Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Great Disconnect

It's the title of the blog. It's kind of important. It's time we talked about it.

To shamelessly borrow and slightly modify an example from Gary Francione, imagine you discover there is someone on your street who enjoys beating puppies with crowbars and then slicing their necks open to watch them bleed to death. Sick, right? Maybe he buys them from breeders, adopts them from shelters or steals them from around the neighbourhood. Maybe he tempts desperate strays to his door with the promise of meaty treats. Whatever methods he uses, he gets hold of these innocent creatures and then beats and bleeds them for fun. It's the kind of thing you see in messed up horror movies or when news readers recount the past exploits of serial killers. It's the kind of thing that makes you want to find the nearest dog and hug them, just to reassure them and yourself that it's going to be OK.

Imagine you, driven by the desire for justice for these poor beings, tell the police and the guy is arrested. His story is all over the news, the internet forums are buzzing as animal lovers rush to condemn this deeply disturbed man, veterinarians tell magazine interviewers of the excruciating suffering these animals must have endured. How could anyone do something like this, let alone for fun.

You tell friends and family about this story, wondering between you how someone could become so broken that he would do this to defenceless animals. One person you tell looks at you quizzically, and gently asks why you’re so upset. Isn’t it obvious why you’re upset!? No, your friend replies. You eat meat, don’t you? You wear leather, don’t you? You consume dairy, don’t you? You don’t need to do these things, you do them because you enjoy it. So why are you so upset?

At first, this seems like a tasteless joke. Eating meat is different. Humans have always eaten meat, it’s natural for humans to eat meat, humans are designed to eat meat, humans need to eat meat. And leather is just a by-product, right? As for dairy, cows don’t die to produce milk! But you’d be wrong. Humans don’t need to eat meat. Maybe we once did many centuries ago, when food was scarce and lacked essential nutritional variety, but not anymore. And leather is rarely a by-product and even if it was, even if animals didn’t suffer and die specifically to produce shoes, furnishings and jackets, would you really use something from a murdered human even if it was ‘just a by-product’? As for dairy, millions of cows spend a few terrifying, exhausting years giving birth to calves only to have their babies torn away in the first 48 hours of life so that the mother can be hooked up to machines for cheese platters, milkshakes and your morning coffee. The calves are then sold at auction when days old, the vast majority destined to live in tiny cramped stalls for a few tortuous weeks until they are slaughtered for veal. Some are not deemed worth even this hellish fate and are killed soon after birth, the unwanted waste of the industry.

This is not necessary. This is not even remotely necessary. This is abuse on the scale of tens of billions of animals every year to fund human tastes and greedy pockets. This one of the largest, most powerful industries on Earth and it’s hell-bent on keeping you believing that its products are essential to your lifestyle and health. And as long as you believe that, you’re paying someone else to torture and kill animals on your behalf. And in the end, whether you want to accept it or not, this is all done for pleasure, for desire, for lifestyle. For fun.

This is our great disconnect. We're so used to seeing cows, sheep, chickens and pigs (not to mention goats, ducks, deer . . .) as commodities that we fail to see that they're living, breathing beings with as much right as you or I to live undisturbed and unharmed by humans. We're so used to seeing these minds as mindless, so used to seeing these beating hearts as currency, that we don't really notice what our lifestyles mean to these animals. And when we do notice, we push those thoughts back down and try to find easy justifications to lift the guilt we might feel, if only we dared to feel anything. We're so used to seeing some animals as pets and companions, worthy of our love and respect that we fail to notice that the animals we're abusing every single day of our lives are just as worthy of love and respect. We're so busy looking for the differences, the reasons not to change our behaviour that we miss the similarities, the reasons to change.

This is our disconnect. If you see it, please - go vegan.

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