Monday, 5 December 2011

Depersonalisation of animals, animal cruelty, Miss Potter and J.M. Coetzee

Those of you who have seen the film, Miss Potter, may recall a scene where, just after she has bought her farm, she is touring the property.  She comes across the farm manager, John Cannon, with some of the farm animals. Miss Potter is about to give names to the animals. Mr Cannon stops her saying something like: Please, don't, Miss Potter.  It makes it too hard.

I knew just what he meant.  I am a vegetarian.  I am on my second go.  The first go which lasted a few years before I fell off the wagon was brought about at the time when Mad Cow disease was newsworthy. It was discovered that in Australia a feed was being produced for cattle which included the bodies of dead sheep.  It's processing temperature had been lowered by a number of degrees and now there was fear that, should it be found that Mad Cow disease was abroad in Australia, the meal could be listed as a possible delivery vector. So the original temperature was re-instated.  I became a vegetarian as a sort of personal protest or witness to what I regard as human interference in nature.  Cattle are herbivores and here were "those who know best" introducing carnivorous material into their diet.  How dare they!

I was then a carnivore for about seven years. I visited a sheep property.  I saw things there which made be think. I remembered Miss Potter and the naming.  Human beings are naming creatures.  One has only to read the Book of Genesis and one discovers God's delight in Adam's naming of the creatures.  I thought of the house animals on agricultural properties. The cow, the goat, the horse, the chooks.  They usually have names.  Their individual personalities are recognised.  However, all those hills and plains of sheep, goats, cattle; factories full of feathered poultry - they don't have names.

I then thought of Hitler, the Jews, the cattle truck Transports, the Concentration Camps, the Gas Ovens.  People became the nameless numbered.  They had no personalities. They were clumped together impersonally as a single entity for eradication.  Hitler was able to take people who had names, were citizens with personalities, families, careers, communities and make them - over many years - non-people.  Then - and, most likely only then - he could clump them all together, round them up, take them out of sight and out of life without a whimper from the general populace.

J.M. Coetzee expresses the same views like this:

The transformation of animals into production units dates back to the late 19th century.
Since that time we have already had one warning, loud and clear, that there is something deeply, even cosmically wrong, about using industrial methods to kill fellow creatures on an industrial scale.
In the middle of the 20th century a group of Germans had the idea of adapting the methods of the industrial stockyard, as pioneered and perfected in Chicago, to the slaughter - or what they preferred to call the processing - of human beings.
When, belatedly, we found out what the Nazis had been up to, we cried out in horror. ''What a terrible crime, to treat human beings like cattle.'' we cried out. ''If we had only known beforehand.''

Please take time to read Coetzee's point of view.  Please consider how you think about animals, your food, the planet.  Sometimes old thinking is not the best thinking.  Sometimes our thinking has to turn around, take a new tack, and enter a more compassionate and thoughtful zone.  Please consider.

Other articles:

Organisations fighting for 
the elimination of animal cruelty:

From Wikipedia.  More here

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