No cruelty, this?

There are people who will neglect their personal comfort to nurse an injured dog or a bird. But the milk of their kindness tends to dry up when it comes to protesting against the manner in which millions of birds and animals are slaughtered to feed human beings, says Amar Chandel

ONE'S heart melts at the deep concern shown by some kind souls towards the animals subjected to cruelties of various kinds. There are wonderful people who will even neglect their personal comfort to nurse an injured dog or a bird. It is only thanks to their campaign that ivory and shahtoosh trade has come to an end.

Scores of chicken are daily carried on carts, scooters and four-wheelers to the slaughter house. Most of them are confined to tiny coops, where they can barely move Photo: Rajesh Bhambi

This love for the animals is at times taken to extreme ends. For instance, some like Menaka Gandhi would rather have citizens putting up with all sorts of discomfort but would not allow any kind of protection against the monkey menace. There are others who would want all laboratory tests to be banned because they are harsh on rats, etc., even if that endangers the life of many human beings.

But strangely, the milk of their kindness tends to dry up when it comes to protesting against the ultimate cruelty towards animals—slaughter of millions of chickens, sheep, goat and other animals to feed the voracious human beings. If the appetite of the human beings takes priority over the lives of animals, surely, the health of humans is also more important than that of guinea pigs.

Yet, hardly anything is heard from animal lovers against this butchery that goes on day in and day out. Ah, but animals are killed in the most painless manner, the supporters will argue. Really? By the same logic, the killing of human beings, too, should be perfectly fine if it is painless and instantaneous. Just as death cannot be an absolute pleasure for a human being, it cannot be so for the animals either.

Killing an animal is any day far worse than injuring or maltreating him. But even if it is accepted for argument’s sake that they are done to death without inflicting any fear or pain, what about the kind of life we condemn these animals to in preparation for the inevitable slaughter? You must have seen scores of chicken being carried on a cycle, scooter or a four-wheeler on their way to the inevitable death. Even that is the easier part of their life. Steal a glance inside a poultry farm and you will know what wretched time they go through during the countdown to slaughter.

Most of them are confined into tiny coops where they can barely move. Because of this lack of exercise, their muscles get atrophied. Just as it is unethical to put animals or birds into cages for the sake of amusement, it is far more unethical to deprive them of their freedom just because we want to feast on them.

To make sure that they don’t hurt each other, their beaks are mercilessly plucked out. Leave alone India where ethical treatment of animals is still a novelty, the animals are made to go through excruciating conditions even in the West. Here is what one report by Right for Animals, London, says:

"It is normal for such animals to be kept in places where they never see sunlight, or to be confined in extremely small spaces. On many farms, each hen's accommodation is equivalent to the size of an A4 sheet of paper. In these cages, birds are locked up together in groups of four or five, which does not allow them to escape attacks from other stressed birds. This is particularly common due to the stress of confinement and normally they cannot move at all (turn around, stretch their wings or even lie down). The bars of the cage floor hurt and mutilate their legs, causing wounds and deformations. Sometimes, their feet become completely trapped in the metal (this means that when brought to the slaughterhouse they have to be literally ripped out of the cages).

"Cows are similarly imprisoned in narrow indoor stalls in which they do not have enough space even to turn around. Pigs suffer the same fate, or are reared in huge sheds, together with thousands of others of their kind. Other animals (such as lambs, ducks, ostriches and deer) are kept in similar conditions. Excrement accumulates under them and dead animals are sometimes not removed for days. They would die of multiple infections were it not for the enormous amount of antibiotics and chemicals administered to them in their food (which is full of hormones and waste materials, in order to fatten them as fast and economically as possible). Life is no picnic on free-range farms either. These animals may not be in cages, but are mostly confined to sheds or barns and are never really free.

"Slaughter is another terrible time for animals. Many die on the way to the slaughterhouse, because of poor transport conditions. The animals are crammed together in very tiny spaces and given neither water nor food, as no profit in terms of further fattening can be expected at this point. Slaughterhouses, in the same way as farms, are all about business, and hence they are under economic pressures.

"Consequently, in order to maximise profits, animals are passed through the slaughterline as quickly as possible and improperly stunned, inevitably leading to a large number of them being skinned or boiled while still alive and fully conscious.

"Slaughter is exactly the same in the case of free-range animals. Free-range meat production reflects the same gross neglect and disregard for animals' interests as any other exploitation or killing of animals. Also, fish are victims of tremendously painful deaths caused in many different and terrible ways. Many die when pulled out from the depths of the sea, because of decompression - the different pressure makes their organs literally burst inside them. Others die of suffocation, once they are out of the sea. Yet others die when frozen alive in fridges, or crushed by the weight of tons of animals caught with them, and some are boiled or cut up alive. What is more, many kilometres of nets abandoned in the sea continue to cause death to thousands of fish trapped in them. Many other animals, such as turtles and sea birds, also die, trapped in these nets."

Let me remind you that all these instances are from the West where the movement for ethical treatment of animals is fairly strong. One can well imagine the state of affairs in India where such voices of reason are comparatively far feebler.

If killing animals in such a brutal manner is alright for the sake of providing food to human beings, surely such a hue and cry should not be raised if animals destroying crops are curbed or rats are used for testing medicines.