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(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).

Image from HSUS site here.

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.

8 Comments to “The ones we eat”

  1. RebTee says:

    This is why I haven't eaten meat or worn fur in decades. The horrible truth, and I hope that more people open their eyes.

  2. Joanne says:

    Oh my god............I almost vomited and then I cried. What the hell is wrong with us? Supposedly the most highly evolved animal but total savages. It makes me ashamed.

  3. rika says:

    Thanks for this post.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If people won't change to stop cruelty for moral reasons, they should change for self-interest. We are poisoning ourselves, our minds and our energy with such atrocities. We all pay psychically. I know, small price compared to unspeakable torture but it affects our entire existence.
    Fred, bravo. So hard.

  5. Eloquent, even without the films.

    We just got back from a Muslim country, which celebrates Eid-al-Adha, the Eid of Sacrifices.

    On Eid-al-Adha, those who can, sacrifice a hoofed animal, preferably a cow. The sacrifice is raised as a free range animal, living a normal life, until s/he is brought to the home where s/he will be sacrificed. Then s/he is stunned and the throat is slit. The meat is divided according to Quaranic strictures, with 1/4-1/3 to the family sacrificing, 1/4-1/3 to poor relatives and clients, the balance to the poor without anyone to give them meat. The hide goes to a certain poor class for the making of goods, and the rest of the cow to similar groups.

    There is feasting throughout the land.

    Expats are horrified: blood runs in the streets. Every year one hears loud accusations of barbarism, lately including mutterings about the whole nature of Islam. These same people then go back to buying their imported pork, beef, et caetera to feed the family and throw their parties. Meat almost always from factory farms.

    The average Canadian eats 26.9 kg of meat annually. The average Bangladeshi eats 3.1 kg. The meat we eat is factory farmed. The meat they eat -- often only after Eid-al-Adha -- is raised 'underfoot'. Ours is trucked like this to huge slaughterhouses, where the ones at the end have to endure the screams and smell of those that go before. The animals they eat are killed individually, usually at home, after having lived a life.

    It had a profound impact on this expat to think about those things, and changed my diet forever. (Fur has never been a part of my wardrobe.)

    I am not saying we should just eat less meat, although that would be a start. Nor am I arguing that free range meat is more ethical, although I suspect it is. My point is that the majority of us can't see the connection *even when the blood runs in the streets*.

    So, tell me again, who are the barbarians?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the moving writing. One day 60 years ago I drove behind a truck load of pigs on their way to slaughter. The pigs suffering in the heat wave we were having were packed together in a rumbling truck. Their faces peering through the slats resigned to the horror of their lives and innocently unaware that it was going to get much more terrifying and painful at the end of their journey. I never ate meat again from that day, but the faces of those pigs haunt me still. I too know we will never stop people eating meat but would it be too much to ask of the people that eat meat, at least the ones with compassion, that they put some effort in to ensuring that their dinner was killed quickly and as painlessly as possible.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks so much for the 'burn' test which I have now done on my one and only article of clothing with faux fur (It said faux fur on the label) - I was still hesitant about it after my daughter said it 'might' have some animal so I was reassured that it hasn't although to be honest it has put me off wearing it altogether!!

  8. Alex says:

    I've lived very close to pigs. They're very intelligent and they have distinct personalities and emotions.

    In fact, I found them very similar to dogs in lots of ways. You can teach both of them to do tricks, they can both learn to tell time, and for both of them, if they get bored, they will entertain themselves in ways that we might not like.

    Cows aren't as intelligent as pigs, but they still have distinct personalities and emotions, and can learn to tell time.

    I've also been vegetarian for almost 25 years now, basically ever since I got to know the farm animals. I can't put animals I like, cats and dogs, on one side of a line, and other animals I like, pigs and cows, on the other side of that line.

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.