We Can’t Have It Both Ways

I’ve mentioned before that I battle depression from time to time and that’s where I’ve been for the past three weeks, with my head stuck in some dark clouds. Thankfully, the clouds always/eventually clear and I’m starting to turn the corner once more. Thanks for your patience and for still checking in to this blog while I was missing in action.  Let’s get to the animals, shall we?

Late last month, I read an article with the following headline:

“Pigs Help Shed Light On How Humans Decompose Deep Under the Pacific Ocean.”

Obviously this was an article on animals used in research, the practice of which is rarely questioned so long as it’s deemed to benefit humans in some way.  The story was also predictable in another form: rationalizing the use of animals by adopting the they’re-just-like-us! attitude, a convenient admission that is normally scoffed at when activists or vegans dare to voice that same possibility.

The research is being conducted by two forensic specialists at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. The study is to learn more about the decaying process of human tissue at greater ocean depths versus more “shallower Pacific waters,” with the hopes of, “one day allow(ing) investigators to pinpoint the location of missing bodies from a distance.”  A manager from the B.C. coroner’s office also added, “The study can help…come up with a more accurate time frame for linking recovered human remains to possible missing people.”

From the article:

The pair’s research involved strapping the bodies of several pigs to metal grates and submerging them 300 metres via submarine to be deposited beneath a pre-existing monitoring installation.

The pigs were already dead when they were strapped down to the grates although that thought does not bring much relief since most dead animals donated for science do not die of natural causes or without some form of suffering preceding their untimely demise.  Even after death, as the picture of the experiment shows below, no dignity is given to these animals whatsoever. Were a dead dog to be tied down like that, or even a dead person who had voluntarily donated their body to science, the public would lose their minds.  But pigs?  Meh.

The deceit and hypocrisy really get going toward the end of the article, as it inevitably does when humans try to rationalize their disgraceful treatment of animals:

Pigs are commonly used in forensic research as a proxy for people thanks to their similarities to humans, including their relative hairlessness, similar torso size and omnivorous diet, which influence the bacteria content of their gut.

How convenient it all is.  “Thanks to their similarities to humans.”  Yes, the “relative hairlessness” that also means pigs have sensitive skin yet we allow them to be legally transported in Canada – alive – for up to 36 hours without food, water or rest in any weather condition, from blistering heat to freezing cold. And acknowledging their “similar torso size” has not stopped us from keeping them confined to gestation crates that are no wider than those very torsos we apparently have so much in common with.  I guess we don’t need to recognize that “similarity” when our precious bacon and sausage is on the line.  As for the omnivorous diet we share, yup – we’re omnivores which means we’re not obligate carnivores which means we don’t need to eat meat, it just means we can. Pigs also have a central nervous system “just like us” and this means they can feel pain, experience stress and the females, in their natural habitat, build nests for their young and nurse them for three to four months which implies they also have the capacity to feel maternal instinct. But that similarity is scoffed away too when we want to take their babies to be raised for meat or further breeding.

We can’t have it both ways.  Animals are either similar to us or they aren’t.  They are either machines or they are living beings.  They either deserve rights and protection from cruelty or they deserve nothing. We as humans either have an obligation to them or we don’t.  But we cannot have it both ways, considering them living, “similar” beings when it suits our purposes and then ignoring them when it becomes an inconvenience.

I leave you with a quote from Matthew Scully’s brilliant book, Dominion, which I recently finished reading:

“Many people when they examine their beliefs about animals will find, I think, that they hold radically contradictory views, allowing for benevolence one moment and disregard the next.  And the reality is that we have a choice of one or the other.  As a practical matter we are free, of course, to do more or less as we please absent further changes in law.  As a matter of conscience, however, we must each ask ourselves which outlook is truer, which is closer to our heart, which attitude leaves us feeling better and worthier when we act upon it, and then follow that conviction where it leads.  And when we fail to act consistently with our own moral principles, when we profess one thing and do another, we must be willing to call that error by its name. It is hypocrisy.”

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