Our Moral Failing With Animals

This is a submission by writer and animal activist Madeline Salocks. She clearly explains how the issues of animal welfare and animal agriculture are something that we need to be taking a look at. We support this message because issues of animal welfare is not just a moral dilemma, but a public health concern as well. CCHEI supports activism, community engagement, and the public being informed about some of our horrible farming practices. By teaching our children to be more compassionate to all living creatures, the future will be a better place for us all

Our Moral Failing With Animals

Cruelty to animals, like child abuse, holds one of the special places on the list of human evils, because the victims are innocent and defenseless. A horse chased round and round a corral by a driver in an SUV, until the horse finally collapsed. A large herd of goats grazing on a hill for vegetation management, gunned down at night, survivors left crying out in pain over their fallen companions. A dog chained to a fire hydrant and attacked by two men with machetes. These are just three of innumerable heartbreaking stories I've heard over the years in my local area alone.

Last year, I happened to stumble upon the story of a vicious psychopathic individual who captured and then, over a period of several days, tortured a 6-year old gray and white cat named Sage, beating him, breaking his paws, and inflicting other unspeakable tortures related to a glue gun1. Amazingly, Sage was still alive when he was discovered back on his home doorstep, but died soon after, the emergency vets at the animal hospital unable to save him. I couldn't bear to read every detail, but, having seen photos, I knew enough that, for a couple days, even with no personal connection, I had difficulty sleeping and keeping my attention on other things, and I shed more than one tear. For several more days, images of the horrific fate of this sweet animal still forced their way into my mind. The local Humane Society in Northern Utah reported that this was one of the worst cases of animal abuse they had seen. All I could do was send money to help with the veterinary costs and the investigation.

Deliberate infliction of pain as an end in itself is obviously in its own unspeakable category, and no words are adequate. But perpetrators of animal cruelty aren't limited to the deranged. Millions of animals suffer at the hands of humans, often otherwise perfectly sane, in a wide variety of ways and circumstances, many of them legal and accepted.

Often flying under the radar is the neglect of animals by people with insufficient space, time, or resources for their animal(s), and an insufficient grasp of their moral obligations. Failing to provide a pet with proper food, a clean environment, or veterinary visits. Confining a bird to a tiny cage where it can never fly, or a fish to a micro tank where it can barely swim. Keeping a dog chained to a backyard tree all day. Leaving a dog in a hot vehicle—as in a 2017 Florida case where a K-9 died after an officer forgot he had left him in the squad car on a sweltering afternoon2. Sometimes many animals suffer neglect under the same roof. In the United States, neglected animals reported as victims of hoarders every year number approximately 250,0003.

On a much larger scale is the commercial torture and neglect of animals for products and profit.

A prime example is the widespread practice of "factory farming," where farmers serve their bottom lines by intensely confining animals for the entirety of their shortened lives. Chickens are jammed into wire cages so small they can't spread their wings, and as many as 20,0004 of the hapless birds can be found packed into warehouse-like buildings containing no natural light, with floors covered in waste. On top of the disgraceful environment, these birds suffer further cruelties such as "debeaking" (where the highly sensitive nerve-filled beak is chopped off with a hot blade to prevent feather pecking from the stress of confinement) and "force molting" (starvation for up to two weeks to force an egg-laying cycle). When they come to the end of their grim lives, chickens aren't even covered under the Humane Slaughter Act5, which requires animals to be rendered insensitive to pain before being killed. (One well-known corporation has been reported to have an exceptionally grievous culture of cruelty, with undercover video showing birds being punched, kicked, swung around by their wings, slammed against cages, run over by fork lifts, and crushed by workers standing on their heads6.) Factory-farmed pigs, cows, turkeys, sheep, and goats suffer variations of this same sort of treatment. Of course the end product is sanitized once it reaches the meat aisle of the grocery store. If a customer were given the story behind, for example, the plastic-wrapped chicken he or she is considering buying for dinner, the package would likely be left on the shelf.

Wild animals, too, are victims of cruelty for products and profit. We humans have already altered the ecosystem to their detriment (as well as our own), and yet we further worsen their plight.

