, will an all-volunteer core of vegan educators who are determined to tell the whole truth about meat, dairy and egg production, a small, grassroots group like Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary has built something that large, wealthy organizations have not only failed to bring forth, but have consistently undermined through years of anti-vegan advocacy: A vibrant vegan world growing in the middle of the nonvegan world, a place where the animal refugees are regarded and represented as the persons they rightly are, a place where the human residents advocate tirelessly for nothing less than total liberation, A Free State in the heart of the human-dominated world, a place where the principles of liberation are applied in word, thought, and deed, a vegan enclave whose very existence has already changed the world's physical, political, psychological and spiritual geography.
I invite you to experience it for yourselves. Join our struggle to expand its reach. Help us make it borderless.
Joanna Lucas is a writer, artist, and activist whose work is dedicated to exploring the inner lives of persons who happen to be nonhuman–especially the lives and subjective experiences of the most systematically abused, most willfully ignored group of individuals on earth: farmed animals. She is honored to serve with Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary http://www.peacefulprairie.org whose courageous, effective and uncompromising vegan advocacy has already laid the foundation for a vegan world, right in the middle of the nonvegan one. She can be reached by email email@example.com.
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