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By Jason Michael
Suffering isn’t simply the experience of pain. It is the result of the mental anguish caused by the experience of pain. People incapable of feeling normal human emotions will always deny the suffering of animals.
Our imperial masters in London have decided in their infinite wisdom that animals do not experience pain and are incapable of feeling emotions. After the United Kingdom played an instrumental role in convincing our European neighbours that animals were indeed sentient beings, British Conservatives have voted against returning the legal recognition of animal suffering to these shores from European law after Brexit. It appears to be the case that the madness of Brexit has convinced the Tories of their divinity, assuming as they have done the authority of God over nature.
I’m no scientist, so any effort on my part at a scientific refutation of their logic would, I am afraid, be quite laughable. What I have, however, as I’m sure we all have, is my experience – human as it is – of life around non-human animals. Growing up as I did at the edge of small town urban civilisation in the west of Scotland, animals – from dairy cows all the way down the scale to hamsters and mice – have been friends of mine for as long as I can remember. Unless our human minds have been playing one hell of a trick on us, as we know they often do, our lives with animals have persuaded us of their intelligence and of the reality of their suffering.
While I can think of many experiences, two which I would like to share spring to mind; the stories of Molly and Simon. Not too far from my home in the Liberties you’ll find the high temple of Irishness, the Guinness Storehouse brewery. The smell of “the black stuff” brewing – a sweet smell not unlike Weetabix in warm milk – wafts in my windows every morning. It’s really quite fantastic.
Cross (@racross) September 17, 2015
Most mornings I get to walk past the world famous St James’s Gate, past the big “Est’d 1759” sign and all the American-sized tourists taking holiday snaps. All along the old canal side of the brewery there is a taxi rank lined not with new-fangled automobiles, but with horses and carts. That’s where I met Molly. At the start Molly was just one of many horses on that stretch of my walk into the city, just one of the many things I’d pass twice daily. It was only by the accident of fruit I got to know her. I’m not a fruit person really, but taking a notion one morning I nicked one of the housemate’s apples. By the time I reached the horsey rank I was holding nought but a core and looking for a bin. What a waste, I thought as I approached the first clip-clop. That horse can be my bin. So I held it to her mouth and she ate it. I clapped her on the side of the neck and chatted with the driver.
Not a remarkable event in itself, but a couple of days later – this time without an apple – as I passed the queue of horses, one of them threw its head at me. It was Molly, the one I had fed before. She had remembered me, or she had remembered the treat. Thus began my apple a day routine. I started buying my own apples and every morning Molly got the core – well, most of the apple really. At this point I had no idea how dangerous this would get.
Walking up Dame Street, one of Dublin’s busiest streets, one afternoon in the pouring rain I was startled – along with everyone on the street – by a commotion on the road. Someone in a car had slammed on the breaks and blasted the horn, causing a couple of other motorists to break or swerve out the way. It was a wonder no one was hurt. In the middle of the road there was a horse and cart out of control; complete with a terrified driver and a few bewildered Americans. Molly had spotted me in the crowd and was determined to get her apple. I never had an apple, but she was in luck. I gave her what was left of my doughnut.
Jay Ben Adlersberg (@jadlersberg) October 09, 2015
The second story isn’t mine but Simon’s, a guy I used to work with. He was the first person I had ever met who had become a vegetarian for ethical reasons. I’ll keep this short. It’s a bit grim. Simon had used to work in a slaughterhouse. One night in the pub after work, a few pints in, I asked him about his ethical choice. Now, what I expected was something about the dirt, the smell, the ugly muckiness, and the state of the bloody meat; something along the lines of deciding not to eat kebabs after working in a fast food joint. Not quite. Simon had a master’s degree in philosophy. He had written a paper on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s conception of logic and the mind. His academic supervisor was a Jesuit professor who I later came to know – one of the most formidably intelligent human beings I have ever met. Over a few pints Simon got pretty deep on the question of animal suffering.
His job by the time he walked out was stunning the cows with a mechanical bolt before they were hoisted upside down, killed, and rapidly butchered on a factory line. Up to this point these things were nothing but the bovine, ovine, and porcine raw materials from which we make burgers. They meant little more to him than trees destined to become tables; passive objects awaiting our magical transformative action upon them. Then he became a killer.
One beast after another, he explained, was corralled towards him – each one trying to catch his eye. Every one of his “victims” had been trained to trust people. To this point in their lives people had been kind to them, fed them, spoke to them, and even petted them. Here they were terrified.
kandinsky bertolino (@kandinsky99) August 08, 2017
Every cow in the line could see what was happening to its sisters ahead of her, they could smell the blood – they were slipping on it, and they could hear the “crying.” One after another, for hours at a time, every cow would look at Simon with the same pathetic, petrified, and pleading look – every cow saying the same thing: Please don’t do this to me! Simon never doubted “they knew.” He always knew they had figured it out by the time they got to him. Millions of years of evolution, thousands of years of domestication, and here at his hands was a highly intelligent animal – a social animal – as capable of communicating to him with its eyes as his own daughter, and for pennies he was its killer.
I don’t accept the thingness of animals. It’s no mystery that our Tory masters have reduced them to things incapable of feeling pain or thinking thoughts in order to exploit nature – and profit from it – as much as they possibly can. Killing beasts and people is always about pennies, albeit millions and millions of pennies – but pennies nonetheless. Why wouldn’t they do this to animals? If you can be so cruel to a defenceless animal you can do the same to a child, and by God they have proven their cruelty to the children of these nations.
Cows: Sensitive, intelligent and affectionate animals.