Cruel [OR Books, $40.00] is a series of art and text about the meat industrial complex, the hidden lives of the victims of it.
From birth to death, animals live in a way of inconceivable suffering. They are bludgeoned, cut, hooked, their tails are docked, they are de-horned, their ears are punched, their testicles are gauged out, their beaks cut off, they're branded, their babies are torn away, they are gassed, electrocuted, their throats are cut. Bred only to be slaughtered, their lives are concealed from us. Historically, small family farmsteads struggled but couldn't compete with vertically integrated corporate-owned agribusinesses. Farmed animals moved out of the sunshine and off the grass, into confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), becoming units of production in the process. Biology and pharmaceuticals developed ways to keep the hapless "units" alive and growing rapidly, producing more meat, milk and eggs under ever harsher conditions: turkeys and chickens grew faster than ever but on less feed, meaning more profit. There was selection for those better able to withstand the greater stresses of confinement and mutilation.
Antibiotics that were new on the scene from the 1950s were used both as growth accelerators and to proactively treat the inevitable ills brought about by stress due to confinement in an enclosed ammonia-rich atmosphere. Hidden in dark sheds, force fed other species body parts and waste, animals exist and die for the propaganda of "meat," that it tastes good, and is good for us. Nothing is further from the truth.
Growing up, I lived a block away from a slaughterhouse, and behind our house, was a hog factory farm. One day, we watched a pig escape the slaughterhouse, she ran into highway, wove in between the traffic, was pursued by men with knives and bloodied white coats. Bystanders laughed, as they caught her. At night, the clanging of the chains of the guard dog and the screams of the hogs, could be heard. As they crashed against the walls of the tin sheds, they were being stabbed in the eye by an electric prod, to get them to move into the trucks, for their trip to the slaughterhouse. From the slaughterhouse to your house, we knew then, not all was well in this world.
Its not easy getting into a slaughterhouse. They don't want you to see where your food comes from. A pencil and paper are less threatening than a camera because the slaughterhouse staff can see what is being drawn. Sometimes I have given them the drawings and done their portraits. In the eyes of every animal I have drawn in a slaughterhouse is written as clear as day: "why are you doing this to me?" It's a good question, for we do not need to breed animals, then to murder them. We do not need to take their lives for us to live and be healthy.
Is this hen screaming for a bigger cage? No, she is screaming for no cage, she is screaming for us to stop stealing her eggs and her life, she is screaming not to be de-beaked, because she is infected with lice, that her blunted beak, cannot pick lice off of her nearly bald body, she is screaming because her nails have grown around the wire that she has stood on for her entire life, and when she is roughly extracted from the cage, she is screaming because her legs can be torn off. She is soundlessly screaming, because her tongue got seared off along with her beak. She is screaming because she just saw her cage mate decapitated by the automatic feeder, and she is screaming because to fall through the bars means to drown in the manure pit. She is screaming because her only nest is the rotting body of her sister, and she is screaming because she is in a shed on level 5, that imprisons half a million birds. She is screaming because she breaths ammonia and eats downed cow parts, she is screaming because her final vision, is to see the world upside down, and watch her blood defy gravity and shoot off this earth. She is screaming because we never gave her a second thought.
If this is true, and we consume so many animal products, fish, cheese, milk, eggs, beef, pigs, turkey, chickens, calves, then what does that make us? The combined terror of all those stolen lives? If animals believed in god, the devil would look like a human being.
The old rhyme begins, "Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy," but cows that eat other cows will go mad! Of course, they are not angry, just brain damaged, as a result of eating the brain or spinal tissue of "downer" cows. The madness that turns their brains spongy takes a while to develop. Cows that are infected but as yet symptom free will walk steadily to their death; the downers that stumble and shake are still killed, but there is less chance their bodies will enter the human food supply. However, waste not want not, meat packing makes sure to scrape the carcass of every usable scrap, and a bit of infected neural tissue may get into the cauldron of meaty paste that will eventually become a hot dog.
Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. Sometimes the disease is more economic than biological. Such is the case with Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD). Yes, it is contagious, as easy to catch and pass along as the common cold. Yes, it hurts: painful blisters on the mouth and gums discourage eating, so weight loss is certain. In a dairy cow, milk production falls off and she may become sterile. Farms experiencing an outbreak are quarantined, but in a matter of weeks, most of the sick animals will have recovered. Or, they would have, had they not been slaughtered en masse, the healthy along with the sick. The cull is a triumph of public relations, brand name and bottom line protection, carried out with an efficiency that puts The Final Solution to shame. Dig a pit; line with plastic. Until supplies run out, dope the animals to keep them calm. Dump or otherwise drive the animals into the pit. Bulldoze dirt over the top. Wait until those still alive and struggling for breath finally die. You will know when the surface of the pit stops moving.
The Hammer Head shark, has vision that encompasses 360 degrees, so can watch themselves be mutilated, all their fins severed. The shark is then thrown back into the ocean alive, to sink to the bottom of the ocean and drown. The fins make a tasteless soup, are sold for fake cures, and tourist souvenirs and cosmetics. On average, sharks kill five humans a year, and humans kill 100 million sharks, they are being slaughtered faster than they can reproduce.
Killing them softly, out of your sight or hearing - it is you that is the factory farmed. From the slaughterhouse to your house, over medicated and trained to accept the unacceptable, politely whispering, "but... its humane killing".
Human populations shifted to towns and suburbs. Small family farmsteads struggled but couldn't compete with vertically integrated corporate-owned agribusinesses. Farm animals moved out of the sunshine and into confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), becoming units of production in the process. This was possible because biology and pharmaceuticals developed ways to keep the hapless "units" alive and growing rapidly, producing more meat, milk and eggs under ever harsher conditions: turkeys and chickens grew faster than ever but on less feed, meaning more profit. There was selection for those better able to withstand the greater stresses of confinement and mutilation (tail docking, de-horning, de-beaking), of existence in one cramped cage or another. Antibiotics that were new on the scene from the 1950s were used both as growth accelerators and to proactively treat the inevitable ills brought about by stress due to confinement in an enclosed ammonia-rich atmosphere.