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Looking at words – ‘slaughter’

October 25, 2016

Compassion in World Farming made popular the oxymoron ‘humane slaughter’ when it attempted to bring some ‘compassion’ to industrial scale animal farming. I assume the intention was good – to abolish factory farming in favour of more humane methods that would end in a more humane death. At the time, as an omnivore, this all seemed perfectly reasonable – this is how damaged our thinking powers are when we are stuck in the habit of eating animals. Alas I had no vegan friends to take the scales from my eyes back then, in the 1980s and 90s and during the first decade of the 21st century. We can’t make enslavement, confinement, exploitation and slaughter ‘humane’, no matter what mental gymnastics we attempt to do.

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

beef-1652978_960_720The word that keeps recurring to me today is ‘slaughter’. It’s a common word; everyone knows it, probably everyone uses it. I look on it as one of these words that we tend to use without examining too closely. It’s a bit like the word ‘suffering’ that I wrote about recently. It’s a word we glance at and we get the gist; a vague impression of something undesirable, unpleasant. And then we move on. Swiftly, thinking words like ‘necessary evil’ and ‘protection laws’. But today, indulge me, let’s have a closer look at what it really means.

Slaughter. What does the dictionary tell us? I looked at several and each has a slightly different definition. Disregarding colloquial use like ‘the football team was slaughtered’, definitions fall into two main categories; humans and nonhumans, and may be summarised as follows:

The killing or butchering of cattle, sheep, etc., especially for food;
Killing animals for…

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