Sunday, April 22, 2012

756. Animals: Our Moral Schizophrenia

Gary L. Francione

By Gary L. Francione, Animals as Persons, 2008

The following is from pages 26-28 of Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation by Gary L. Francione.  Data and citations provided are from the end of 1990s. References are not included. For these consult the book.

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There is a profound disparity between what we believe about animals and how we actually treat them. On one hand, we claim to take animals seriously. Two third of Americans polled by the Associated Press agree with the following statement: “An animal’s right to live free of suffering should be just as important as person’s right to live free of suffering ,” and more than 50 percent of Americans believe that it is wrong to to kill animals to make fur coats or to hunt them for sport. Almost 50, percent regard animals to be “just like humans in all important ways.”  These attitudes are reflected in other nations as well.  For example, 94 percent of Britons and 88 percent of Spaniards believe think that animals are to be protected from acts of cruelty, and only 14 percent of European support the use of genetic engineering that result in animal suffering, even if the purpose is to create drugs that would save human lives.

On the other had, our actual treatment of animals stands in stark contrast to our proclamations about our regard for their moral status.  Consdier the suffering of animals at our hands. In the United States alone, according to the U.S. department of Agriculture, we kill more than 8 billion animals a year for food; every day, we slaughter approximately 23 million animals, or more than 950,000 per hour, or almost 16,000 per minute, or more that 260 every second. This is to say nothing of the billions more killed worldwide. These animals are raised under horrendous conditions known as “factory farming,” mutilated in various ways without pain relief, transported long distances in cramped, filthy containers, and finally slaughtered amid the stench, noise, and squalor of the abattoir. We kill billions of fish and other sea animals annually. We catch them with hook and allow them to suffocate in nets. We buy lobsters at the supermarket, where they are kept for weeks in crowded tanks with their claws closed by rubber bands and without receiving any food, and we cook them alive in boiling water.

Wild animals fare no better. We hunt and kill them approximately 200 million animals in the United States annually, not including animals killed on commercial ranches or at events such as pigeon shoots.  Moreover, hunters often cripple animals without killing them or retrieving them. It is estimated, for example, that bow hunters do not retrieve 50 percent of the animals hit with their arrows. This increases the true death till from hunting by at least tens of millions of uncounted animals. Wounded animals often die slowly, over a period of hours or even days, from blood loss, punctured intestines and stomachs, and severe infections.

In the United States alone, we use millions of animals annually for biomedical experiments, product testing, and education. Animals are used to measure the effects of toxins, diseases, drugs, radiation, bullets, and all forms of physical and psychological deprivations. We burn, poison, irradiate, blind, starve, and electrocute them.  They are purposefully riddled with diseases such as cancer and infections such as pneumonia. We deprive them of sleep, keep them in solitary confinement, remove their limbs and eyes, addict them to drugs, force them to withdraw from addiction, and cage them for the duration of their lives. If they do not die during experimental procedures, we almost always kill them immediately afterward, or we recycle them for other experiments or test and then kill them.

We use millions of animals for the sole purpose of providing entertainment. Animals are used in film and television. They are thousands of zoos, circuses, carnivals, race tracks, dolphin exhibits and rodeos in the United States, and these and similar activities, such as bullfighting, also take place in other countries. Animals used in entertainment are often forced to endure lifelong incarceration and confinement, poor living conditions, extreme physical danger and hardship, and brutal treatment. Most animals used for entertainment purposes are killed when no longer useful, or sold into research or as target for shooting on commercial hunting reserves.

And we kill millions of animals annually simply for fashion. Approximately 40 million animals worldwide are trapped, snared, or raised in intensive confinement on fur farms, where they are electrocuted or gassed or have their necks broken. In the United States, 8-10 million animals are killed everybyear for fur.

For all these reasons, we may be said to suffer a sort of moral schizophrenia when it comes to our thinking about animals. We claim to regard animals as having significant interests, but our behavior is to the contrary. 

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