The Animal Lover’s Dilemma: if a group of 100 people were hypothetically surveyed, I predict that a large majority of them would answer “yes” (perhaps tentatively, perhaps confidently) to the seemingly simple question “Do you love animals?” The majority of the same group of people would probably also answer “yes” when asked if they participate in funding the single greatest crime against non-human animals in the history of our planet.
Most people love animals, or at least like them; they are motifs of our childhoods – cartoons and toys, they are our companions – pets are often considered family members, we are moved when they die in films, the average person is drawn to the wildlife that occasionally graces their garden, and we are angered by stories of dog-fighters and other animal abusers on the news.
I would optimistically say that the average human does not strive to actively hurt animals out of choice, and yet, that is exactly what the average person does do, up to three times a day.
Animal agriculture is unimaginably torturous for hundreds of billions of land, and hundreds of trillions of marine animals every year. It exploits, injures, and even sometimes kills the most vulnerable workers in our society. It has been classed by the World Health Organisation in the same cancer-causing category as cigarettes, asbestos and arsenic, and it is unnatural for our ape-like bodies to consume processed flesh and breast milk intended for baby bovine mammals. We could easily feed the world with the crops we force-feed animals which have been branded as livestock. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction and the worst offence against the environment, the climate, wildlife habitat, the oceans, the Amazon rainforest and more.
Consumption of animals and animal products is destroying our planet, our health, and unthinkable amounts of sentient beings, year after year. But that is not what I’m examining here – all that information is a Google search away: the slaughterhouse footage, the documentaries, the studies and articles.
No, I am just here to highlight the hypocrisy of “animal lovers” who wear the skin and eat the decaying bodies, ovaries and breast milk of those they profess to “love”. You are not an animal lover if you eat animal products.
Do not get me wrong, that statement is not aimed at people who have to consume animals for a specific medical reason, those who are recovering from an eating disorder and should not restrict their food intake, those who are younger and are not independent with their food choices, or those who live in food deserts with limited access to fresh vegetables. It is not even aimed at those who eat animals naively – so brainwashed by the food industries that they genuinely do not know that it causes so much pain and destruction – after all, titles such as “happy egg” and “happy cow” are undeniably comforting.
I am talking about the people who can choose between eating animals and not doing so, who have an understanding of how destructive and abhorrent it is, but choose to participate anyway out of love of their own taste buds, or because it is a habit, or simply because it is convenient. It is generally agreed that if you love something or someone, you strive to protect it from harm, or at least don’t intentionally hurt it – but intentionally hurting is exactly what happens when you buy a slab of meat from Tesco or a pepperoni pizza from Dominos and continue to pay people to string half-conscious animals up by their hind legs and cut their throats.
People would go to jail for doing to dogs and cats what happens to millions of farm animals every day. Most of us are lucky enough to live amidst the outcome of a massive infrastructure that allows us to choose alternative meals that, by comparison, contribute to minimal levels of cruelty. If you choose to ignore these alternatives purely because the taste of a hamburger is more important to you than the life of an intelligent, sensitive, pain-feeling being, then you are not an animal lover.
If you love your cat and David Attenborough documentaries but opt for a pulled pork sandwich, despite knowing that an animal with the intelligence of a dog (arguably even a chimp) and awareness of a 3 year old child has been tortured and killed for it, then you are not an animal lover. You are a pet and wildlife documentary lover.
A mother who deliberately neglects and beats her children does not love her children. Someone who pays an industry to inflict suffering and death on animals does not love animals. If you choose to eat meat and understand that it comes from an animal that could have been abused and sexually assaulted by assets and has definitely been entrapped it’s whole life and then murdered, then you are not an animal lover. You are a hypocrite.
Image credit: Michela Simoncini