Imagine spending an entire lifetime in solitary confinement, in a cage just a foot or two taller and wider than you, and devoted to the sole activities of breeding and gaining weight. It sounds like a plot out of Hitler’s ghastly experiments, but actually, it is the standard indictment we pronounce on animals and birds, when we factory farm animals to have meat and eggs on our plates. Horrific but true, these are the industry standards of animal and poultry farms anywhere in the world.
“Intelligent or not, these are living creatures that like to move, experience nature, freedom and companionship, just like us. In our selfishness and cruelty, we have reduced them to a life of incarceration as biological breeding machines,” points out Wayne A. Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the largest animal advocacy body in the world. He goes on:
“We can no longer stifle our conscience by saying that these creatures don’t have cognisance and don’t perceive the trauma of it all. There has been an explosion of knowledge in the last few decades regarding the substantial intelligence and cognition levels that non-human creatures have. It is not just about cruelty, but also about inefficient use of resources; the Earth can no longer sustain a non-vegetarian diet for humans as it takes more natural resources to raise a kilo of animal food than plant food. Granted, there was a time when man did not know agriculture and had a need to kill animals for food, clothing, and shelter. But it is no longer the case now, we have alternatives. How we treat animals is a test of our decency and humanity.”
This is probably why Pacelle’s epochal book The Bond makes for compulsory reading and reflection.
It makes us introspect on our attitude to animals. Facilitated by the C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre and the Madras Book Club, Pacelle was here in the city to discuss his book.
Along with the Dalai Lama, he launched the Indian arm of the Humane Society in Bombay on World Compassion Day that falls on November 29 each year.
As a young man at university, Pacelle decided that he would not stay mute to the sufferings that we put animals to. Touching 47 now, he looks far younger than his age would indicate, possibly because of the positive attitude he radiates.
Since he became president of HSUS, he has helped pass over 15 U.S. Federal statutes to protect animals, including laws to protect great apes in their natural habitats, halt interstate transport of fighting animals, ban sale of videos showing animal cruelty, getting government agencies to include pets in disaster planning, etc.
Pacelle, who is vegan, is now looking at many issues like tackling cruelty to animals in lab testing, but a major task he addresses is in banning inhuman practices in factory farming of animals.
India accounts for 3.5 kilos of meat consumption per person per year, compared to American standards of 110-135 kilos per person per year. “This might be because of India’s great tradition of vegetarianism and compassion to animals. But the animal and poultry farms that do exist here are just as horrific as the ones around the world,” he points out.
Well, this is not an issue that can be addressed by laws and industry regulations alone. Pacelle says, “Change can be ushered in by lifestyle choices we as individuals make, when we opt for products that have not put animals through suffering and inhumanity.”