Stop participating in cruelty

The pain and suffering inflicted on animals only exists because we allow it

The author, a longtime Chico resident, wrote the Jan. 23 CN&R cover story “Out of sight, out of mind.”

In 2004, the California Legislature voted to ban the sale of foie gras—the artificially fattened liver of ducks, served as pâté in high-end restaurants. Enough Californians were convinced that the extreme cruelty involved in force-feeding animals could not be justified. The restaurant industry sued. In October 2014, the Ninth District Court of Appeals refused to hear the case, killing the last challenge to the law.

What has remained in my mind is a photograph that accompanied the story: a long battery of cages with ducks sticking their heads out between bars. They were lined up and uniform—all a beautiful khaki brown color.

I have watched hours of “behind-the-scenes” video of what I would call our Animal Holocaust; it is haunting and sickening. The ducks were not an isolated thing; they were yet another image in a complex web of images, all tied together: bile bears, force-fed dogs, circus animals, zoos, laboratory animals, bull fights, sharks “finned” for soup, SeaWorld orcas living in swimming pools—and the animals enslaved, bred, milked, slaughtered, beaten, shocked, branded, castrated, dehorned, debeaked, confined and abused in the system we call “modern agriculture.”

I imagine that many Californians voted for Proposition 2 in 2008—modifying some of the worst confinement practices in California—and then went shopping: bought milk, eggs and some bacon. I am grateful we stood against cruelty, but there remains every bit as much misery in the production of milk as there is in the process that produces foie gras. This is evident in the short, brutal lives of dairy cows—repeatedly bred and mourning the loss of their calves. Cows are worn-out in five years and trucked to slaughter, and their male calves live out short lives in veal crates. Almost all eggs still come from high-density confinement operations and bacon out of a system where pigs spend lives jammed in steel racks. California’s laws are slightly more progressive, but pork is mostly produced in states like Iowa. We have much further to go.

To do so, we have to see how arbitrary our beliefs about animals actually are and how they don’t really encompass the fact that these products are shadowed by misery we would never permit for any living thing—that is, if we had to see it every day. And, though much of the misery in the world is stubbornly difficult to end, this pain we inflict on animals has a simple solution: we stop participating.