Elephants, Foxes and Pigs

The discussion continues to continue. Norm has more, so does Harry, so does David T. Plus I had a long talk with Polly Toynbee on the phone earlier. No I didn’t, that’s just one of my jokes. (Or irony? No, just a joke. I don’t know from irony.) There’s quite a lot of agreement this time around. This from Harry’s –

For what it is worth I am not a supporter or defender of fox hunting nor am I opposed to a ban. I accept Ophelia Benson’s criticism of Polly Toynbee’s phrase “Liberals should always be wary of banning people from doing as they like”. There clearly need to be some qualifications added to such a statement although wary does not mean should never.

Indeed. But I’m wary even of ‘wary’ – at least as it’s stated there. As Harry points out, it’s the missing qualifications that cause the wariness.

Actually, of late, I have been giving a lot of thought to the whole issue of our treatment of animals and meat-eating given that my six-year-old daughter has woken up to where her meat comes from and was horrified by the fact. Her reaction (and I am being literal with the term horrified) has me contemplating vegetarianism again.

Yeah. That made me think of a not very fond memory of my own. As you may remember if you’ve ever read ‘About,’ I used to be a zookeeper. (Funny, that ‘used to be’ came up earlier today, too. There is a passage in Sokal and Bricmont’s Fashionable Nonsense about how one reacts to seeing someone come screaming out of a lecture hall, shouting that there is a herd of elephants stampeding inside. One cautiously looks, and if one sees no elephants or trail of elephantish destruction, one calls the police and the psychiatrists; if one sees elephants, one [runs away and] calls the police and the zookeepers. Ah yes, thought I, I’ve been there. I have. The elephants did get out a time or two, and I was called. ‘Get back in there right now you bad elephants!! Boo, Tote, Chai, Sri: Corner!!’ I was muy macho in those days.)

But that’s another story. I once had to go to a slaughterhouse. I bet you’ll never be able to guess why – it sounds quite odd. To get blood for the vampire bats. True. It was a weekly job for the commissary keeper, which I wasn’t, but I suppose Rachel was sick that day or something – anyway I was deputed to go. A pig slaughterhouse. It was absolutely horrible. A nightmare – literally. They scream. They line up, they’re forced down a chute, and as they get to the end, they start to scream, and they go on screaming until they’re killed. And of course since it’s a production line, there are always pigs in the chute and pigs getting to the end and pigs being killed and pigs screaming – so they hear the screaming long before they get there. It’s horrible.

I’ve upset myself writing about it. But it is horrible. And disgusting – it could have been done another way, surely, if anyone could have been bothered.

Thank goodness for Temple Grandin. She designs chutes for slaughterhouses that work so that the animals do not know what’s happening and are not stressed. They’re still killed, but they’re not made to watch it all beforehand. She’s high-functioning autistic, Grandin is, and she thinks the autism is the reason she understands what’s going on with animals. Interesting, that. Also doesn’t say much for ‘normal’ human intelligence.

A change of subject; but not really. The basic subject is suffering, and how to think about it and what to do about it.

Update: Dave at Backword asks a good question:

Factory farming also has utility, but I’d get rid of it if I could. I hadn’t heard of Temple Grandin until I read this Butterflies and Wheels post, but why aren’t her slaughterhouse designs compulsory?

Why indeed.

Update 2: Dave’s post inspired me to Google, and I discovered that Temple Grandin has a web page, with a lot of information on humane slaughter (and its absence). Remarkable what a lot of difference one person can make.

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