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Question Hello Kurma,

You've probably seen the Australian Livestock Association's recent screening of a series of TV ads promoting lamb-eating as being in keeping with 'spirit of Australia". I tell my friends that this surely is a terrible injustice since the poor animals are also Australians. What do you think?

Zoe Schulberg, Tamarama, New South Wales, Australia

AnswerHello Zoe,

Thank you for your insightful letter. I couldn't have said it better myself.
Yes I saw those ads. Interestingly, it did stir up a bit of controversy, and a good number of vegetarian Australian media personalities did speak out.

Yet it strikes me how there seems to be a collective cloud of ignorance that covers people's finer instincts when it comes to eating corpses. We would swerve to avoid an already-dead animal cadaver while driving on the highway, as if running over it would add insult to injury, yet we don't hesitate to pick up a few packets of bloodied flesh at the supermarket.

We are outraged when an Australian citizen is jailed without trial overseas, or kidnapped and murdered, yet we confine and execute millions of our innocent, child-like four-legged and winged citizens each year in our concentration-camp style slaughterhouses.

I think if people could see first-hand what goes on behind the closed doors of the slaughterhouses and factory farms, then only the hardest of hearts could not fail to be moved.

Consider these points:

  • Factory hens today are forced to live in "battery" cages stacked in rows, four high, by the thousands. Each will be confined to a little more than a square metre of space. After months of confinement, necks will be covered with blisters, wings bare, combs bloody, feet torn. Manure fumes and rotting carcasses will force poultry workers to wear gas masks. When the hens become what the industry matter-of-factly refers to as spent, producers will truck the mutilated birds - often long distances - to slaughter, or they will gas them, or grind them up while still alive, to be used as feed for the next flock.
  • Our modern dairy cow lives with an unnaturally swelled and sensitive udder, is likely never to be allowed out of her stall, is milked up to three times a day and is kept pregnant nearly all of her abbreviated life. Her young are usually taken from her almost immediately after birth. A cow living in today's modern milk factory is, as John Robbins puts it, "bred, fed, medicated, inseminated and manipulated to a single purpose - maximum milk production at minimum cost."
  • Egg laying is an extremely private matter for a hen. A hen will normally seek a secluded place to lay. But the egg industry, which thwarts this and every other instinct embodied in the hen, keeps her crammed for her entire life inside a small wire cage with four to eight other cellmates. Imprisoned here, her body will be robbed of potential offspring she will never see.
  • A male calf born to a cow - what does a farmer do with this by-product of the dairy industry? If he is not immediately slaughtered, a newborn calf is likely to be taken to a veal factory. There, he will be locked up in a stall and chained by his neck to prevent him from turning around for his entire life. He will be fed a special diet without iron or roughage. He will be injected with antibiotics and hormones to keep him alive and to make him grow. He will be kept in darkness except for feeding time. The result? A nearly full-grown animal with flesh as tender and milky white as a newborn's. The 'beauty' of the system (from the standpoint of the veal industry) is that meat from today's so-called crate veal still fetches the premium price it always did when such flesh came only from a baby calf - just a lot more of it.
  • Turkeys today have been selectively bred to such an extent that their huge breasts make it impossible for them to accomplish the sex act on their own. The industry must artificially inseminate them. The job is nearly as dehumanizing for the workers - who must work rapidly for long hours and low wages - as it is deplorable for the tortured breeder birds, who are essentially raped once or twice a week for 12 to 16 months until slaughter.
  • Nearly all commercial chickens die during bleed-out after a circular blade severs their necks. They are not humanely rendered unconscious by the electrified bath in which their heads are first plunged. Chicken processors keep voltages there only high enough to immobilize any inconvenient flailing. Many birds miss both the low-voltage stunning and throat slitting. Every day 30,000 to 60,000 broiler chickens die in the scald tank that follows the bleed-out chamber.
  • Despite so called 'humane' slaughter procedures (an oxymoron!) slaughterhouse conveyor lines are pushed to breakneck speeds, frequently causing cattle, pigs, horses and sheep to be shackled and throat-slit without first being stunned. Animals often are skinned, boiled and butchered alive.
  • To produce foie gras, male ducks are force-fed 3 or four kilos of grain three times a day with an air-driven feeder tube. This torturous process goes on for 28 days until the ducks' livers, from which the pâté is made, bloat to six to 12 times their normal size. About 10 percent of the ducks don't make it to slaughter. They die when their stomachs burst.

And we wonder why so many of our young men are sent off to war, never to return. Surely this is a small token of karma for how we treat our animals.

Anyway, I could go on, but I'll leave it there.

Thank you,

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