For ages, human beings have been domesticating animals to use something they provide. The title itself generates curiosity in today’s times as to whether the two terms “compassionate” and “animal farming” can be used simultaneously. Incidents of animal abuse have become so common that they fail to catch our attention. Today, can we think of raising animals for commercial use with compassion? Does it sound impossible or uneconomic? Let’s see.
First we need to think. What are we raising the animals for – meat, skin or leather, milk, eggs, wool? If we think meat or skin, that is, anything for which the animal needs to undergo killing, then there is nothing compassionate about it.
These days, a concept called free range livestock has come in, that is the animals’ body movements are not restricted during their life. And they are free to move in a confined area. But that can’t be called compassionate, as eventually the animal is killed. Also, the main motive behind keeping them free range is to get good quality flesh from the animal.
Let’s discuss eggs. Eggs that would hatch of course are not free from cruelty because we may be killing an unborn chick. But store bought eggs are non-hatching as the hen and rooster mating is not allowed for egg producing hens. Still, that can’t be called completely cruelty free as these mother hens will eventually be slaughtered. Also, in most areas, these hens awfully spend their lives cramped in battery cages.
Now comes, the controversial topic of milk. Whether taking milk from animals for human use is a compassionate practice or a cruel one depends on how the animal is treated in this system.
Being from India, I have childhood memories of cows being raised for milk production by individual farmers or milkmen and their families. For ages, we knew that the animals were treated like their own kids.
In mornings, they would be bathed with love. The offspring of the animal would be tied near her and be allowed to take the first milk. Only when the child was satiated, the rest of the milk would be taken for selling. Animals would then be untied and taken for stroll in dedicated pastures, where animals would graze freely and happily, spend time with their offspring like a family and then come back in the evenings to their respective humans.
If the mother produces a male offspring, it was raised for assistance in crop agriculture, for tilling the fields.
There used to be off seasons for milk when the animal was not pregnant and also, was not forced to become one using artificial techniques. During those times we would either not take milk or take it from some other milkman. But, it was accepted as every milkman would face it. Also, during these times, these people would do other work like crop farming. The idea was not to strain a single animal to be perennially pregnant.
Also, the whole community would feed these animals as part of their duty as responsible human beings.
When these animals would get old and “uneconomical”, they would be kept in their homes for life without thinking of it as an uneconomical decision.
If individual farmers were not able to take care of them, there were community animal shelters where everyone would contribute some amount for their upkeep. Old and sick animals would spend the rest of their natural lives there. That is because everything in business was not only economical or uneconomical. The consideration of ethics was important to every person.
But what is happening nowadays?
The concept of factory type farming brought from the developed countries of the west has shaken the whole system. Animals are packed in large numbers with no one to take personal care of them, leave aside build any bond with them. They are treated like milk-giving machines.
Even individual milkmen are now just focusing on profits with little or no care of the animals.
The female animals are forcefully impregnated, kept perennially pregnant, only to snatch away their offspring as soon as they come out. If God forbidden, it’s a male offspring, he is straight away abandoned or sent for slaughter. In some areas, they may not be immediately sent there but eventually they are raised for slaughter. Or should I say, abandoned till the time of slaughter arrives because our milkmen don’t even want to spend on their feed.
The mother animals are in no better situation. They are perennially tied, with machines fitted to their bodies to suck out every single drop of milk. They are given hormone injections to produce more milk. And, after all this, once the mothers stop giving milk, they are either abandoned or shamelessly sent for slaughter.
If we thought that wearing woolen garments has no cruelty tag attached to it, we are again proved wrong by our fellow shearers. Shearing or the process of taking wool from animals like sheep can be done in a compassionate way by strictly taking care of some norms like shearing only in non-winter season (preferably spring) so that the animals are not exposed to harsh winters and when they would want to get rid of their heavy coats to get cool and comfortable. Also care should be taken that we don’t injure the animals during shearing and that we don’t take wool from young sheep. In case of injury, proper medical care should be taken.
But high demand and our huge population has made shearers do away with these must dos. Quite often they are mishandled during shearing and get badly injured and bleeding. These sheared animals are then sent for slaughter. All of us have developed a casual attitude towards animal abuse and incidents of animal abuse have become common.
Can we imagine even half of it for ourselves? If not, then how can we not get affected when animals have to undergo such brutality? Is it because we think we are higher up in the food chain and so we can do whatever we want with them? But we must remember that we are given more intellectual abilities not to be on top of the food chain, consuming every other being on earth, but to be a sensible care taker! Animals are neither products nor machines. They are our fellow beings who can experience joy, sorrow, fear, anxiety and pain just like we do.
Just imagine a world where we are not killing animals for anything. Rather we have happy mutual relations with them. They are happy, we are happy and Nature is happy!! A paradise it will be!!