Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Come back as a pet, not a farm animal

“Some animals are more equal than others,” wrote Mark Bittman in his March 15 NYTimes column. How tragically true.

He talked about the line – and what a line! – between “pet” and “animal”: “. . . we protect ‘companion animals’ like hamsters while largely ignoring what amounts to the torture of chickens and cows and pigs. In short, if I keep a pig as a pet, I can’t kick it. If I keep a pig I intend to sell for food, I can pretty much torture it.”

Bittman continued, “ . . . we ‘process’ (that means kill) nearly 10 billion animals annually in this country, approximately one-sixth of the world’s total” – for food.

He reported on how the ASPCA had gone after a 19-year old woman who violently killed a pet hamster – but not, of course, the city reps who poison rats left and right. “Might we more usefully police those who keep egg-laying hens in cages so small the birds can’t open their wings,” he asked.

“But,” Bittman wrote, “thanks to Common Farming Exemptions, as long as I ‘raise’ animals for food and it’s done by my fellow ‘farmers’ (in this case, manufacturers might be a better word), I can put around 200 million male chicks a year through grinders . . . castrate — mostly without anesthetic — 65 million calves and piglets a year, breed sick animals (don’t forget: more than half a billion eggs were recalled last summer, from just two Iowa farms) who in turn breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria, allow those sick animals to die without individual veterinary care, imprison animals in cages so small they cannot turn around, skin live animals, or kill animals en masse to stem disease outbreaks.

“All of this is legal, because we will eat them.”

1 comment:

Lee Hall said...

As we know if we're involved with feral cat assistance or really any kind of animal-related charity, the situation for animals who come onto Earth as pets is not really so sanguine as Mark Bittman believes.

And every year, the number of cats and dogs killed in US shelters is about equal to the number of people living in the city of Los Angeles.

The food-or-pets dichotomy is something of a red herring. All domestication makes animals vulnerable to human caprice.