Saturday, February 18, 2012

Animal Cruelty

Since becoming an Agvocate, I have had to justify my position on the slaughter of animals for meat.  That's not really a news flash but when you buy your meat from the shop, you don't have to think about whether or not that piece of meat came from a beast that had a horrific end to its life.  You don't have images of cattle, sheep or pigs screaming in fear and pain floating through your head as you buy your bacon or rib fillet steak.

Yesterday I checked out my twitter account to see this link sent to me directly for comment.

And not long ago, a friend posted this one on facebook

Watching these images makes me really sad.  I don't blame activists from getting hold of these videos and doing their best to stop these practices.  It's really confronting.  It does make you wonder whether eating meat is the right thing to do.

But let me make a few comments to put things into perspective.  In both of these cases, the abattoirs were immediately shut down for investigation.  Why is this? Because Australia has standards for meat production and slaughter which are strict and uncompromising.  Any breach of these standards leads to swift action.  There is little room for tightening of this legislation.  We have legislated against cruelty, what we can't legislate against is stupidity and unprofessionalism.

If the workers in these abattoirs are incompetent, it is the job of the supervisors to train them or get rid of them.  But are they allowed to get rid of them I wonder.  I don't know of a single employer (and I know a few) who have sacked an employee in the last twenty years.  Because of unfair dismissal laws, it's too risky.  You have to encourage your employee to resign or somehow make their job redundant, give them a retirement package or some other creative way to get rid of them.  Is it even possible for people employing staff in these facilities to say, "Here's the standards, anyone seen doing otherwise is out."?

Okay, enough of that rant, here's another.  If our legislation is so tight, why does this sort of thing happen at all?  Let's put aside my personal opinion that the second video was staged.  Here's a question, why is there a sledgehammer helpfully lying around in the abattoir? Perhaps it is because, no matter how good your procedures, or equipment, things do stuff up and a few quick blows to the head would be the fastest (and most humane) way of killing an animal in an emergency.  Can you think of something better?

It's a shocking thought, I grant you, but only because we don't get exposed to death as much as others might.  I remember when I was ten, we took a trip to the country to visit some cousins.  Whilst driving with them, a small kangaroo jumped out in front of the car and we hit it.  My Aunt went back to see if it was dead and the poor little thing was lying on the side of the road with a broken leg.  I thought we were going to help it but when my aunt opened the boot, what she took out was a lump of timber and promptly bashed the kangaroo over the head and killed it.  It took me a while to recover from that, and I clearly still remember that standing out amongst other experiences I had that holiday.  But that's the reality of the situation.  Death is a part of life.  Everything that lives must die.  Here in the country, people seem to accept that better than those of us from cities.

So what more can we do about animal cruelty?  Do we shut down all meat producing businesses and go vegan?  I think that Animals Australia and PETA would have us do just that.  What would happen then?  We'd need more grown food to make up the difference.  All grazing land would have to be converted to farm land, be irrigated, and kept free from pests.  By pests I mean animals.  We don't have enough water to sustain our farming land now, look at the Murray Darling issue as an example.  And any animals such as Kangaroos, wild pigs, dogs and cattle would have to be shot on sight so that they didn't eat our precious crops.  What if you weren't a good shot and the animal was wounded in the belly.  That would be more scary and painful way to die than by stun gun or sledgehammer would it not?  And the meat would be wasted. Eventually, with the human population increasing in current proportions, there would be very little  animal numbers left in the world.  Look at all the native Australian bush creatures that we're trying to save from extinction.  Save the koala, save the bilby.  We're encroaching on their habitat now.  Imagine what would happen if all animals became suddenly useless.

Perhaps instead we could let all the animals roam free in designated forests and you can get a permit to hunt your own if you want to eat meat.  Of course that means you'd have to get a gun license and learn to use a rifle.  Again, what if you missed? What if you hit it in the leg and it ran off, not to be found.  What sort of horrible death would it have then?  What if all the cattle were wild.  They'd be subject to diseases like tick fever and worms that we prevent against now.  They'd have horns which they could do damage to themselves and fellow cattle with as they vie for top position within the herd.  The young would be killed and eaten by dingos and wild dogs.  That's not a pretty death either people.  Have you seen what a wild dog will do to a calf or lamb?  Or an eagle for that matter.  They pick them up and drop them from a height, then start picking at them whilst they are still alive.

Slaughterhouses might seem inhumane to you, even to me.  But nature is far crueller to animals than we will ever be.  We have legislation against cruelty to animals.  If we really consider the options,  farming our meat and slaughtering it within accepted practices is the best way to get our food to the table.  It suits city folk not to have to hunt, and it suits country folk to look after the land and animals.

Finally, I'd like to add that cruel people exist in the world and they will find a way to be cruel no matter what legislations are in place.  Unfortunately some of them will end up working with animals.  Others prey on people.  Some will abuse their own kids.  You can make up all the rules you like, but ultimately we have to rely on individuals having their own set of moral standards.  That goes for every business and every part of life and is not limited to abattoirs.

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