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By Brenda Shoss, Kinship Circle (www.kinshipcircle.org)
Red rivulets flow past a cage where he and others huddle in the airless heat. Hands abruptly tug him through metal slats. They bash his head with a pipe and shove an electric prod against him. He is a carcass, but awake, dunked in boiling water and blowtorched. Finally, everything goes black. Elsewhere, an animal stiffens under the stomp of muddy boots. Hands drag him down a corridor and flip him over a four-foot ledge. A chain is looped around his neck and clipped to a forklift. Suddenly the ground goes away. Up, up, up. His legs fumble for an absent bottom. He panics beneath the rigid clamp at his neck. After four, five or more minutes, all breath leaves his body. Their fear and pain are equal. But the first is a dog, the second a pig—and herein lies our cultural divide. Empathy for the dog does not often enough extend to empathy for the pig.
The dog’s death—in a meat market in China, Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or Thailand—triggers rage. But the hanging of the pig, an arguably cute, tame animal, doesn’t elicit parallel fury for most of us.
Western societies sympathize with the “pets” they see, cuddle, walk and ride. Conversely, “livestock” is an abstract concept drawn from occasional petting zoos, childhood films or packaged body parts.
Pigs, like dogs, are outgoing individuals who form social ties and navigate life through curious snouts. Each year in the U.S., roughly 100 million pigs are denied space, sunlight, straw bedding, mudbaths or anything fundamental to pigs. At hog factories, 600-pound sows are forcibly impregnated and immobilized in two-foot wide gestation crates throughout their recurring pregnancies.
Farmed pigs are tail-docked, have their teech clipped and are castrated without anesthesia. They travel to Midwest slaughterhouses "...in windchills as low as 70 degrees below zero. Many hogs become frozen solid and have to be ripped with chains from truck walls,” says Humane Farming Association (www.hfa.org), a national organization that exposes factory-farming abuses. On the kill floor, an “insufficiently stunned pig may be alert during some stages of dismemberment,” observes Temple Grandin in Survey of Stunning and Handling in Federally Inspected Beef, Veal, Pork, and Sheep Slaughter Plants. Pigs kick and squeal as workers “stick” them with knives.
Cruelty does not have one face or country. It is humans who compartmentalize animals based upon their “function.” Thus, one country’s companion is another’s cuisine.
Dogs For Dinner & Cats In Medicine Cabinets
Westerners find the consumption of humankind’s best friend repugnant. Yet in South Korea some two million dogs are annually killed for human meals. Humane Society International (www.hsus.org/about_us/humane_society_international_hsi/) estimates 500,000 dogs are butchered in the Philippines each year.
In 2007, Koreans and Filipinos acknowledged global opposition to dog meat with rules to Westernize their dog-eating ways. Well, sort of. Revisions to the Korean Animal Protection Act of 1991 clarified animal cruelty and inflated penalties. But a leading anti-dog meat group, International Aid For Korean Animals (IAKA, www.koreananimals.org/ ), worries the amended law “fails to directly address the chief source of cruelty: Dog meat markets.”
Korea’s Food Sanitation Law of 1984 dubs dog soups or broths (Boshintang) “disgusting foods.” Dog-meat eateries stay licensed by simply renaming canine entrees. Under Korea’s Livestock Product Sanitation and Inspection Act, dogs aren’t “livestock” and cannot be slain in accordance with Ministry of Agriculture policy. But Korea’s Food and Drug Administration labels dog meat a “natural product” thereby legitimizing it for human ingestion.
Animal welfare regulations are “paper laws” until funded, enforced and loophole free. Filipino President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed the Anti-Rabies Act of 2007 to ban commerce in dog meat and control rabies through required dog vaccination. While the decree imposes steeper fines and jail terms for each dog slaughtered or sold for meat, violators won’t face penalties without subsidized police training and firm prosecution.
Ultimately, legal incongruities fail to safeguard dogs and cats. Documentation of Asian wet markets reveals dogs, some in collars and apparently stolen, squashed inside fly-infested crates. Dogs are beaten with pipes and hammers to expel their adrenaline coveted for its “aphrodisiac” properties. Butchers believe a dog’s terror yields tender, profitable flesh.
In 2007, Humane Society International teamed with Filipino police and animal groups to save nearly 100 dogs en route to slaughter. HSI investigators saw dogs with mouths bound in plastic cord, wrenched from cages and clubbed. Killers sliced their jugular veins and collected the spurting blood to sell.
In Korea, cats are viewed as pests. Collected in sacks, strays and former companions are slammed against the ground. Some are “liquefied” in pressure cookers for elixirs presumed to heal arthritis, neuralgia, and other human conditions. Photographic accounts show cats clinging to one another as workers pluck them from a box to boil and burn them.
Horses On The Menu
Americans don’t eat their horses. Yet until 2007, three foreign-owned plants in the U.S. processed horses for diners in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan and Mexico. On September 21, 2007, the Illinois Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a ban on horse slaughter for human intake. The closure of Cavel International in DeKalb, Illinois mirrored earlier court-ordered shutdowns at Dallas Crown in Kaufman, Texas and Beltex Corporation in Fort Worth, Texas. As a result, spent racehorses, companions, Premarin-industry foals, draft horses, ponies, donkeys and mules are spared slaughter on U.S. soil.
