This afternoon I watched one of the most disturbing documentaries I have ever seen, Blackfish. The movie centres around ‘Tilikum’, an Orca living (existing) in Sea World in Florida who killed a while trainer and what transpired in the aftermath of her death. What was disturbing about this documentary was not the death of a human being but the utter disregard that people have for the lives of animals. As a race, we should be disgusted in ourselves.
I am not an animal rights activist, nor am I a vegetarian and admittedly I do not do enough for animal rights as I could be doing. I am just a regular woman with pets that I absolutely adore and love who is guilty of visiting zoos and aquariums, funding the idiotic animal circus that is this parade of the earth’s creatures. Something about this documentary on Tilikum has sparked a few things in me, one of which being anger. I am so angry that human beings feel they have the right to own and control such beautiful creatures – To take an animal from its natural habitat where it will be healthy and free and instead, lock it up in the smallest pools for most of its life for our viewing pleasure and then fool the public into believing that this is what is best for the animal.
A friend of mine has been battling with guilt around eating meat, something we have discussed at numerous lengths to gauge what exactly is the best way forward to do what she / we can, even in the smallest way, for animals. It is such a debated and controversial topic and unless you only eat fruit and vegetables exclusively, you walk a very thin line trying to aid the cause without doing any harm. Most of our conversations ended at a crossroads, unsure of the answers to the questions and what to do next. Where does one draw the line? Who decides that cows, pigs and chickens are good enough to eat but wanting to have your feline for dinner is frowned upon? We judge people in foreign countries for eating some of the things that they do (and consider a delicacy) whilst eating a steak from a cow that could also have been someone’s pet. I am not condoning eating domesticated cats in any way, but who is to say what animal ‘deserves’ to be eaten and which animal does not? If I, as a cat lover, do not agree with eating cats because I keep them as pets and could not even fathom the idea that someone could actually do that, would it be fair to say that people who own animals such as cows, pigs and chickens amongst others, would not eat meat from that animal as well for the very same reason? If this is true, could you then go on to say that someone who does not have any pets whatsoever considers all animals ‘fair game’ making the cat dinner sound a little more plausible. Rather than the above, the alternative is to look at a no meat option because let’s be honest, you cannot be a vegetarian but still eat chicken, fish and meat products – What makes that fish any less important than the cat in your house (If animal activism is your reason for being a vegetarian of course, I am generalising here).
But what about animal products?
You may have decided that you will no longer eat meat whatsoever, instead you will try to balance a diet of legumes and rabbit food, I for one could not stomach that way of eating. But surely, for the good of the animals, we should be avoiding their products as well? How am I saving a cow by not eating a beef steak but I will buy a litre of milk at the shop that was knowingly STOLEN from that cow after it was forced to reproduce non-stop for its entire adult life to maintain sufficient milk production, after all it is a business right? Is it fair that I will not eat the chicken but we will take their offspring (Yes, that is what they are) and eat it before it has a chance to be that little chicken? That aside, I will eat those eggs knowing that its layer was kept in a cage with 200 other chickens where they could lay egg after egg for the everyday consumer to keep up with public demand. How about my genuine leather belt, shoes or handbag? I do not want to eat the beef but I will still wear the skin of the animal because I like those shoes or I need a jacket in winter?
Let’s assume that after many discussions we deem it near impossible to avoid some, if not most of these scenarios. It is decided that perhaps we will continue to drink milk, eat eggs and throw a steak on the braai but instead we choose to investigate where our food comes from to make sure that the animal has been looked after well enough before having its throat slit or head chopped off. Will it help me to sleep at night knowing that the beef ribs I had earlier would have come from a cow that was free to roam the meadows and ate the greenest of grass, drinking the most pure water with many other fat and healthy cow friends? No, because while the cow has a somewhat nicer life, the end result is the same. That cow is being raised to be food, that cow will still be turned into a handbag and that cow’s milk is still taken to put into my cereal instead of what it is meant for, to feed its young. Even if it did make me feel better, this is what the world suddenly calls ‘free range’ and ‘organic’ – What should be natural and NORMAL is now a speciality – When did it become a speciality for an animal to roam in a field? Since when is it acceptable that this animal can only eat the best grass if it is raised in this way?
We moan when a registered voter doesn’t vote because they want to complain but will not actually do anything about the situation but it is easy to feel that way about not eating meat as well. What point is there to me, one person, no longer eating meat or derivatives? Just because I stop eating meat, doesn’t mean the rest of the world will. As long as there is a demand, the battery chicken farms will still exist and the milk stealing dairies will still go about their business, that is not going to change because of me. Then I have to hope that as long as I am eating the steaks and drinking the milk, the animal did not die in vain and someone who truly appreciated its sacrifice has ingested it instead.
What does this whole rant have to do with Tilikum?
At the end of the day, it is all the same. We keep and kill animals in the most inhumane way to feed the population. At the same time, we capture and imprison innocent animals for our selfish viewing pleasure. When will the realisation come that we are a selfish, cruel, disgusting species who live only for ourselves instead of for the good of others. Too many SICK things are happening in the world already, is it too much to ask to preserve the life of animals that cannot speak for or defend themselves? What does it say about us that so easily we abuse those that are weak and defenceless – If we cannot preserve animal life, how the hell do we have any hope of raising children that actually give a sh1t? In an age when we can send men to the moon, we cannot create a world without the unnecessary killing or abuse of animals for food or entertainment?
Call me a wishful thinker but I can only hope that day will come, when it will be just as inhumane to eat a cow as it is to eat a cat. I am not a vegetarian, I am not an animal rights activist and I have been to a zoo or two. I am not perfect and I do not have all the answers but I can only hope that things get better for animals like Tilikum and so many others that suffer at the hand of the human race.