By  Mandy Hager
25th January 2010

Many of us reeled in horror at the announcement of three consent applications to entrap as many as 18,000 dairy cows in tiny cubicles for 8 months of the year without respite.  It is heartening to see many, including John Key and Fonterra, speak out against this plan, which would have catastrophic impacts on the environment, waterways, fauna and flora of the region, not to mention NZ’s image overseas.

However, the primary debate here should be our attitudes towards the well-being of other creatures on this planet, when the cruelty and lack of conscience many people display towards animals impacts negatively on us all.

Cynthia Hodges of the South Texas College of Law reported in 2007 that “a correlation has now been established between animal abuse, family violence, and other forms of community violence.” These findings, of course, are not new. The police and SPCA have recognised this link for years.  In fact, “one of the most reliable predictors of future violence as an adult is having committed animal abuse as a child.”

With this in mind, isn’t it time we looked at the way we so casually abuse and mistreat animals — i.e. factory-farmed cows, pigs, chickens and sheep; so-called ‘research’ on whales; tapping of bear bile; fur for fashion; the trade in exotic animals; trophy hunting; destruction of habitats — and acknowledge that violence sanctioned in farm-yards, labs, industry and sport leaks over and taints society as a whole? Are we so desensitised to these practices we cannot see how this behaviour implicates us all? How can we hold the moral high-ground on human rights while we continue to show all other living creatures such indifference and distain?

Richard Holloway, in his book ‘Between The Monster and The Saint’, puts it thus: “The animals who are the objects of our greedy domination experience a double-dying now, their life being itself a kind of death… [one of] the most disturbing things about the human species is our ability to accustom ourselves to monstrous behaviour. We have accommodated ourselves to death camps and industrialised genocide.”

Children learn by observation, soaking in the subtle messages to form their moral codes. If we want a world where violence and abuse are no longer tolerated, we have to look at the entire picture they observe. Detached, systematic, sanctioned torture of other living creatures is not a code I want our young ones to absorb. It’s time we stopped these inhumane practices and modelled a more compassionate, kinder world for all — other animals included.

One last random observation…  what does it say about us as a species if the brightest creative minds in advertising think that by anthropomorphising yogurt cartons, sweets, vegetables, cracker toppings etc into cute little people we’ll be more likely to want to eat them? They even humanise germs and flies before they swat them dead. Come on people – that’s just sick.