By Jenny Moxham
I'm sure you've all experienced those nights when, for no apparent
reason, you just can't get to sleep.
Well, I had one of those nights last night so, after tossing and turning for a while I got up, made myself a hot drink and "surfed the Net". I've learnt from experience that staying in bed and "trying" to sleep simply doesn't work.
Anyway, as I was sitting there pleasantly "awaiting the sandman" I suddenly thought about the animals in our factory farms and how awful it must be for them when they can't sleep. They can never get up and do something enjoyable until they feel tired.
What must it be like for breeding sows?
Inside their body hugging, metal barred stalls they can't even turn around and can only take one step forward or backward. How could these pitiful animals ever have a sound sleep in these cramped cells - and what could they possibly do if they couldn't sleep?
Even tossing and turning would be a physical impossibility for them. As they grow larger and space diminishes even sleeping on their sides becomes a physical impossibility and they are forced to sleep on their chests.
But it's not only the lack of space that would prevent them from having a sound sleep. In a natural scenario pigs sleep on soft earth and grass. In factory farms they are compelled to sleep on hard, uncomfortable concrete floors or slats. The floor may be wet and freezing in winter.
Another thing that would make it difficult to sleep would be the fact that all the sows are pregnant. Pregnancy in humans is often accompanied by backache, fidgety legs or other afflictions that make sleeping more difficult so it is likely the same with pigs. Apart from specific pregnancy ailments sows may also suffer from painful foot injuries, cuts and pressure sores and bleeding, maggot infested wounds which would add to their discomfort.
And then there would be the noise. Unlike our own quiet bedrooms which are conducive to sleep the sows would be surrounded by hundreds of other pigs - all in pain and all having difficulty sleeping. Can you imagine the din?
Sometimes humans who can't sleep try thinking about pleasant things they have done, interesting places they've been to, or things they plan to do the following day.
For a breeding sow there is nothing pleasant to think about. Tomorrow will be the same as today - painful. Tomorrow will simply be another day of the nightmare which is her life. The nightmare of being severely and hopelessly confined and deprived of everything normal and natural in life. The nightmare of being forced to go through the agony of birth three times a year and then the greater agony of having her beloved babies stolen from her.
Besides this, whereas we humans can always picture pleasant images in our mind -pigs have been cruelly deprived of all vision of their beautiful world. They can't even picture a tree in their minds eye because they have never been allowed to see anything outside their gloomy, grey prison.
They have never been permitted to see the sun and enjoy it's gentle warmth - and this is yet another reason why sows may not sleep well.
In Winter, when the weather is overcast, many humans suffer from a disorder called SAD - seasonal affective disorder. It's caused by a combination of low light levels coupled with slight differences in brain chemistry. Some of the symptoms of SAD are disturbed sleep, lethargy, sadness, depression. hopelessness and despair Sometimes the depression can be so severe that suicidal thoughts occur.
If humans become depressed by a lack of sunshine isn't it reasonable to think that non-humans may suffer similarly?
For human sufferers relief usually comes in Spring when sunshine increases and there are fewer overcast days but for factory farmed animals there is never a Spring and never an end to the gloom. How must they feel?
This week Sydney based animal protection group Voiceless launched a television advertising campaign to help raise awareness about the suffering of factory farmed animals. According to Dana Campbell, the chief executive of Voiceless, the strategy is to make the public ‘‘emotional’’ about the plight of factory-farmed animals and direct that emotion towards politicians.
Surely it's time each and every one of us opened our eyes - and our hearts - and helped put an end to this monstrous cruelty which is daily, and needlessly, being inflicted on so many millions of our innocent fellow sentient beings.