On Thursday I went to a screening of Speciesism: The Movie at the Mayan Theater in Denver. I’ve watched many documentaries that cover the topics of factory farming, CAFOs (concentrated animal feed operations), the atrocities of how the animals are treated, and the impact to our environment and health. What set this documentary apart was that the creator, Mark Devries, ended up attempting to answer the question of why we as a society think it is ok.
In seeking the answer to this question, Devries spoke to many well-known individuals who have explored animal rights such as Peter Singer who wrote Animal Liberation in 1975, Richard Dawkins the evolutionary biologist, and Paul Shapiro from the Humane Society of the United States who was also the founder of Compassion Over Killing. They discussed the concept of speciesism, which can be defined as “the assignment of different values, rights, or special consideration to individuals solely on the basis of their species.”
Many of the individuals whom Devries asked why it’s ok to abuse and kill some animals for food gave reasons such as animals don’t have the ability to reason or don't have the same intellectual capacity as humans. But as Devries seeks to understand this argument, it is dismissed when faced with the fact that we wouldn’t treat human babies or mentally handicapped people in this manner. The bottom line is that no argument could be found to justify the cruelty that exists in the industry of raising animals for food. The film and many of those interviewed drew connections and pointed out similarities to racism, sexism and even genocide.
There were times during the film that I had to look away and cover my eyes. I have seen enough footage of the abuse and horror that occurs on factory farms that I’m already convinced that I never want to support that industry, I don’t believe their lies (“free range” doesn’t mean much and those animals don’t live a very different life than the rest), and that I will continue to support organizations such as Farm Sanctuary in their efforts to change legislation that currently protects the industry and the abuse of animals. It still brings tears to my eyes every time I watch footage of a calf being dragged away from his/her mother moments after birth so that humans can steal the milk meant for him/her. Anyone who argues that animals don’t have emotions or suffer the way that humans do, have never heard the cries of these mothers and their babies. These animals raised for food are sentient beings who do not deserve to be abused. I encourage anyone who consumes animal products to be aware and educate yourself about the source of your food. I’ve written many times before about the environmental impact of these CAFOs and factory farms, so I won’t spend a lot of time here on this topic. But one thing that the film covered are the “manure lagoons” and how the waste is dispersed by shooting it out of huge sprinkler heads in a mist. Of course some of this is carried in the wind and pollutes neighboring properties. The run off ends up in the water supply and rivers, and eventually the ocean creating a “dead zone” where nothing can survive. If you are looking for a way to reduce your impact on the environment, eat a plant-based diet.
Some of the staggering numbers from the 2010 US Department of Agriculture report include: 10.2 billion land animals were raised and killed for food (includes 9.2 billion animals who were slaughtered and 875 million animals who died lingering deaths from disease, injury, starvation, suffocation, maceration, or other atrocities of animal farming and transport). The number of aquatic animals killed each year is not reported, however, researcher Noam Mohr estimates the number of finfish and shellfish killed each year for U.S. consumption to be over 53 billion.
What can you do? 1) Educate yourself; 2) Change the way you eat; 3) Help spread the word. For resources for each of these action steps, visit the websites for Speciesism: The Movie, Veg for Life, and Farm Sanctuary. I’ll end with a quote form Gary Francione: “To say that a being who is sentient has no interest in continuing to live is like saying that a being with eyes has no interest in continuing to see.”