(Warning: This post contains some graphic content.)
On most days I ride to work on my bicycle along a certain route which more often than not puts me in close proximity to one of those live animal transport trucks hauling pigs to slaughter. The container housing the pigs is perforated with large enough holes that if you are close enough and look in, you can see the pigs. There are dozens of them packed in there like they're carcasses already. But they're not carcasses. They're not meat, yet. They're still alive and sometimes they're quiet and sometimes they're crying. Seeing and hearing the pigs transgresses the usually unmentionable disconnect between living creatures and food which we in the city are more than happy to maintain.
I can't imagine the terror the pigs must be experiencing.
Always there is a stench and people complain about that stench but if these animals are going to be born into the hell of a factory farm and then butchered for human consumption without ever having experienced even the simplest pleasures in life, like seeing the light of day or feeling the sun except for brief moments through those holes in the transport container on their way to dying, then enduring a little stench is a pathetically minuscule thing, in comparison, to complain about. We can be such precious little ninnies sometimes.
Also along the ride to work, now that the weather is getting colder, I've noticed a few people out with their winter jackets already - the ones with the fur trim around the hood. If it's one of the more expensive and trendy made in Canada jackets, that fur lining likely comes from wild coyotes, trapped or shot.
But don't worry, the environmentally sensitive Canadian company who manufactures these jackets tells us, because fur is a renewable resource so it's all good.
If the jacket is a cheaper one, a style knock-off, something made in China, then the fur likely comes from a dog - either a dog just like any of the ones profiled on this blog or a raccoon dog which is somewhat related to the canine family but looks like a cross between a raccoon and a fox.
In China, it's often cheaper to use real fur than decent quality fake fur so sometimes, depending on the target market, real fur will be labeled as fake to quell a Westerner's guilt (so how can one tell the difference? Do the burn test).
Stories and photos and videos abound on the internet describing some of the horrors these dogs and raccoon dogs endure just so we can have their soft pelts tickle up against our satiny, baby sensitive faces but don't worry. Everything is alright. Fur is a renewable resource.
Later, I listen to part of a program on CBC Radio about a Canadian woman who breeds thoroughbred horses and she's supposed to be a good breeder with excellent stock but she's complaining about how recent changes with the law in the U.S. has caused a huge influx of cheap horses into Canada and how she now has to sell most of her stock as meat because of the competition and isn't it horrible for Canadian breeders and I remember thinking it may be bad for the breeders but it sounds much worse for the horses. Horse slaughter in Canada is not cruelty free (Warning: this CBC link has graphic videos). Slaughter, in general, is not cruelty free.
I look at the photo embedded in the CBC article. I can't quite make out what's going on at first but then I realize it's like a set from one of those torture porn movies which certain segments of our population can't seem to get enough of these days. I suppose those Hollywood set designers have to get their ideas from somewhere.
On Facebook, someone has a link to an article about orangutans who were captured and beaten and left to die because they were foraging too close to human villages after their forest habitat had been cut down.
So, those people are barbarians for killing orangutans who trespass upon their ever expanding human territory. What are we then for killing black bears, and polar bears, and any other wild animals we encroach upon, interfere with, exploit and then suddenly feel threatened by? But of course this territorial behaviour is not surprising given that we treat members of our own species no better.
Animal exploitation is the history of humankind. Every time we eat, every time we build, every time we do almost anything results in the death of other creatures. That's nothing new and it's not unique to our species. The continuance of any life demands the exploitation and death of another. All life is guilty of ending life but there is something particularly damning about how we humans are so good at institutionalizing and rationalizing animal slaughter on an incomprehensibly massive scale and this slaughter is almost never quick and easy. It is too often long and tortuous, sometimes lifelong and tortuous.
Over the last few months, picketers have been standing along my going to work route holding up signs decrying the butchery of those factory farmed pigs, trying to give a voice to the thousands every day being sent into the slaughterhouse. I'm guessing these people are from Toronto Pig Save and I admire them for putting themselves out there, standing for who knows how long under a stoplight in the middle of traffic, to defend those animals. They hold up their signs and wave them at the cars. Some people honk at them - in support, I think - but most just drive by. I wonder how often their message hits home and changes the direction of a human heart.