Can We Justify Treating Animals Cruelly for Food?




The Cove of Taiji

After deciding that I had put it off for quite enough time, I recently got round to watching the 2009 Academy Award winning documentary “The Cove“. Directed by Louie Psihoyos, and featuring Ric O’Barry, the dolphin trainer from the 60s TV series “Flipper”. The Cove is a very interesting watch, which exposes the secret slaughter of dolphins in the small Japanese fishing town of Taiji. The reason it took me such a long time to watch this, was because I had read a review which stated that “the final 15 minutes of ‘The Cove’, in which the filmmakers secretly capture the slaughter, is one of the most disturbing endings to a documentary ever”.

How I felt after watching the Cove and Earthlings

So I needed to be in the right frame of mind to watch it. And watch it I did.

And it was certainly extremely unpleasant. Though not quite as that reviewer had stated. But something struck me, while watching the fishermen repeatedly harpoon the trapped, screaming dolphins to death. I had seen this before. But it wasn’t dolphins, it was cows – for beef and pigs for pork. In the 2005 documentary, “Earthlings” hidden cameras filmed brutal and distressing scenes of animals being tortured inside slaughter-houses all over the world, including Europe and America.

After “The Cove” was released, many pointed the finger at the Japanese, but it is not only they who are guilty of the mistreatment of creatures we share this planet with. What about the gruesome, unseen processes that fill our supermarkets with bacon, steak, chicken and of course seafood?

Is suffering just part of nature?

Indeed, even in the natural world other animals kill each viciously and without mercy for food. I don’t for one minute think that this justifies the sickening scenes I witnessed in “The Cove” and “Earthlings”. But sometimes it makes me think about the nature of suffering on this planet. It poses many questions that don’t have easy answers.

I eat meat. I shop at the supermarkets that these slaughter-houses undoubtedly supply. Perhaps I should rethink my own inadvertent participation in all of this?

Osaka Aquarium and the meditating penguins

As fate would have it, last weekend I went to Osaka Aquarium.

As I wandered around, gazing into the thick-walled sea tanks, fascinated by the magnificent array of animals that inhabit our seas (and aquariums), I asked myself how many of these animals could avoid becoming depressed in their windowed prison – as we watched, laughed and pointed. 0% I reckon. And then I came across the strange and beguiling sight of the “meditating” penguins. Cos I swear that’s what they were doing!

They were standing as still as stuffed-toys, eyes closed, flippers spread, heads tilted upwards – totally detached from the crowded mass of people watching on in amazement. They were the perfect image of serenity in an insane sea-world. It was comical and weird and beautiful. And I now acknowledge them as one of the deepest animals on the planet.

They were probably thanking God we don’t eat them…yet.

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