This Fall, posters from animal rights activist groups are receiving extensive coverage in the TTC subway system. These posters named, “why love one…but eat the other?” are meticulously designed to send out a powerful message: Treat all animals equally…with kindness…
One particular poster that I came across was comparing cats with chickens (Figure 1). It said that we treat dogs as companion animals, but chickens are also “inquisitive, affectionate, and personable”. These claims are further supported by chickens possessing some advanced cognitive abilities, having strong family ties, and mother hen having a strong, lasting bond with her chicks. These claims powerfully suggest that both dogs and chickens have a rather strong similarity in terms of their loving and caring nature. In some ways, chickens are more advanced than dogs (i.e., in their cognitive capabilities). So the question is “why love one…but eat the other?”
Five pictures illustrate the cruelty chickens face in slaughter houses, including crammed into small cages with no room to move, brutally carried by butchers, small chicks dumped into a garbage-like waste bag, chicks randomly picked up by an excavator-like loader arm, and a chicken too big to carry its own weight. These pictures are further emphasized by written facts which state that “each year in Canada, 646 million chickens live and die in nightmarish conditions…filthy windowless sheds, suffocation, overcrowding, amputation without painkillers…become crippled…male chickens thrown away as trash…either ground up alive in giant machines or left to suffocate in garbage bags…”
These are strong words that paint a vivid image of the brutality that chickens face every year because of the pleasure some of us find in eating dish of a certain kind.
I have a lot of friends who are vegetarian, and they often get asked, “Then why eat plants, after all, plants are also living things?”
Are plants living things? Yes. They need nutrients (i.e., CO2 fixation) and carry out metabolic processes (i.e., cellular respiration). However, do they feel pain? Maybe not…at least not to the same degree as animals in slaughterhouses. It is certain that all other living things, including insects, feel pain because these living beings will try their best to escape a painful threat. However, no kind of escape-act is observed in plants when cutting fruits and vegetables. Second, plants have no nerves, thus questioning how a painful stimuli would elicit a painful experience without any nociceptors.
Animals can also be anaesthetized before the dreadful act of slaughter…would that be justifiable? No. Plants, by nature don’t feel pain, and animals by nature do feel pain. Killing animals without or with anaesthesia (i.e., an act of manipulation for selfish purpose) is inhumane. Lastly, if it was possible, then even plants should not be eaten. But this is not a plausible option. Food is a basic necessity for survival…we have no choice there, but we do have a choice on what to eat and what not to eat. Since we are given this latter choice, then why not choose to eat in a way that maximizes our humanness? Even vegetarian and vegan food can be delicious…