For the luxury of fur, over a million seals have been killed over just the past five years in the annual Canadian seal hunt in the largest mass slaughter of marine mammals on the planet7. Helpless young pups with no chance of escape are especially targeted because of their velvety coats. Although training in "humane killing practices" is required, animal welfare groups observe that the killings are nevertheless inhumane, with many seals dying an agonizing lingering death. Killing methods include bludgeoning with wooden clubs, impaling in the face with "hakapiks" (large icepick-like devices)8, and shooting with rifles. Despite regulations, sealers continue to put steel hooks in still-conscious seals' mouths and drag the animals across the ice to load into boats. Skinning of live seals has been reported9, although no formal studies have been produced since 2001 when a group of veterinarians concluded that at least 40% of the animals were subjected to this practice10. Many of the seals are simply left to die, crawling on the ice in their own blood, sometimes with their skins still intact if they've received more than one bullet hole, thus making their skins less profitable. Although the annual slaughter began in the 1700s, Canada celebrated its first official National Seal Products Day on May 20, 201711.

For cheap meat and soccer shoes, and justified by some with unscientific claims of environmental threat, hundreds of thousands of kangaroos are killed annually in Australia in the largest mass slaughter of wild land-based mammals on the planet12. Typically the killings occur at night in remote locations. Shooters aim for the kangaroos' brains in their relatively small heads, but often miss, hitting other body parts instead, and the injured animals escape, only to die later of starvation. After their mothers are slaughtered, young kangaroos (joeys) are clubbed to death with steel pipes13.

Many of the billions of commercial fish consumed yearly come from factory "aqua farms," either ocean-based cages or land-based pools or tanks. As with factory-farmed land animals, huge numbers of fish are crammed into a small space, rendering them unable to swim or otherwise behave naturally. And the stressful environment, including increased aggression from the stress, results in approximately 40% of the fish dying before the farmer's planned slaughter date14. The surviving fish are then starved before slaughter to minimize excrement in the water. For smaller fish, slaughter usually involves draining water and leaving them to suffocate; for larger fish, blows to the head. Regulations for stunning fish before slaughter are even further behind than for land animals. In fact, many fish are cut open while still alive and conscious15. Non-farmed fish are sometimes treated brutally as well. Fish hunters throw out long lines with thousands of baited sharp hooks, catch the fish (as well as, inadvertently, turtles and other sea animals), drag them for hours while filling up the line, then rip the hooks from their mouths. In some countries, there are now laws against long lining, but they are hard to enforce, and. often too lenient. Sometimes most of a fish's body goes to waste, as for the traditional Chinese delicacy, shark fin soup, where the sharks are caught and their fins cut off, after which they are thrown back into the ocean alive, to sink to the ocean floor and die of starvation16.

Even our "best friends" can be victims of cruelty for product and profit. In "puppy mills", where profit trumps animal welfare, female dogs are repeatedly bred with little recovery time, and, along with male parents, are usually killed once they can no longer reproduce. These ill-fated animals are typically kept either entirely inside, in cramped unsanitary cages (often stacked), never seeing the light of day, or entirely outside, with no shelter from elements. Some puppy mill puppies are taken from their mothers and marketed as young as eight weeks old17. In the Asian dog and cat meat trade, millions of strays and stolen pets are slaughtered annually18, and they are often tortured first because of a myth that the presence of higher adrenaline levels produces more tender meat19.

Animal cruelty serves a wide array of other objectives as well: Product testing on animals; painful and distressing lab experimentation on animals; medical training using intentionally injured or slain animals; animals still used as beasts of burden, pulling carriages or sleds. And many examples of animal cruelty are simply for "entertainment" or "sport": Trophy hunting of wild game, with its shameful and cowardly practices of baiting (placing food to make the target animal an easy target), hounding (having radio-collared hounds chase the targeted animal to exhaustion), and trapping; circuses with animals forced to perform acts and tricks; regressive zoos; dog fighting rings; horse racing; bull fighting and running (the torturing and killing of thousands20 each year still considered by many to be an important part of Spain's cultural heritage). And countless lesser-known rituals still exist. For example, animal chasing, as in Spain, where Galgos, traditional hunting dogs, are overbred in the quest for prize-winning runners, and, after passing their usefulness in chasing real or fake hares, are sometimes hung (their desperate pawing for footing as they suffocate referred to by their killers as "piano playing"), thrown down wells or into rivers to drown, burned, doused with acid, or left stranded in the wild with their legs intentionally broken21.

Are those engaged in industries and traditions involving cruelty to animals ignoring what simple observation should tell them about the animals' suffering, willfully remaining ignorant, thinking, "They're only animals. They can't really feel?" Scientific research has established that all mammals and birds, as well as fish, not only have extremely complex behaviors, but are sentient beings, experiencing pain and suffering22.

