What is an Animal’s Life Worth?

I’m grateful to have other vegans in my life.  It might sound silly but you need support as a vegan. Knowing what animals endure at any given moment and not being able to talk about it with most people can make for some lonely days. Surrounded by constant reminders and references to animals mostly in their deceased form makes for a strange setting once you learn to see them as whole beings.  You need to be able to exhale once and awhile, and to be around others who understand the truth of how animals are treated.

Some animals, like dogs and cats, are beloved by their keepers, housed by loving owners who spend whatever they need to for their pets to be healthy, safe and happy.   Other dogs and cats are discarded if they don’t behave, or fail to meet an expectation they are likely not even aware has been placed upon them.

Some animals are valued very highly, although that is not the same as their life being valued.  The book I’m currently reading by Matthew Scully called, Dominion, describes in one chapter the author’s attendance at a trade convention in 1999, hosted by Safari Club International where big game hunters gather to buy and sell everything from hunting tours to state-of-the-art weaponry.  Hunting a rhino can run you $35,000 or how about a polar bear for $12,000?   More recently, we know of Cecil the Lion, shot with a bow and arrow and hunted for 40 hours before dying.  The cost was $50,000.

Still other animals are only valued for their parts, treated like used cars for scrap metal.  Animals such as coyotes for their fur as trim on Canada Goose jackets or ducks and geese for their down feathers.  Farm animals are bred, born and raised to be food and ingredients as horses are bred to ride and race while any number of animals in the wild are captured to be placed in zoos, aquariums, circuses, and theme parks, their life’s worth included in the cost of admission. Then there are the animals in labs, their sole purpose to be experimented on and still others who are bred so their offspring can be sold for profit either privately or to pet stores.  Once you decide to notice just how much we use animals for our own purposes while denying them their own in the process, it gets pretty staggering pretty fast.  Add an ignorant or glib remark to the mix and well…now you know why vegans get pissed off sometimes.

Recently I was walking past a Burger King in our neighbourhood when I noticed one of their signs: “$1.99 Chicken Nuggets” it said.  No other description, no fanfare, just a crappy sign for cheap meat.  It made me incredibly sad.  Knowing what chickens go through so humans can eat them – the genetic modifications, the confinement, the crowded conditions, the rapid growth that causes them chronic pain, the slaughter – it made me want to cry right there in the parking lot. Is that what their life was reduced to?  A two dollar meal that someone will forget as quickly as they consume it?  It all seemed so arbitrary too. If the sign said, “$1.99 Dog Nuggets” it would be a social media shitstorm.  But we’ve always eaten chickens so we don’t give them a second thought, if we think of these birds as a “them” at all.

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