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Puppy slaughter in Australia: what's all the fuss?

By Nicholas Pendergrast - posted Friday, 21 September 2012


A Western Australian man has been charged with animal cruelty for killing and eating a puppy. While this is likely to outrage many people, it isn't unusual in terms of our treatment of other animals.

Daniel Thomas Adriaens has been fined $2500 plus costs for the charge of animal cruelty. Magistrate Colin Roberts described the incident as "abhorrent and shocking", and the worst case of animal cruelty he had seen. Such sentiments are likely to be shared by many Australians, 99% of who 'are against cruelty to animals'.

But why is the slaughter of this puppy considered animal cruelty, while the slaughter of other animals is considered standard practise? What is it about dogs that make them more "special" than other animals, particularly farm animals?

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Everyone accepts that dogs are sentient. Sentient beings are self-aware individuals with likes and dislikes and an ability to experience sensations such as pleasure and pain.

When it comes to being unique individuals who value their own life, farm animals who are considered food by nearly everyone and are routinely slaughtered are no different to the dog slaughtered by Adriaens.

I have twice visited Edgar's Mission animal sanctuary, located in country Victoria. Visiting sanctuaries such as this, it is abundantly clear that if you spend any time at all with farm animals, you will see that their sentience is just as clear as it is in dogs.

This is also confirmed by scientific studies, which have revealed interesting facts about pigs, cows, sheep and chickens.

According to computer tests, pigs are actually more intelligent than dogs. Yet pigs routinely face the horrors of slaughter just so people can enjoy products like pork and bacon.

Cows show excitement when they've learnt something new and form lifelong relationships. These relationships are ended when male "bobby calves" are separated from their mothers so humans can drink their mothers' milk.

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Because bobby calves can't produce milk, they have no use to the dairy industry so are killed for veal after just a few days of life. Their mothers' lives are also cut short – they end up in the same slaughterhouses as those raised for meat after just a few exhausting years of continual pregnancies and milking.

Sheep, contrary to the stereotype, have a strong sense of individuality. They can also recognise the faces of at least 10 people and 50 other sheep for two years or more, and they react to facial expressions. Just like us, they prefer a smile rather than a grimace.

Sheep are bred for wool and Merino sheep are favoured because they produce the most wool. But this breed is also the most susceptible to fly strike. This leads to the painful procedure of mulesing – where sheep have flesh near their tail removed without painkillers. Worst of all, sheep raised for wool face a horrific end to their lives in slaughterhouses.

Chickens are much more intelligent than has been assumed in the past. They have an ability to tell people apart and a greater sense of spatial awareness than young children.

Male chicks cannot lay eggs and therefore have no use to the egg industry. These chicks are killed shortly after birth in various horrible ways, such as being gassed using carbon dioxide or through "quick maceration" (being blended alive). Those "lucky" enough to be born female end up in the same awful slaughterhouses as those raised for meat after just a few years of continual egg production.

There are lots of problems with our relationship with farm animals. For example, there is widespread concern about the confinement of these animals, with growing opposition to factory farming.

But surely, the worst thing anyone can do to an animal, whether we're talking about a farm animal or a dog, is to kill them against their will.

And we certainly have no need to do this. It is clear that we cannot justify the slaughter of animals on the basis of needing animal products for our health or survival.

Mainstream health organisations like the American Dietetic Association accept that we can get all the nutrients we need on a vegan diet, which does not include any animal products. So eating products like flesh, dairy and eggs from farm animals is no more necessary than Adriaens consumption of dog flesh.

When it comes to farm animals, the concepts of "humane" slaughter and "humane" animal products are widely accepted. Adriaens' claims he killed the puppy "humanely" – a point that will be of little comfort to most people. Most people will, quite rightly, oppose the slaughter of this puppy, regardless of how "humanely" it was carried out.

I see no rational reason why we shouldn't extend this same logic to farm animals like cows, pigs, sheep and chickens.

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About the Author

Nick Pendergrast is a PhD candidate who studies and teaches Sociology at Curtin University in Western Australia. His research focuses on the animal advocacy movement, primarily in Australia and the United States, and explores the range of ideologies, activism, organisations, and key actors that make up this movement.

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All articles by Nicholas Pendergrast

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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