My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
It might be that some animals prefer being eaten than being made love to, but we would not know because we cannot ask them. Those animals we already had killed (cowardly by workers at an abattoir) and are now busy cooking for dinner are uniquely incapable of letting us know how they feel.
I was reminded of this when I read in the newspaper yesterday that:
Animal lovers are reeling with shock after a man who decapitated his four-month-old husky with a chain saw got off with a slap on the wrist.
Phillip Matthysen was yesterday fined R10,000 or one year in prison, suspended for five years, for animal cruelty.He took a petrol-driven chain saw to the puppy’s neck at his Mpumalanga smallholding in February after the dog had killed his parrot.
Some would argue that I am being facetious and that there is a huge difference between the puppy, which was kept as a pet, and lambs and calves and pigs which are slaughtered at an abattoir. I would imagine the only difference is that the puppy seems more worthy of protection because it is our puppy, while we never really came to know the calf or the pig or the chicken we are eating. Now, if the pig happened to be the main character from that movie Babe, we would never even think of eating it.
I, for one, would never kill and/or eat Babe, but I have no problem killing an ant or a mosquito and I really have no problem with eating a pig as long as I do not know the pig personally. Most humans would agree with me.
Some would say that we demean ourselves as humans if we mistreat animals and that those pigs and chickens and calves sent to the abattoir are killed “humanely” and they are therefore not comparable to the poor puppy who had his head chopped off by the one person he thought he could trust.
I would say, sure, we demean ourselves if we mistreat animals but please let us not kid ourselves and pretend that animals killed at abattoirs before they are put in neat little plastic packages and sold at Pick & Pay are not mistreated. Apart from the mistreatment involved in the actual killing, most animals raised on commercial farms are disgustingly maltreated. The only reason why we think their raising and killing is not demeaning to us, is because we make sure we never have to know about it or see it.
We make ourselves feel better (I know I do) by looking at that evil Mr. Matthyssen and thinking that we would never do such an evil thing. What we do not dare admit to ourselves, is that we do not have to do it because we pay other people to kill the animals we would like to eat.
That is why the outrage at the sentence handed down against Mr. Matthysen smells like rank hypocrisy to me. By showing how cross we are with him, we do not have to take responsibility for our own complicity in the mass slaughter of sentient beings while making ourselves feel good about ourselves.