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Cognitive Dissonance

On World Day for Farmed Animals, Let's Honor Who They Are

The amount of pain and suffering these animals endure is incalculable.

"Over 150 million animals are killed for food around the world every day—just on land. That comes out to 56 billion land animals killed per year in the U.S. alone. Including wild-caught and farmed fishes, we get a daily total closer to 3 billion animals killed."

October 2 is World Day for Farmed Animals. On the website for the annual recognition of what these billions of nonhuman animal (animal) beings go through at the hands of humans before they're brutally killed for unnecessary meals we read:

"Each year, an estimated 70 billion cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and other sentient land-based animals are caged, crowded, deprived, drugged, mutilated and macerated in the world's factory farms. Then they are brutally slaughtered for our dinner table. Countless aquatic animals are caught and suffocated by vast trawler nets, so we can have our fish fillet or tuna fish salad."

When fishes and other water animals are thrown into the equation—billions of these sentient beings also are farmed animals—the number easily swells to trillions of animal beings killed each year on food farms and in the wild.

Slaughtering sentience: How much pain per pound do these animals suffer?

"...the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?... The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes..." —Jeremy Bentham

It's a sad fact that the amount of pain and suffering these animals endure before they're killed truly is incalculable. So-called "food animals," including fishes and other aquatic animals, are intelligent and sentient, feeling beings. (See "It's Time to Stop Pretending Fishes Don't Feel Pain.") When someone eats animals and animal products, they're consuming a good deal of pain and suffering. While many people are led to believe that consuming dairy is OK, because the animals are kept alive, dairy animals also deeply suffer when they're used and abused as "milk machines." (See "The Scary Facts of Dairy Violate the Five Freedoms" and "The Mistreatment of Female 'Food Cows' Includes Sexual Abuse.")

It's also important to recognize that "being smart" really isn't a factor in how much animals, including humans, suffer. It's what they feel that's important. (See, for example, "Are Pigs as Smart as Dogs and Does It Really Matter?" and references therein.) A young girl once asked me if so-called "food animals" suffer like her companion dog suffers when he's in pain. When I said, "Yes, they do," she blanched and almost started crying.

At another talk I was asked, "How much pain per pound do these animals suffer?" and I said that it was really impossible to calculate any meaningful number, but it's a good question to get discussions going about what these animal beings endure in their relatively short and horrific lives.

Those who choose to eat other animals and animal products also endure a good deal of cognitive dissonance. On many occasions, I hear people lament something like, "Oh, I know they suffer, but I really like my _____." You can fill in the blank with meat, beef, pork, bacon, chicken, fish, lobster, and so on. (See "'Oh, I know animals suffer, but I love my steak'": The self-serving resolution of the 'meat paradox.'")

I often hear people say that farmed animals aren't treated all that bad and that there are regulations and laws that adequately protect them. However, it's a fact that the regulations and laws that supposedly protect farmed animals are incredibly weak and weakly enforced, and egregious violations are very common.

Far too much lip service is given to protecting these amazing and fascinating animals. And it's because people—including those who use them and eat them—know that there is incredible and inexcusable suffering among the trillions of food animals who wind up in humans' mouths that regulations and laws exist in the first place. If these animals didn't suffer, there would be no reason to protect them. Current regulations allow for more than 1,100 pigs to be slaughtered per hour.

Even with iconic animal welfarist Dr. Temple Grandin's work to help farmed food animals along, the amount of pain and suffering farmed food animals endure is reprehensible, and, of course, avoidable. Only an extremely tiny percentage of these sentient beings may, in fact, benefit, as they trod along her so-called "stairway to heaven" on their way to the killing floor while hearing, seeing, and smelling the slaughter of others. Their lives before their death sentence are actualized—right after birth, as they mature, and when they're shipped to slaughterhouses as if they're unfeeling objects—and are inarguably, brutally horrific. (See "Stairways to Heaven, Temples of Doom, and Humane-Washing" and "My Beef With Temple Grandin: Seemingly Humane Isn't Enough.")

The language we use to refer to other animals really matters. On World Day for Farmed Animals, let's honor all nonhumans who are used for food. It's really a matter of who we eat, rather than what we eat, when it comes to the sentient nonhumans who wind up in our mouths. A few years ago, after I gave a talk and asked people to consider who they are choosing to eat rather than what they were eating, I learned that five people changed their meal plans because the word who made them realize "they were eating pain and suffering."

Asking people to change their meal plans isn't some sort of "radical animal rights" move, as some claim it to be. In fact, it's all about decency. It's about showing respect and compassion and honoring who these individuals really are: namely, deeply feeling sentient beings. We need a Golden Rule for how we treat other animals based on decency. Silence isn't golden; it's deadly.

It's high time to phase out food animals and animal products once and for all. All of these animal beings need all the help they can get and then some. World Day for Farmed Animals is a perfect time to honor and to respect who these fascinating beings truly are.


Global Animal Slaughter Statistics And Charts.

How Many Animals Are Killed for Food Every Day?

Balcombe, Jonathan. What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2017.

Bekoff, Marc. How to Apply the Golden Rule to Dogs and Other Nonhumans.

_____. The Scary Facts of Dairy Violate the Five Freedoms.

_____. Pigs are Intelligent, Emotional, and Cognitively Complex.

_____. Killing "Happy" Pigs Is "Welfarish" and Isn't Just Fine.

_____. Are Pigs as Smart as Dogs and Does It Really Matter?

_____. Makin' Bacon: Unspeakable and Grisly Abuse On a Pig Farm.

_____. What Would a Mother "Food" Cow Tell Us About Her Children?

_____. Cows: Science Shows They're Bright and Emotional Individuals.

_____. Horses, Cows, and Fish: Their Rich and Deep Emotional Lives.

_____. The Cow's Nose Shows How They're Feeling About Life.'

_____. Do Cows Moo "Get me the Hell out of Here" on Factory Farms?

_____. The Emotional Lives of Cows: Ears Tell Us They're Feeling OK.

_____. Why Sheep Matter: They're Intelligent, Emotional, and Unique.

_____. The Rich Emotional Lives of Chimpanzees and Goats.

_____. For the Birds: From Exploitation to Liberation.

_____. Who we eat is moral question: Vegans have nothing to defend.

_____. and Jessica Pierce. The Animals' Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age. Beacon Press, Boston, 2017.

For essays on Dr. Temple Grandin's work click here.

For essays and interviews by United Poultry Concerns click here.

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