Friday, April 6, 2012

What we don’t see doesn’t hurt . . . animals

For animals, the basis of “animal welfare” is simply staying alive. But for countless animals, simply staying alive is difficult to impossible to do.

Only consider the billions of animals – you read it right, billions of them – killed every year to be eaten by humans. For them, NYTimes columnist Mark Bittman argues that “animal welfare” means we should be aware of the “torture” animals go through on the way to being slaughtered.

Because people eat animals, and some are erroneously convinced they must eat meat, innumerable animals must die. And in the process, they suffer unimaginably.

Bittman, with whom I’ve had issues earlier in this blog, seems slowly to be gaining awareness of just how horrific the system of meat production is – initially horrific for the animals involved, of course, and then for the people involved, who are isolated from what happens to the animals.

In a column last month titled “The Human Cost of Animal Suffering,” he wrote about a book whose author was exploring “the normalization of violence.” Not only do most people not know how animals are “processed” into food, but many of the workers involved are also isolated from those horrors.

Not seeing the “process” – which presumably would horrify them and prompt them to protest – helps people tolerate its continuation. And not seeing it, they continue to eat “meat” – i.e., dead animal tissue, which resulted from animal suffering.

“Distancing and concealment” in imprisonment, war, torture, deployment of drones and other sophisticated weapons allow “impersonal killing” to take place over and over again. Bittman says “we should look more carefully at how we raise and kill animals” because “when we all know the system, we’ll be even more eager to change it.”

This whole problem would disappear if people stopped eating animals. But Bittman’s not going there. For now anyway, he’s proposing only to raise and kill them in more humane ways – as if that’s not a contradiction in terms.


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