Animals in the Wild
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by Jim Robertson
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All Flesh Is the Product of Cruelty and Exploitation

It is shocking to hear that folks who acquired meat from pig farmer and alleged serial killer Robert Pickton may have ingested parts of his victims. But it is equally unsettling that they didn't notice. To the taste buds, it seems, flesh is flesh. This tragedy is just one of many recent incidents in North America that should make us rethink our carnivorous ways.

Both Canada and the U.S. have had their first cases of mad cow disease. As a result, we saw news footage of downer cows, too sick to walk, being dragged by chains into slaughterhouses. Press coverage of avian flu outbreaks, such as the one just announced in British Columbia, revealed the intensely overcrowded conditions of chickens on factory farms-tens of thousands of animals cooped up in their own filth, each with less space than a standard sheet of paper. Besides being warned of health risks, consumers are finally learning about some of the cruelties endured by the animals they know only as roasts or drumsticks.

Pigs, like cows and chickens, are capable of experiencing joy, affection, and pleasure. However, on hog farms, they are treated like unfeeling machines, confined in tiny stalls and fed growth-accelerating drugs that often cause lameness. Their teeth are cut with pliers, and their tails are cut off-without anesthetic. At the slaughterhouse, they are hung upside down and bled to death-often while they are fully conscious. Whether flesh comes from the victim of a serial killer or from a pig, a cow, or a chicken, it is the product of cruelty toward a thinking, feeling being who experiences pain and fear and wants to live free of exploitation.

In light of all this, why are people still eating meat? One common answer goes something like this: "I'm a human-a superior being-therefore, I have a right to it." But a sense of entitlement is one of the trademark rationalizations that serial killers use to justify their wrongdoings, and grandiosity is also symptomatic of psychopathy, according to Canadian psychologist and author of Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, Robert D. Hare, Ph.D. Other symptoms outlined on Dr. Hare's "psychopathic checklist," such as shallow emotions and a lack of empathy or remorse, aid the killer-or meat-eater-in disregarding the suffering of his or her victims.

Psychopathic serial killers objectify their victims and consider their victims' self-interests insignificant. The same rationale is called into play when one thinks of pigs only as "pork," cows as "cattle," or chickens as "poultry," without thought of the individuals or their suffering.

It is never too late to examine our actions and re-evaluate our food choices accordingly. By respecting the interests of all sentient beings, we are not akin to the conscienceless killers that plague our society. The only way to ensure that you are not supporting grotesque violence and cruelty against animals, or benefiting from their suffering, is to adopt a plant-based diet.

~Jim Robertson

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