Opinion

Animal abuse line drawn at convenience

There are few things that will tweak the public’s pique as cruelty toward an animal.

Well, a selection of animals, anyway.

Dogs, cats, and sometimes horses fall into this category. Occasionally wild animals, like a sea lion sprayed with buckshot or a mass execution of eagles, will boil society’s justice juice.

But the mere hint of a pet being maltreated and abused is an affront to many people’s sensibilities, causing them to stand up and take action.

Take Bear for example, Cowichan’s latest example of alleged neglect and cruelty toward a pet.

Bear, after allegations of abuse surfaced on Facebook, was taken from his home, “rescued” as some supporters called it. The Chemainus man who took Bear is now facing charges of break-and-enter and theft.

Last year the case of Terry, the Boston terrier/French bulldog cross allegedly punched repeatedly and thrown in a ditch, moved more than 24,000 people to take action, signing a petition in support of bringing the dog’s owner to justice.

People take these injustices personally, and are collectively ready and willing to stand in defense of the defenseless.

With the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada estimating approximately half of all Canadian households have a pet, I can certainly understand the reaction. I, too, am a fan of our furry friends, and all animals in general.

But it seems our outrage at the treatment of animals is very much dependent on how removed we are from witnessing the suffering firsthand, and how inconvenienced we become by taking action.

Our relationship with animals is not equitable across the board, and is subject to some very extreme discrepancies.

Of those of us who stand up for the rights of pets, how many also own a down jacket, a down sleeping bag or a down pillow or comforter?

There is little chance that the birds that provided those warm feathers were not abused on some level, whether it was being stuffed in a cage for their short lives or having their chest feathers torn off while still alive.

But for some reason that knowledge doesn’t move us in the same way a sack of kittens left to die on trail does.

How many of us might champion pet protection while munching a turkey sandwich, without a second thought to the conditions the bird was raised in?

The use of any industrially farmed animal in any way should immediately call into question whether the animal was treated justly and humanely, but it doesn’t.

Finding accurate statistics on the number of vegetarians in Canada is difficult, but with studies estimating between three and seven per cent, it’s safe to say the majority of the households out there, either with a pet or without, are comfortable with the mass production and subsequent mistreatment of animals, as long as they are tasty.

And despite the work of the National Farm Animal Care Council and the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are still many horrific examples of how animals are treated before finding their way to our plates.

For the better part of a decade, I’ve eaten a mostly vegetarian diet. Yet convenience or cost has on more than one occasion beaten out my beliefs in animal justice. I’ve tucked into a burger made of suspect meat, or bought the eggs that came from chickens living a life of hell rather than paying an extra couple of bucks to get the ones raised with ethics.

A line exists defining what is animal abuse and what isn’t, but that line is more dependent on our view of the animal than it is on the actions done to the animal.

And it’s been made very clear that when convenience wins, it is the animals that lose.

Aaron Bichard writes for newspapers and recycles them. Connect with him at cowichanrecyclists@gmail.com.

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