Tens of millions of pigs and cows, hundreds of millions of birds, and uncountable billions of fishes and other nonhuman animals die unnecessarily every year in Britain alone to end up as food products. Flesh production always involves the death of an animal, in spite of the fact that the vast majority of animals - regardless of our species, level of intelligence, linguistic ability and whether we fly, swim or walk – possess a nervous system which enables us to feel pain and pleasure. When given the opportunity we enjoy our lives and want to continue doing so and, as such, every one of us has an interest in living according to the needs and desires of the species we belong to. In spite of this, from a very young age we are taught to ignore these interest in other animals (let's not forget that we are also animals), and every year 50 billion land animals worldwide, and countless billions of fishes are killed for the simple fact that they don’t belong to our own species.
Animals are not simply food products, but individuals capable of feeling and with the desire to enjoy their lives. An animal's life is as important and irreplaceable to them, as ours is to us. But as children we are conditioned to view animals as inferior beings whose reason for existence is to provide us meat, milk and eggs, even though behind every animal 'product' has been a unique individual with a personality and a life. It's time for us to change our way of seeing animals, to stop thinking of them as resources available to us to use as we wish, and to start viewing them for what they are: individuals with their own interests who deserve respect.
From a very young age we are taught to ignore these abilities in other animals (let's not forget that humans are also animals), and every year billions of emotionally aware individual beings are killed for the simple fact that they don’t belong to our own species. This discrimination is known as speciesism.
Most of the individuals that die for our consumption are fish. So great is the quantity of bodies that they are counted by the tonne, which makes it difficult to calculate just how many die. Contrary to what many people think, fishes are individuals with the capacity to experience pleasure and pain, as confirmed by numerous scientific studies. According to Huntiford (2002), fishes have senses for detecting stimulation of pain, and cerebral mechanisms which process the stimulation and provoke negative physical responses.
Many different methods are used to catch fishes for our consumption, and billions of fishes die a gruesome death in the process. Victims of commercial fishing nets tend to die of suffocation, crushed under the weight of the other fish or frozen in the boat’s cooling chambers. Others go through agonising decompression when they are hauled to the surface and their eyes and internal organs literally explode. Fishes hooked on lines or by anglers endure having their sensitive mouth parts ripped open by sharp hooks before being clubbed or suffocated. On fish farms many thousands of fishes are crammed together and forced to swim in circles. Parasites and infections run rampant on fish farms, and can spread to wild fish.
As well as for their milk, cows are also exploited for flesh. 'Beef' cows are normally killed the year they are born, even though naturally they would live 25 years or more. The calves exploited for 'veal' are removed from their mothers to be bought and sold soon after birth. The majority travel long distances to farms in Europe.
Forced removal of calves from their mothers, and others of their herd, causes them a great deal of anxiety since they are sociable creatures capable of recognising each other and establishing strong relationships that can last their whole lives. Leather is also a death sentence for a cow. Buying cow skin directly supports farms and businesses that make their money from animal exploitation. Leather is the second most profitable product of the meat industry.
Pigs are smart individuals fully aware of their own existence, and enjoy their lives when given the chance. They can spend hours playing, rooting in the ground, lying in the sun and exploring their surroundings with their keen sense of smell. They take pleasure in doing these things and like us, want to continue experiencing and enjoying their lives.
Possibly those who suffer most in this industry are the 'sows' used for breeding. They are repeatedly forcibly impregnated throughout their lives, often severely confined, and then separated from their babies soon after giving birth. They suffer both physically and mentally. The lives of these pigs, and their capacity to reproduce, are seen as no more than a way of creating more units of production. Mothers unable to give birth to the required number of piglets are sent to the slaughterhouse.
‘Broiler’ chickens who are raised for meat, turkeys, and ducks, are crammed into huge sheds and bred to be ready for slaughter so quickly that their legs often cannot support the weight of their bodies. Chickens and turkeys are sociable creatures who like to forage, to be with their companions, to bathe in sand, and to bask in the sun. For these reasons they suffer enormously when they are deprived of their freedom and devoid of the opportunity to exhibit natural behaviours, just as we would suffer if we were unable to do what we longed to do. Ducks in addition require water to fulfil their needs, to keep clean and to be free from infection. Most ducks are reared without water and suffer immensely due to the frustration caused by their inability to satisfy their natural desires.
The animals above are not the only victims of our eating habits. Rabbits, deer, woodpigeons, ostriches… any kind of animal that we take advantage of, is victimised. 900 million mammals and birds, and hundreds of millions of fish, are victimised in Britain every year for the simple reason that we like the taste of their flesh, or the products of their bodies.