By Joo Chia
Without being in close contact with animals on a regular basis, it is very easy for us, city dwellers especially, to forget that animals are capable of cognition, attachment to other animals of the same or different species, and feelings. It is easy to ask the friends around us who are refusing meat, “Why vegan diet?”
No one would eat their pets
If you keep pets, whether they are dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, even turtles and fish, I am sure you are well aware of their capacity to love and grow attached to you. It is unimaginable to kill your own pet to be served on the dinner table.
Why, then, should farm animals be treated any differently?
Farm animals are not short of the ability to feel
The fact that we have not made the deliberate effort to get close enough to them to remember their capacity for feelings – of pain and of love, does not lessen their trepidation when being led to the slaughterhouse.
The fact that we breed them in farms for the sole purpose of feeding our stomachs does not lessen their being – a life is a life, whether bred to be a precious pet or farmed to be eaten, no creature’s suffering should be negated.
Cows have big hearts
In Amy Hatkoff’s book: The Inner World of Farm Animals, when a cow collapsed at an animal sanctuary, other cows around her bellowed so loudly that the caretakers were called to attention. They put the ailing cow to sleep as she was suffering badly from arthritis.
The other cows that had a close bond with her gathered around her grave, and mooed and grieved in their own ways. The whole group then went off and did not return for their grains for two days.
There are many other stories that tell of cows’ ability to forge close friendships with one another, within their own species and even outside. They get stressed when separated from their best friends. The emotional depth of cows is something that can be felt quite obviously, if you have the opportunity to know them well.
Cows love to play, just like humans and many other animals. Their usually calm and placid behaviour hide a well of emotions and personality traits and quirks that are unique to each individual. Cows have no less capacity to love than dogs and cats, and they are highly intelligent.
Cow = sirloin?
It is tragic that most people only know cows as beef, steak, burger, milk, and leather.
When cows are sent to the market, they know something foreboding is going to happen, and their stress levels go right up. The company of other cows can buffer their emotional turmoil somewhat, but they are bright enough to perceive the end is near.
Before being slaughtered, cows see, hear and smell their companions being killed, right in front of them. The emotional torture they experience, I do not even know how to start imagining it.
When it is their turn, if the slaughterhouse practices humane slaughter, the cow is stunned first, by a pistol bolt driven into its skull. It is then knifed and hung upside down to bleed to death, supposedly a quick and painless way to die.
I am sorry to say this, but it takes real ignorance to actually believe the intensity of the cow’s suffering is any lessened by this ‘humane’ practise. With the stunning procedure, their pain is often magnified because the people executing it are not well-trained, so the bolt sent into the head does not do its job of numbing their nerves, but instead adds an inhumane level of pain.
I cannot begin to describe the prolonged suffering this big creature has to go through before it loses consciousness. And I hope this answers the big question of why vegan diet.