Banning dog, cat meat is a good start but farm animals deserve compassion, too

Banning dog, cat meat is a good start but farm animals deserve compassion, too
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It’s rare to see legislation receive support across the aisle in this era of heightened partisanship, and yet the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2018, is a testament to the power of animal-protection issues bringing people together. Given the fact the legislation would prohibit the slaughter of dogs and cats in the United States for human consumption, it’s no wonder. Whether Americans should prohibit the slaughter dogs and cats for meat would naturally face little if any debate here in the United States. In fact, people in the U.S. are often surprised and disturbed to learn that people eat cats and dogs in other countries. These animals live in our homes, and we see them as our friends, not food.

Meanwhile, most Americans think nothing of the exploitation, cruelty, and slaughter incurred on billions of other animals in the U.S. every year. Why do we see some animals as pets and others as dinner?  

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At Farm Sanctuary, we care for farm animals who have been rescued from the agriculture system. They often come to us injured, traumatized, and fearful, having known only cruelty at human hands. Yet, these survivors respond remarkably to care and kindness. For the first time in their lives, they feel safe, and they begin to trust their caretakers and heal, both physically and emotionally. Watching these animals recover and blossom also brings us joy. Kindness is good for animals, and it’s good for us.

Most people oppose cruelty, but most of us growing up in the U.S learn the habit of eating animals, which is supporting a horrendous factory farming system. Too often, when the topic of slaughter comes up, we turn away and say we don’t want to know. It doesn’t have to be this way, and thankfully, as consumers learn more about how our food is produced, they are seeking more humane alternatives. The good news is that we can live well and thrive without killing and eating any animals.

Violence toward animals is bad for animals, and likely bad for humans. Can you imagine what it would be like to work in a slaughterhouse? Exploiting and killing other sentient beings undermines our empathy, which is a very important part of our humanity. Sadly, cruelty has become normalized on modern factory farms, and animals are treated as unfeeling commodities. Most of us are unwittingly supporting this intolerable industry by eating meat, dairy and eggs.

The House of Representatives has taken an important step to prevent the suffering and slaughter of cats and dogs, but there is so much more to do. Farm animals are specifically excluded from the federal Animal Welfare Act. Ironically, the only federal law that specifically addressed the welfare of animals in agriculture is the humane slaughter law. But, if you think about it, do the words “humane” and “slaughter” really fit together?

Just like cats and dogs, pigs, chickens, cows, and other farm animals deserve compassion. The distinction between which animals are seen as companions and which are viewed as commodities, varies from place to place and between cultures. What doesn’t change is that all animals want to live.

How we treat other animals, especially those who are powerless and at our mercy, says a lot about us. If we can live well without causing unnecessary harm and slaughter, why wouldn’t we?

Gene Baur is president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary and a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.