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The Holocaust and the Henmaid’s Tale

January 18, 2015

This is the title of a book I am reading at the moment. It is by Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns. It is subtitled ‘ A Case for comparing atrocities’

Like all vegans, I consider the slaughter of 2000 animals per second across our world to be a holocaust of immense proportions. To be ‘treated like an animal’ is to be treated abominably. Therefore, animals are, in fact, treated abominably in our world, and nowhere is this more apparent than in factory farming, which is where most of our meat, eggs and dairy are produced – in factory systems where animals are so ‘othered’ that they become nothing more than objects to process – like paper clips or televisions or plates. (97% of all animal products sold, come from these factory systems. That means the vast majority of consumers are supporting these places).

The Nazis did this to all the people they considered undesirable elements in their society – they otherised them to the status of unfeeling objects for whom empathy was misplaced, and this enabled them to commit appalling acts of violence, cruelty and brutality upon them. This is exactly how we treat the animals that we exploit every day in the food sector.

There are those who do the actual deeds – these are like the SS guards at the camps, and some are monsters of barbarity who seem to delight in adding extra violence to the kill line, by stomping on animals, throwing them against concrete walls, poking them with sharp instruments and engaging in similar, equally ‘delightful’ (??) acts, laughing all the while and sharing this fine joke with their mates, all of them spattered with blood. Yes, I’ve seen that sort of ugly footage, and it’s all, of course, undercover, because there are no cameras in slaughterhouses, and it isn’t legal to film what goes on inside. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why this is.

Then there are the vast majority of slaughterhouse workers who just grimly, and without registering any emotion, carry out their assigned tasks. The staff turnover is high, mental breakdowns and other disorders are common, and pay is poor. I imagine the horrific damage done to the psyches of my own species when obliged to do such terrible deeds for a living.

And then there are those who pay for all of this to be carried out – the consumers, you, reading this, if you are not vegan. Yes, you. Your money ensures that all of this just goes on and on. You pay the perpetrators of appalling violence and you see none of it. All you see is stuff in a packet that you cook and eat, laughing with your family and friends. Into your own body and soul goes all that monstrous terror and agony and viciousness. Therein may lie the reason for all of our wars, for all of humanity’s unstoppable violence – we eat it every day, like a supplement that we are addicted to and,like the poison it is, it all goes into us from infancy, and does its work silently and insidiously, blinding us to the very fact that we are victims and not decision makers in our own lives. It’s indoctrination, from before we were able to think it through. We are to blame for all the viciousness done to animals, and at the same time,we are not.

In a recent study of one prison in the US, where the governor introduced a totally vegan diet regime for all the inmates, despite all the inevitable grumbling that greeted his move, the level of violence and crime amongst the men dropped dramatically. I have been vegan two years. In my own self I notice my own rage has diminished considerably. I was never very violent and bad tempered, but I used to ‘blow my top’ occasionally and simmer with resentment – sulk sometimes. I have not done any of that since I have been vegan. I don’t feel ‘taken over’ any more by uncontrollable urges to shout, sling things about and scream at anyone. You understand, that this was never a big part of me, but it was there, it happened at times,and now it just doesn’t. Like Dr Will Tuttle, I am convinced that what we choose to eat really does affect how we behave. All the additives and antibiotics and whatnot that go into animal feed affect our health too, and may also be responsible for many of the ‘syndromes’ we see today. It’s certainly responsible for most of the cancers and heart conditions.

To end this blog, I am going to quote from Karen’s book, where she describes the life of a battery hen from hatching to slaughter. For those who say ‘Oh well, I only buy free range eggs,I don’t support factory farming’, let me tell you that you are by no means ‘off the hook’. Your free range hens come from exactly the same background as the battery hens and will meet the same early death when they are ‘spent’ ( used up, knackered, no longer able to lay enough eggs for a profit). The only difference is what happens in the middle, where they may, if they are very lucky, be truly free range, but this is highly doubtful – the labelling is often only denoting that they are not in a tiny cage. They may, instead, be in a huge barn with thousands of others, ‘free’ only to peck at their neighbours in a confined, confusing, unnatural ‘space’ and may see daylight only through ventilation slats. Organic means they are fed on organic corn. It doesn’t alter their living conditions.

You may notice, if you care to, that nowhere on the box of eggs you buy is a traceable address of the farm or the hatchery the hens came from and you cannot find out what slaughter facility they went to when they were considered no more use. Basically, you cannot find out anything without a huge amount of investigative effort. You are given information that is no information, the minimum that is required, and it is all to protect the industry from prosecution and media coverage. You are paying for lies and deceptions and all manner of propaganda to be put into your head so you will carry on parting with your money. Groups like Viva have to go in to these places of horror with hidden cameras, and activists face personal threats, violence and hate mail every day.

And so, to the hatchery:

” Deep inside an incubator filled with thousands of chick embryos, a baby hen is growing inside an egg. During the first 24 hours after her egg was laid, the chick’s tiny heart started beating, and blood vessels formed that joined her to the yolk which feeds her as she floats and grows in the fluid of her encapsulated world.

The baby hen has comforting exchanges with the other embryos in the incubator, but a forlornness is felt inside each bird that passes from shell to shell. The two way communication between themselves and a mother hen – the continuous interaction which they are genetically endowed to expect, and which they need – has not occurred. The mother hen’s heartbeat is missing, and she does not respond to the embryos’ calls of distress or comfort them with her soft clucks.”

From these two paragraphs from a longer section in the chapter, you will understand the unnatural conditions that obtain in a modern hatchery and how it deprives a small baby bird of all that she needs. The final paragraphs are these:

” As each chick emerges from its shell in the dark cave of feathers underneath its mother……” But this is not the baby hen’s birth experience. Start over….” As the mother hen picks the last pieces of shell gently from her chick’s soft down…..” But this is not part of the baby hen’s story either. Try again. ” As soon as all the eggs are hatched, the hungry mother hen and her brood go forth to eat, drink, scratch and explore, the baby hen running eagerly within sight and sound of her mother, surrounded by her brothers and sisters” In reality, none of this happens, except in memories that arise in the baby hen’s dreams as she grows and stares through the bars, in the cages that await her arrival” Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns, from her book ‘The Holocaust & The Henmaid’s Tale’ published by lantern.

The baby hen who enters the crowded barn that passes for ‘free range’ in most systems labelled as such but which are nothing of the sort fares little better. From start to finish, their lives are those of abject slaves with the status of objects. Go vegan if you are appalled, as you should be, if you have a heart inside you that can care for other animals.

The henmaids’ tale will be continued in subsequent blogs.

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