Our dogs snooze under the table where the worn bodies of pigs, cows, chickens, and fish are spread. One animal stays close to our hearts while the other belongs in our stomachs? We pet our kittens with the same hands we use to pick up slices of bacon, the remains of a 6-month-year-old piglet who wanted to live. How does it make sense that we kill billions of animals that are no different from the pets we call our own? How is it that we call ourselves animal lovers when dead bodies cover our dinner tables? Can we truly be animal lovers if we are engaging in their mass murder and exploitation?
We are immersed in a society where dogs and cats are seen as superior to animals like chickens and pigs, and many of the horrific practices common for farm animals would be illegal if done on dogs and cats. We categorize animals based on those that are acceptable to exploit and abuse and those who we decide to open our hearts and our front doors. Many of us gasp at those who consume the meat of dogs, but is there really a difference between dog meat and that of any other animal we happily consume? The only difference is our perception and deep societal conditioning.
If someone kills a dog, they are a murderer. If someone kills a pig, that is normal. And if someone kills neither, they are an extremist. When somebody saves a dog who is trapped in a car, they are a hero. But when someone saves a pig from a slaughterhouse, they are arrested and shamed. Why is saving one animal’s life illegal while saving the other’s is worthy of great praise? Both animals are being saved from horrific conditions, arguably the slaughterhouse is worse. We take the milk of mother cows after separating them from their baby, but drinking cat’s milk would be barbaric. We cover ourselves in the skin of beaten sheep and cows but gasp at the idea of wearing dog skin.
We welcome dogs and cats into our home, asking nothing of them in return, but if we were ever to have a cow or chicken, we would only do so to impregnate them so we could use their milk in our coffees, or to collect their eggs. These animals are seen as commodities, and we always expect them to offer us something, while never expecting the same of their counterparts, dogs and cats. Why do people adopt puppies? To give them a safe home, play with them, and welcome them as a member of the family. Why do people have backyard chickens? So they can lay egg after egg, straining their tired, exploited bodies.
Why do we actually put our beloved dogs above the cows we slice into steak? Do both not feel pain, fear, and suffering? The bottom line is that our pets and farm animals are all sentient, meaning their hearts are filled with fear when they stand in the kill line of the slaughterhouse watching their companions die before them, or when they are forced into gas chambers, squealing for their lives. And they feel the same way you and I would when their babies are stolen from them moments after birth and they are forcibly impregnated through all of their short, miserable lives. Creating a hierarchy between animals using intelligence as the determining factor is a form of ableism, and intelligence is irrelevant when it comes to which lives matter. The question is only ‘can they suffer?’. And all of the animals we take the lives of to serve ourselves most definitely can suffer. They suffer intensely even if they lived a ‘humane’ life, grazing on pastures, as terror runs through their veins in the slaughterhouse with the smell of blood and the screams of dying animals filling the air. Animals deeply suffer in transport trucks, facing smoldering heat and frigid temperatures during the last few days of their lives. It is illegal to keep pets in hot cars, even with the windows cracked, but animals like pigs and cows are trapped in the blistering heat for hours. Not to mention, are driven across long distances, on highways, a very terrifying and unfamiliar environment for these animals. The journey is in fact so torturous that close to 5 million animals die in transport each year in the U.S. alone. Animals suffer as their families are destroyed so we can celebrate with our own. They feel extreme fear and pain as their bodies are repeatedly exploited for their secretions and they are stuffed into cages where they cannot even turn around. Fish suffer as they are suffocated under the bodies of their companions, gasping for air, their bones and bodies crushed by the weight of thousands of others.
All these animals want love and affection, and love a belly rub here and there, but only a select few are given that by society, and the rest are given the exact opposite. The love that we pour on our pets is the same we should be giving to the cows, pigs, and chickens we instead mass murder. If you wouldn’t eat a burger made of dog meat, why would you eat a burger made from the meat of a cow? They are both individuals who feel, fear, think, love, and want to live.