Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters
Farm animals 'need emotional TLC'
Farm animals have feelings which should be respected and catered for, academics at a London, UK, meeting have said. They believe animals should not be dismissed as simple automatons - cows take pleasure in solving problems and sheep can form deep friendships.
Delegates from around the globe were speaking at the Compassion in World Farming Trust (CIWF Trust) conference. They shared ways of exploring the minds of animals, as well as monitoring their suffering and alleviating their pain.
"The study of animal sentience is one of the most exciting and important in the whole of biology," said Professor Marian Dawkins, of Oxford University. "My plea is that, when we make decisions and regulations about animals and campaign for them, the animals' voices should be heard and heard strongly."
For whatever reasons, we humans tend to draw a charmed ring around ourselves - we suppose we are the only ones that think thoughts and feel feelings. We are happy to ascribe emotions to a tiny flailing inarticulate baby, while denying them in a sheep or even a chimpanzee. Talk of animal sentience is often brushed off as fluffy and sentimental - not the stuff of science or the real world.
Our eyes only?
But perhaps we have been too hasty in our dismissal - perhaps consciousness does not peer through our eyes alone. "They are not unfeeling objects," said Professor Marc Bekoff, of the University of Colorado, US.
"And what animals feel matters very much as they try to negotiate their lives in a human-dominated and often abusive world, in which they are mere pawns in our incessant and obsessive attempts to control their lives for our and not their benefit. "I am incredulous that some sceptics actually question whether animals feel anything." Now there is a growing weight of evidence to suggest animal minds probably do house emotions quite similar to our own.
Professor Donald Broom, from Cambridge University, studies the behaviour of cows. His team put them in a special pen which had a lever that, when pressed, would release the cows into a field with lots of delicious food rewards.
The researchers found that when the cows finally "clicked" and worked out how to press the lever to reach the food, they showed signs of delight. "When they learnt it they showed an excitement response," Professor Broom told the BBC. "Their heart rates increased and they were more likely to jump and gallop when they went down towards the food. "It was as if the animals were saying 'Eureka! I've found out how to solve the problem'."
He continued: "We need to have a certain amount of respect for these animals, and I think most people have more respect for an animal if they feel it's aware of what's going on."
Being kind to farm animals isn't just a moral duty - according to the CIWF Trust delegates; there is something in it for us, too. Cows, for example, produce significantly more milk if their handlers talk to them gently rather than shouting and pushing them around.
"The handlers don't have to be really mean and hit the cows," said Edmund Pajor of Purdue University, US. "It's just a slap on the rump in the way that many farmers would. But the cows don't like it and it makes a real difference. "It helps send a message about treating animals in a proper way. A number of dairy farms now have signs up saying 'please don't shout at the cows'."
The famous chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall, in her opening speech at the conference, said we needed to re-define the way we viewed animals, both tame and wild.
Dr Goodall, 71, who has spent 45 years studying chimps in Africa, told the CIWF Trust delegates that humans and chimps were strikingly similar - that both shared a capacity for barbarity but were also capable of great altruism. She described how she had seen chimps come to the aid of others who had been frightened, orphaned or injured, demonstrating "a care and compassion indistinguishable from our own". She said: "We have to understand we are not the only beings on this planet with personalities and minds."
A few thoughts from readers:
- Bravo! I thought that when I was a teenager writing essays for school about my pet cows (I raised 2 calves as a 4H project) I was alone in ascribing thoughts and feelings to them but now about 60 years later I feel vindicated! Thanks.
- The world seems to be divided between those who recognise that animals have feelings and emotions, and treat them accordingly, and those who deny this is true in order to justify mankind's cruelty towards these fellow creatures. Animals destined for food, fur etc. still deserve a reasonable quality of life. This may involve only minor changes to the way they are kept and treated but these small changes might mean everything to the animals. In the end, it is up to the individual how he/she treats an animal. Personally, no amount of money would persuade me to be cruel.
- I worked on a dairy farm and at this one period, when the cows were being kept in the stanchions in a long row, there was this first cow that would hold her head in the water trough to let the water run over for the longest time, till the alley was full of water all of the time. Then one day we found that the drinking cup for the cow at the end of the row did not work. As soon as we noticed this and fixed it, the first cow no longer held her face down to cause it to over flow... I was amazed.
- Like the authors, I am staggered by the colossal arrogance of the majority of the public who regard animals as no more important than table legs. It is also one of the things that has driven me away from religion, as the idea that there is a magic dividing line that allows humans to go to heaven and animals not is no more intelligent than their previous assertion that the world is flat.
- We are happy to attribute feelings to our pets, but for the animal we eat we create an entirely new set of rules. After all what sort of creatures would we be if we ate animals with feelings?