The negative fallout is a 370 percent surge in American horses now trucked to Mexican kill floors. Animal protection advocates want Congress to pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act to outlaw horse export to Mexico, Canada, and other nations for slaughter.
At Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez plant, horses restrained in kill boxes are pierced with a small knife “seven, eight, nine times,” the Houston Chronicle reported in "U.S. Ban On Horse Slaughter Means A More Gruesome Death Elsewhere" (9/30/07). By the 10th stab around her withers, one horse collapses. Paralyzed but not dead, she is suspended from her rear leg while workers slit her throat.
Horses travel 700 or more miles to kill floors, stuffed inside double-deck trucks or other vehicles built for smaller livestock. Most arrive dehydrated, weak and mangled. Some are dead by journey’s end, a Ciudad Juarez veterinarian maintains.
"This is not how Americans want their horses treated," Nancy Perry, vice president of Humane Society of the United States, told the San Antonio Express-News in October 2007.
One Animal’s Pain Is Another’s Invisibility
Westerners aren’t sure how they want their animals treated. While dogs, cats and horses receive legal immunity from cruelty, farmed animals are seldom protected. A vast gap separates consumption from origin. Each year over 47 billion animals are slaughtered worldwide. In America 10 billion land animals, plus an estimated 17 billion fish, die for human ingestion. Every hour, roughly one million birds, pigs, cows and other perceptive beings are "processed" assembly-line style.
Meat, milk and eggs come from mega-farms where revenue overshadows animal welfare. An unspoken contract with “we-don’t-want-to-know” consumers lets industrial livestock operators evade repercussions from animal cruelty charges.
In 2006 prosecutor Frank Forchione sought animal cruelty penalties for Wiles Farm, after viewing Humane Farming Association’s undercover videos, photos and notes. At the 2007 trial, Judge Stuart Miller, of Wayne County, Ohio, concluded that veterinary neglect of pigs with prolapsed vaginas and broken legs or backs did not represent cruelty; pigs bashed with hammers and flung into transport carts did not depict mistreatment.
When asked if hanging neck-chained pigs via forklift made them suffer, defendant Ken Wiles replied, “My pigs aren’t suffering pain.” Judge Miller wrist-slapped Wiles Farm with a $250 fine and one-year probation for Ken Wiles’ son Joe.
The justice system is uncertain where husbandry ends and cruelty begins. Lax animal welfare guidelines are rarely invoked. The U.S. Humane Slaughter Act doesn’t cover birds: chickens, turkeys, ducks or geese.
In 2005, Ginny Conley, Acting Executive Director of the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorney’s Institute, failed to convict 11 employees of Pilgrim’s Pride, a KFC supplier. A 2004 videotape exposed workers twisting off the heads of live chickens. They spat tobacco into the birds’ eyes and mouths, spray-painted their faces and crushed their bodies against walls. Although workers violated state animal cruelty statutes, Conley rationalized: “[The case] needs to be handled more on a regulatory end than prosecuting someone criminally.”
If ”pets” are victimized, abusers face felony or misdemeanor prosecution. In fact, a chicken’s aptitude is similar to a cat or dog. Chickens identify one another, nurture their young, build nests, and enjoy dust baths. At egg factories, six to nine hens subsist in a battery cage no larger than a filing drawer. “Broiler chickens” and turkeys are squeezed into dark grower houses. To curtail fighting and cannibalism, workers amputate the bottom third of each bird’s beak.
When animals are distressed everyday, cruelty loses its boundaries. Among 30 million U.S. cows killed yearly, at least 195,000 are downers—stockyard animals too sick or crippled to stand. Downers are beaten and dragged on severed bones and ligaments.
At intensive dry-lot dairies, cows are kept artificially pregnant and lactating so machines can siphon their milk. Many are injected with Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and suffer bovine mastitis, an acute infection of the udder. After three to four years of exhaustive pregnancy cycles, dairy cows are slaughtered for beef.
Veal is a byproduct of the government-subsidized dairy industry. Within 24 hours of birth, male calves are auctioned to veal farms where they live chained by the neck inside two-feet wide crates. They are fed a liquid-only diet to suppress muscle growth and induce anemia. Calves earmarked for veal are denied maternal love. Though sensitivity to loss is considered a human attribute, evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin noted animal parents grieve for missing youngsters.
“When a flock of sheep is scattered, the ewes bleat incessantly for their lambs, and their mutual pleasure at coming together is manifest.”
All nonhuman animals “have a point of view on what happens to them, their families, and their friends,” writes Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Colorado University, Boulder. “Nonetheless, their lives are wantonly and brutally taken in deference to human interests.”
If animals value their interconnected lives, how do we reconcile consumption of some with compassion for others? Once it is clear the dog and the pig BOTH want to live, the pig becomes less of a thing and more of an individual. And the vegetarian bacon starts to look downright delicious.
Kinship Circle's column runs in The Healthy Planet. Ms. Shoss has also contributed to The Animals Voice Magazine, Satya Magazine, VegNews Magazine and other publications. To reprint this column, please request author permission at [email protected]. To subscribe to Kinship Circle, email: [email protected] or visit the site at www.kinshipcircle.org.
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