Every year, there are over 140,000 complaints of animal cruelty. Last week, Bella the Belgian Shepherd became a victim of this pervasive problem when she was tied to a heavy rock and dumped into the River Trent. But, despite being left to die, she was saved when a brave individual jumped in and hauled her to safety.
The vicious attack sent shockwaves of anger across the country. Within a week, over 100,000 people demanded justice for Bella, and over £3,000 has been donated to aid her recovery. This outpour of kindness is incredible – no animal should ever have to suffer from such a horrific act of cruelty. But, as people call for justice for Bella, they likely don’t give any consideration to their own contribution to animal suffering.
Right now, in Lincolnshire alone, over 12 million animals are confined in barren barns or cages, suffering from overcrowding, and unable to express their natural behaviors. Soon, they’ll be tightly packed into lorries and transported to a slaughterhouse, where they’ll be gassed to death, or their throats will be slit. And it’s all perfectly legal.
Extreme cases of deliberate animal cruelty have also been documented time and time again on farms and in slaughterhouses. Just some of the cases that made headlines in Lincolnshire recently include “pigs jabbed with pitchforks” and “chickens left to rot” – and these are just the incidents caught on camera.
We are an animal-loving nation, as the compassion for Bella shows. But despite this, the UK sends over one billion land animals to their deaths every year. The majority of these animals endure short, miserable lives in factory farms where profit is prioritised above all else, yet each animal is an individual, capable of feeling fear and pain — just like Bella.
So, why do we believe that it’s OK to confine and kill certain animals, but not others? If millions of dogs were being sent to their deaths, there would be uproar and opposition, but when it comes to cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals deemed as “food”, there is deathly silence. We give the animal agriculture industry a pass to commit atrocious acts on animals, all because it is considered acceptable. A “cultural” norm.
In parts of Asia, eating cats and dogs can be considered part of their culture. And yet, across the UK, we condemn the Yulin dog meat festival every year, all while sending our own animals to their deaths, also under the guise of “culture” and “tradition”.
Many of us do not commit animal cruelty intentionally: we are often led to believe that meat and dairy comes from happy animals, who enjoyed a long life of freedom and a pain-free death. But the reality is far from that. There are now 1,674 intensive factory farms in the UK, including 789 megafarms or concentrated animal feeding operations. And regardless of the life they’ve lived, they still have to endure a terrifying end.
I’ve seen animals enter the slaughterhouse, their eyes wide with fear, their nostrils flaring – they know what’s coming. As the gates open and the lorry pulls into the slaughterhouse, there is no one to jump in and save them.
As we ensure that Bella gets the justice she so desperately deserves, we should also take a moment to pause and contemplate how we can reduce the suffering of all animals, not just those we share our homes with.