- Surely we humans know that animals have emotions. They experience joy, fear, pain, and love in much the same way as we do. They form emotional bonds and grieve as well. These attributes aren't exclusive to Homo sapiens. It's our arrogance and a matter of convenience that would have us believe it. If we go into denial it's that much easier to forego our ethical responsibilities and continue the cruelty and exploitation of all other life forms. Carmina Gooch
Leading by example inspires change
My mother said she never understood why North Americans ate so much meat and junk food. So, growing up we kids had very little of either. She'd say we're not "cavemen" and that just because other people were eating dead animals, didn't mean we had to. She always stressed the importance of eating healthy which included lots of fruit, vegetables, and oatmeal. My dad was concerned about the environment and I loved animals, so for everybody it was a non-issue. Whereas our attitudes weren't the norm back then, they are commonplace now. If somebody suggested that we eat humans, most of us would find it abhorrent, and so, too, future generations may consider today's socially sanctioned and acceptable serial murder of other living creatures truly barbaric.
Bob Hunter, (1941-2005) commented in one of his columns for the Vancouver Sun some years ago that "For all our ideals and morality, those of us who eat meat are undeniably mass killers, even if we hire hit-men to do the job, and others to carve the bodies up, and yet others to transport the chunks around in refrigerated trucks."
Is there anything that you want to eat that badly?
Posted by Gary L. Francione June 28,2009
I never fail to be amazed when I hear people—including well-known promoters of animal welfare—claim quite remarkably that animals do not have an interest in continued life; they just have an interest in not suffering. They do not care that we use them; they care only about how we use them. As long as they have a reasonably painless life and a relatively painless death, they do not care if we consume them or products made from them. I have discussed this issue in a number of essays on this site and in my books and articles. It will be a central topic in my forthcoming book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, which I have co-authored with Professor Robert Garner and that will be published by Columbia University Press this fall.
On our video page, we have two videos from slaughterhouses. A significant number of visitors have viewed these videos and have written to us about them, particularly the video that does not show any actual slaughter. That video has obviously made an impact on many people and so I wanted to highlight it in a blog post.
The video shows two cows waiting in a chute to be led into the abattoir. An employee comes out and uses an electric prod to get the first cow to enter the abattoir. The second cow remains behind the door that has closed. She is clearly terrified. She knows that she is in trouble and this is not simply a matter of “instinct” (I do not even know what that means.) She is desperately looking for a way to get out of the chute. She may not have the same sorts of thoughts that beings who, like us, use symbolic communication, but it is clear that she has some equivalent sort of cognition. To say that she does not have a sense of having a life is beyond absurdity.
I find this video to be profoundly tragic on many levels. Watch it and then ask yourself whether animal organizations should be investing their time and your resources in trying to design “better” slaughterhouses or promoting “happy” meat, or whether we should all commit ourselves to veganism and to clear, unequivocal, nonviolent vegan education.
The video is apparently from a French slaughterhouse. But it does not really matter. All slaughterhouses are places of hell and unspeakable violence against the vulnerable. Never believe that such a place can ever be described as “humane” except by someone who is very deeply confused about fundamental issues of morality.
Someone who saw this video wrote to me and said the following: I am a vegetarian but have found it difficult to transition to veganism. My two weaknesses: ice cream and good Cheshire cheese. I watched this video. I looked into her eyes and I answered the question that you asked on your video page: “Is there anything that you want to eat that badly?” The answer was clear to me in a way it never was before. I am now a vegan. I also recognised that all of the suffering and death that is going on is not because of what “they” are doing but because of what “we” demand. You are right to say that “the people who are ultimately responsible are not those who own and operate the slaughterhouses; those who consume meat and animal products, who create the demand, bear the ultimate moral responsibility.”
Go vegan. Educate others in creative, nonviolent ways about veganism.
You can lock me up, you can try to silence me, but you can't stop the movement. Animal liberation NOW!
February 15, 2017 We have written the Prime Minister and other politicians and ministers yet again on the lack of regulations and legislation to protect animals used in the animal agriculture industry.
The CFIA is in a conflict of interest, despite its claims to the contrary. It protects and promotes the animal agriculture/livestock industry, while at the same time acting as its regulator. Our government is so beholden to industry lobbyists and commercial interests that it cannot and does not adequately protect animals and the public through its regulations.
Government has the legal authority to create new legislation and a moral duty to put animal interests first. Politicians must be held responsible for their compliance in the atrocities that are permitted within the industry. Both on the federal and provincial levels, governments facilitate the infliction of the most profound privation and suffering on hundreds of millions of individual animals on an annual basis.
The exploitation and slaughter of animals as part of an economy is barbaric and unnecessary, yet government props up the industry with subsidies, bailouts, and other monies for producers. This enablement must stop. An enlightened and compassionate society does not keep the weak and the vulnerable oppressed. Our obligations to them are a matter of fundamental justice and must be advanced through the political and legislative process.
As compassionate Canadians, we can choose to live a humane lifestyle that does not include consuming animals. What has eyes, people conscious of their responsibility do not eat.