WARNING: Contains Images Of Animal Cruelty
Before you finish reading this sentence, 15,000 animals will have been killed in the UK alone: that’s 15,000 animals every minute killed for consumption on your dinner table.
I’ll fess up. I am a meat eater. I eat steak and ribs and chicken and fish – I especially love fish. The excessive time I spend thinking or talking about food is invariably spent mulling over the deliciousness of certain meat groups and livestock.
So this footage came as somewhat of a sickening shock to me:
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As a meat-eater and an animal-lover I admit to burying my head in the sand about the mistreatment of innocent animals happening right here in the UK, instead choosing to live in a world of cognitive dissonance, fine dining and blissful ignorance.
But footage like this is hard to ignore. It shows pigs screaming as they head to the slaughterhouse, chickens being pulled apart and pecking at the carcasses of those who’ve collapsed alongside them.
It shows the guts spilling from sharks that were only moments before swimming in the ocean. It reveals the dark truths which lurk behind the slaughterhouse doors, out to sea on shipping boats, and the realities of our very own livestock industry.
As Paul McCartney once said, ‘If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.’ After seeing this footage, I’m starting to understand why.
Professor of Animal Welfare & Ethics at the University of Winchester, Andrew Knight, told UNILAD:
We develop these mental justifications that allow us to justify what we do; that it’s okay to subject them to all sorts of invasive husbandry procedures, to tail dock them, to castrate them.
But they have exactly the same capacity to experience pain as our companion animals do in our homes – or even ourselves for that matter.
As vegan activist, Katie Powell points out, there is a real ‘disconnect’ between how we treat domesticated pets and our willingness to eat livestock – animals with countless biological similarities to cats and dogs – who have been subjected to torturous conditions.
I know I am just as likely to coo over a pig meme as I am to tag a mate in a cute dog video. Yet I’m happy to sit down to pork crackling at the family roast dinner, despite having done little research into that ex-piglet’s life and untimely death.
Take the humble chicken. Dr Mark Williams, a professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Leicester, told UNILAD there are about 20 million broiler chickens ‘specifically bred for humans to eat’ on the planet at any one time.
A broiler chicken lives for six weeks. It can’t be sustained beyond that, so even if you go an break into a battery farm and break them all out, they’ll die because their systems are so designed their bodies are overweight for their bones and they’ll just collapse.
The cruelty isn’t just confined to dry land either. Some of the worst slaughter takes place on the high seas, where 2.7 trillion fish are killed every year, Dr Callum Roberts, a Professor of Marine Conservation at the University of York, tells UNILAD.
Looking out over the vast oceans beyond the British coastline, he said:
We kill more fish per year than all the humans who have lived on Earth ever. Many of the fish that we catch are just simply thrown overboard because they’re over quota, or the wrong species, or they’re too big and they’re considered to be unsaleable.
Katie Powell, a vegan activist, told UNILAD about the abuse closer to home:
At the Tulip pig slaughterhouse in Manchester you can go around to the side of the gas chambers, by a river. People walk their dogs there but there are audible pig screams a few feet away.
The way that each individual animal struggles and fights for its life; the way in which they’re killed; the look in their eyes and how their bodies move; it’s hidden from us for a reason because it is horrific and it is abusive and it is unjust.
We’re not given the opportunity to see pigs and cows a individuals because they’re just objectified and turned into a product. They’re turned into stock; they’re literally ‘live stock’.
Tulip Ltd., which is an RSPCA Freedom Food Assured company that supplies brands like Waitrose, say they are ‘proud to be at the fore of the food manufacturing industry, providing a wide range of quality, cost effective and innovative products to the retail and foodservice sectors’.
It’s painful and uncomfortable to think those screams are deemed okay by the RSPCA and respected brands like Waitrose.
But the matter is not just about humanity sacrificing our personal tastes for the welfare of animals; creatures we are programmed to perceive as inferior. The matter is one of global sociological, economic proportions for all living beings; humans included.
‘If we would use the feed or the amount of crops we use to feed animals to feed people we could eliminate hunger’, Dr Marco Springmann, Lead Researcher at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, tells UNILAD.
Dr Springmann added:
It’s clear that if everyone had a Western diet, we couldn’t exist and the world would be eaten up.
For the past two decades, the rate of global food production has increased faster than the rate of global population growth and we are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people.
Yet hunger is caused by poverty and inequality, rather than scarcity, and that means 800 million men, women and children are starving on Earth, according to World Hunger.
The question of which we value more remains: the luxury of dietary preferences, or the welfare of millions of animals and the potential to end world hunger?