Domesticated Animals Deserve Compassion

William Cramer, Contributing Writer

Editor’s note: This op-ed contains description of animal torture and slaughter.

Bon Appétit, the company in charge of Oberlin’s Campus Dining Services, ceased buying pork raised in gestation crates in early 2016, according to their website. Gestation crates are used in many factory farms to confine a sow to lie her side, preventing her from moving. Companies often forcibly impregnate these sows in order to increase pork production. The pregnancy lasts around three months, after which her piglets are allowed to suckle until they are old enough to be slaughtered. Undercover PETA journalists have found that pigs are castrated, have the ends of their teeth removed with pliers and are then driven to the slaughterhouse where they are hung upside-down, left to bleed to death. This occurs all while the animals are still conscious. The sows, however, are often kept in their crates for their entire adult lives. After about five to eight litters, they are also slaughtered.

Bon Appétit took a positive step forward by halting the purchase of pork raised in gestation crates. Unfortunately, we have much further to go. Every time you eat pork, regardless of how you kill it, you’re killing an animal with the same cognitive abilities as a 3-year-old child, according to Dr. Donald Broom, professor of Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge University. Eating meat is an immoral act, and no matter the circumstances, students should avoid it.

Now, Oberlin is fairly progressive on this issue. We have 600 students eating in primarily vegetarian or vegan co-ops. But this is not enough.

While there are plenty of arguments for not eating meat, such as personal health or the environment, the most important case is the moral one. Basic morality requires us to not cause unnecessary suffering to other beings. Killing animals causes them pain and suffering. Meat eaters commonly ask, “Well, what if they’re killed humanely?” Does it really matter? Whether they’re pigs, cows, chickens or any other being, it is unjust to condemn them to suffering and death.

Not caring about animal suffering is a perfectly valid way to refute this argument. If this is how you truly feel, I have no argument. I only ask you to honestly look inside yourself and ask if this is the case. Do you have a dog? A cat? A fish? Have you ever been to a petting zoo? Pet a dog on the street? You likely felt some degree of connection with that animal. That animal feels pleasure and pain, joy and sadness, just like you do. What really separates a cow, pig or chicken from a cat or a dog? It’s certainly not intelligence or the capacity to be happy. It’s certainly not that some are “more alive” than others. It’s that we’ve domesticated certain animals to be killed and others to be cute. We judge the lives of farm animals to be worth less. They’re expendable.

For much of human history, domesticated animals were necessary for food security. Certain cultures or traditions still use meat in their rituals and believe it to be an important part of their culture. I appreciate that and do not condemn it. The vast majority of us, however, are past needing to slaughter animals to survive. We as Oberlin students need only to sacrifice the extra 10 yard walk to the vegetarian option line of Stevenson Dining Hall. I don’t think that is too much to ask to save a life.