American consumers abuse animals

One day animal cruelty shall be held in the same regard as slavery in our nation’s past.

John Doe, a local Minnesotan homeowner, was arrested Friday for the torture of animals. Inside his home, investigators found cats dangling upside down, some of them dead, some still painfully writhing with life. Dogs were jammed inside cages so tight that turning around or even lying down was impossible.

Interrogators learned that Doe conducted inhumane practices: castrating cats without anesthesia, searing the beaks off of canaries before locking them in overcrowded cages and imprisoning dogs in dark, crowded pens.

Psychologists would characterize Doe as a sociopath, capable of extreme cruelty and callous to animal suffering.

Truth be told, there is no actual one John Doe; there are many. The above abusive practices are commonplace in factory farms, which slaughter animals for meat on a massive scale. Instead of cats, dogs and canaries, the practice involves cows, pigs and chickens: animals of equal if not superior intellect and sentience.

We are supporting these legal yet unethical practices. If you go to McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC or any other fast-food restaurant, you are eating meat that comes from factory farms. The vast majority of our meat comes from these industrial factories.

If you eat meat, you’re asking meat suppliers to torture animals on your behalf. They’re not torturing animals just for fun – they’re doing it for the dollar in your outstretched hand. Who’s more at fault, those who torture animals to make a buck or those who torture animals to save a buck?

As consumers, it’s easy to deny moral responsibility. We feel we can spend our money however we choose. We can buy a burger with moral impunity; after all, we’re not the ones torturing animals. We can buy cheap clothing from Wal-Mart; after all, we’re not the ones enslaving children in sweatshops. We are innocent consumers; we are not the torturers, and we are not the slave masters.

We can rationalize all we want. In fact, human beings are ingenious when it comes to deflecting blame. In a famous psychology experiment, Stanley Milgram revealed that a significant majority of human beings will torture other human beings if an authority figure is present applying verbal pressure and assuming moral responsibility.

Consumer society is the authority that absolves us of all moral responsibility: Meat-eating is the norm. In fact, if you don’t eat meat, you’re un-American, a sissy, a hippie, a commie.

The societal pressure to eat meat overwhelms us. How easy it is to forget about the animals in industrial factories enduring torture in order to feed our hungry mouths. Our trivial lust for meat does not justify our inflicting severe suffering of animals. At the very least, we are complicit; it is for us meat suppliers torture animals.

One day in the not-too-distant future, the animal cruelty of the meat industry shall be held in the same regard as slavery in our American past. Future generations will look back upon our present society’s endorsement of animal torture as dark times of mass immorality. Perhaps it will be our great-grandchildren who will look at us with shocked expressions, wondering how we could have been a part of the widespread torture of animals.

The animal liberation movement is not extreme, just as the anti-slavery movement was not extreme. It is part of our moral ascension as beings with an ethical conscience. Ignorance toward animal cruelty is not an excuse. And callousness is not a justification.

The founder of the modern-day animal liberation movement, Peter Singer, will be speaking on our campus about our ethical responsibility toward animals. Singer is widely heralded as a philosopher, writer and activist. Time Magazine deemed him one of the top 100 most influential people on the planet.

Matthew Brophy is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]