What if the factory poultry farmers came to appreciate the impressive qualities of chickens? With at least 24 vocalizations communicating different meanings, memory for people, places, and things, and learning skills involving observation and even counting, chickens are far more intelligent than once believed. Studies have shown that they also react emotionally (with increased heart rate) when they see other chickens in distress23. A trail I frequently walk on passes the back yard of a modest home where around ten beautiful chickens live in in a spacious, shaded, clean, healthful environment with plenty of food and water, various creatively designed perches at different levels, and three solidly-built wooden houses (coops) with nests. The peaceful and contented lives these birds enjoy and the obvious kindness and care of their owners warms my heart every time I walk by. Why can't we live in a world where they aren't just the lucky few?

What if the Canadian hunters came to appreciate seals and sea lions, celebrating not their products, but their highly social natures and sophisticated communication and detection capabilities, and the stories of their saving lives of other species, including humans? In 2000, a man decided to take his own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. But he regretted the act in mid-fall and, as if a prayer had been answered, survived the impact. Severely injured, he was about to drown when a sea lion came along, circled him, and continually bumped him from below, keeping him afloat until Coast Guard rescuers arrived24.

What if the Australian hunters came to appreciate kangaroos, peaceful herbivores posing no threat to humans, or the environment? Kangaroos have strong family and mob (group) bonds, and demonstrate intense grief upon personal loss. Their ability to empathize with other species, including humans, was noted in a 2003 story in which an eastern gray kangaroo received an Australian National Animal Valour Award for saving a farmer's life by directing his family to the location where he had been injured by a fallen tree branch25.

What if fish farmers came to appreciate fish, wondrous beings that learn from each other in complex communities, and exhibit clear symptoms of pain and anxiety? The sensibility is described wonderfully in an account in Peter Singer's article Fish: the forgotten victims on our plate in The Guardian (14 September 2010)

Another time, when our path took us by a tranquil stream, I saw a man sitting and watching his line, seemingly at peace with the world, while next to him, fish he had already caught were flapping helplessly and gasping in the air. My father told me that he could not understand how anyone could enjoy an afternoon spent taking fish out of the water and letting them die slowly.

Most people require no studies to convince them of the intelligence, feelings, love, and empathy, of dogs and cats. If only the dog and cat slaughterers' hearts could be warmed by the friendly look in a dog's eye and its wagging tail, or the nuzzling and purring of a cat.

What to do about this far-reaching moral failing?

Part two of the story is that, although humans can be a cruel species, we can also be compassionate. While many people continue to harm animals, many others recognize animals as the magnificent creatures they are, sharing our fragile planet, with the right to live their lives naturally and be who they are. Along with well-known organizations such as the SPCA, the Humane Society, the Audubon Society, and Wildlife Conservation Network, countless other global, regional, and local organizations, and individuals, engage in important work for animalsÑand more join in all the time.

Farm Sanctuary, with locations in New York state and California, rescues, rehabilitates, and gives life-long loving care in clean barns and spacious pastures to farm animals that have been abused and neglected.

The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito California rescues, rehabilitates, and releases marine animals back to the ocean, mostly seals and sea lions. As one of the largest marine hospitals in the world, since 1975, the center has treated and released over 20,000 animals26.

The Kangaroo Sanctuary in central Australia rescues, rehabilitates, and releases orphaned joeys back to the wild. Those that cannot be released to the wild live out their lives in a sprawling 188-acre sanctuary.

Chinese NBA player Yao Ming teamed up with WildAid to raise awareness in China about the realities behind shark fin soup. Following Ming's efforts, consumption of shark fin soup decreased 50Ð70% in 201627.

Dharma Rescue in Southern California provides a happy home and fruitful life for dogs and cats that have become disabled through abuse or other circumstances, and would otherwise be homeless or euthanized. Thousands of other lesser-known shelters around the US alone fight cruelty and help dogs and cats in need every day.

These are just a handful of examples, a full listing of which would require a book. If more people join and help them, we'll be closer to a universal respect for all animals and commitment to their wellbeing.

My hope is for increased awareness through schools and the media.

