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?
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.
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.
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