If school curriculums, K through 12, incorporated more education on the magnificence of all species and their critical places in the ecosystem, held regular discussions based on humane readings (from publications such as Kind News/Red Rover, a humane education magazine for children, all the way up to books such as The Animals' Agenda), and arranged visits to sanctuaries and other places where animals are treated with kindness, more and more people from an early age would likely develop a high regard and concern for the wellbeing of all animals. And, over time, fewer and fewer people would likely tolerate being part of an enterprise with cruel practices toward animals. Someone with full-fledged psychopathic tendencies, such as Sage's killer, might not be reachable, but more people would be unwilling to stay quiet about animal cruelty that they witness or hear plans of. Parents, teachers, and school boards should push for more animal education.

Anecdotally, news stories related to animals seem to have made their way into the media more than in the past, partly due to the Internet. And those involving cruelty are hard to read, but, alas, necessary to read, and an apt outcry ensues. But such stories still aren't told enough. For every one that's publicized, such as Sage, or the trophy killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe by an American dentist, which received extensive coverage, countless others remain unrevealed. If major news outlets, both local and national, regularly publicized stories about animals and the treatment of animals—bad and good—as much as they do about, say, food, entertainment, pop star gossip, and travel, we would be reminded frequently of needed reform, as well as the good work being done to support animals. I've seen numerous stories in The Guardian, for example, and, I was glad to see a National Geographic magazine devoted to animal feelings. But animal advocates should push for more animal stories, especially in reputable widely-viewed media sources—print, audio, online, paper, TV, and radio, and should support those sources that already bring attention to animals' plight.

My hope is for increased activism.

Not everyone has the time or the means to open a rescue facility or even volunteer at one, be an undercover investigator, or work on legislation to strengthen animal protection laws. But almost everyone has at least a little bit of money or time to devote to animal advocacy. If more did so regularly, these small efforts would add up to big anti-cruelty gains.

For donations, the Charity Navigator website lists organizations in the US, with ratings and useful information for informed selection. Other online sources are greatnonprofits.org, charitywatch.org, and guidestar.org (including non-US organizations for paid membership).

For contacting representatives to encourage support of animal welfare legislation, the Humane Society, Last Chance for Animals, and FarmSanctuary websites list current federal and state level bills.

For quick voicing of opinion, the Animal Legal Defense Fund website, change.org, and animalpetitions.org list current petitions related to animal rights and wellbeing, and they send notifications via email. An online petition takes just a few seconds, and yet can be helpful in influencing change. For example, an online petition was one factor in the Delta Airlines decision to ban the transporting of trophy animals in the wake of the Cecil the lion story28.

For researching products: A list of companies producing personal care products free of animal testing is available at navs.org, and a list of humane dairy farms is available at cornucopia.org. Meat eaters can refer to the Global Animal Partnership website for companies that meet the criteria for humane environment and treatment, and ratings for the level of standards met beyond the minimum required. Meat eaters should also be mindful that animal agriculture is responsible for a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions, and thus reduction in meat consumption equals a reduction in global warming. Fish eaters can select wild pole-caught fish, and, if possible, those stunned before slaughter. If enough people choose to open their wallets for some products and not for others, over time, producers will get the message.

As part of the chorus wishing every animal to be treated with kindness and respect, my hope is for this writing to inspire at least one person to add another voice.


1 Chan, Melissa. "What We Saw Broke Our Hearts. Family Mourns Cat Tortured With Hot Glue." Time.com, 10 March 2017, http://time.com/4698291/cat-tortured-death-hot-glue-utah/.

2 Gallop, J.D. "Investigation into police dog death in Melbourne." Florida Today, 3 May 2017, http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2017/05/02/police-k9-died-after-officer-left-car-melbourne-courthouse/101192724/.

3 "Hoarding." The Humane Society of the United States, 2017, http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/abuse_neglect/facts/hoarding.html.

4 "Chickens Used for Eggs, Chickens Used for Meat." Farm Sanctuary, 2017, https://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/chickens/.

5 "Chickens Used for Eggs, Chickens Used for Meat." Farm Sanctuary, 2017, https://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/chickens/.

6 Hanson, Hilary. "Undercover Footage Reveals ÔCulture of Animal Cruelty' on Tyson Farms." Huffington Post, 12 August 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tyson-animal-abuse-chicken-breeding-farm_us_57acbddde4b007c36e4d90f1.

7 "About the Canadian Seal Hunt." The Humane Society of the United States, 2017, http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/seal_hunt/facts/about_seal_hunt.html.

8 Actman, Jani. "Demand For Seal Products has FallenÑSo Why Do Canadians Keep Hunting?" National Geographic, 5 April 2017, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/04/wildlife-watch-canada-harp-seal-hunt/.

9 Cottraux, Genevieve. "Why Does the Annual Harp Seal Slaughter Continue?" The Humane Herald, 13 April 2017, https://humaneherald.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/why-does-the-annual-harp-seal-slaughter-continue/.

10 "Join the Boycott to End the Slaughter." The Humane Society of the United States, 2017, http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/seal_hunt/tips/boycott.html.

11 "Canada will celebrate its first National Seal Products Day this Saturday." CBC Radio-Canada, 16 May 2017, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/national-seal-products-day-may-20-1.4119380.

12 Nurse, Eleanor. "Save them or kill them. Australians divided on kangaroos." The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 January 2015, http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/save-them-or-kill-them-australians-divided-on-kangaroos-20150125-12y47a.html.

13 Tischler, Joyce. "The Plight of Kangaroos in Australia." Animal Legal Defense Fund, 5 August 2010, http://aldf.org/blog/the-plight-of-kangaroos-in-australia/.

14 "Aquafarming." PETA, 2017, https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/fish/aquafarming/.

15 Schilling, Nadia. "Underwater Suffering Ð It Never Ends, unles ..." In Defense of Animals, 17 February 2017, https://www.idausa.org/campaign/farmed-animal/latest-news/underwater-suffering-it-never-ends-unless/.

16 "Longline Fishing Threatens Seabirds and Other Marine Life." The Humane Society of the United States, 2017, http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/fisheries/facts/longline_fishing_marine_life.html.

17 "A Closer Look at Puppy Mills." ASPCA, 2017, https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/puppy-mills/closer-look-puppy-mills.

18 "The countries where people still eat cats and dogs for dinner." BBC, 12 April 2017, http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/39577557/the-countries-where-people-still-eat-cats-and-dogs-for-dinner.

19 Ching, Marc. "The Yulin Dog Meat Festival Is No Cultural Pillar Ð Why It Needs To Stop Now." Forbes, 21 June 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/insideasia/2017/06/21/the-yulin-dog-meat-festival-is-no-cultural-pillar-why-it-needs-to-stop-now/#db6d1be38621.

20 Pacelle, Wayne. "No matter how fast they run, Pamplona's bulls are doomed." A Humane Nation, 8 July 2016, https://blog.humanesociety.org/wayne/2016/07/pamplona-running-of-bulls.html.

21 Daly, Natasha. "Traditional Hunting Dogs Are Left to Die En Masse in Spain." National Geographic, 26 October 2016, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/10/spanish-galgo-hunting-dog-killing-welfare/; Villalba, Juanjo. "The Fight to Stop Spain's Holocaust" Vice, 25 February 2014, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/gq8ve3/its-greyhound-murder-season-in-spain.

22 Balcombe, Jonathan. "Yes, Animals Have Feelings." Live Science, 10 December 2014, https://www.livescience.com/49093-animals-have-feelings.html; Bekoff, Marc. "After 2,500 Studies, It's Time to Declare Animal Sentience Proven." Live Science, 6 September 2013, https://www.livescience.com/39481-time-to-declare-animal-sentience.html.

23 Barras, Colin. "Despite what you might think, chickens are not stupid." BBC, 11 January 2017, http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170110-despite-what-you-might-think-chickens-are-not-stupid; Johnson, Ruthanne. "Who You Calling a Birdbrain?" The Humane Society of the United States, May/June 2014, http://www.humanesociety.org/news/magazines/2014/05-06/who-you-calling-birdbrain-chicken-intelligence.html.

24 "Golden Gate Bridge jumper says sea lion saved him." MSN, 4 March 2015, http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/national/golden-gate-bridge-jumper-says-sea-lion-saved-him/ar-BBid5j4 25 "Lulu the roo hops to bravery award." CNN.com, 28 April 2004, http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/asiapcf/04/28/australia.luluroo/.

26 "What We Do." The Marine Mammal Center, 2017, http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/what-we-do/.

27 Hinckley, Story. "How Yao Ming appeased the Chinese appetite for shark fin soup." The Christian Science Monitor, 2 June 2016, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2016/0602/How-Yao-Ming-appeased-the-Chinese-appetite-for-shark-fin-soup.

28 "Delta Airlines bans big-game trophies from flights." CBS News, 3 August 2015, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/delta-bans-lion-and-other-animal-trophies-on-flights/.