I’ve been thinking about betrayal a lot lately. Particularly this version of Webster’s definition – be·tray verb bi-ˈtrā, bē- : to hurt (someone who trusts you, such as a friend or relative) by not giving help or by doing something morally wrong.
I’ve been thinking about this in regards to nonhuman animals.
In one scenario, we have farmed animals who are intensely confined – female pigs in gestation crates, egg-laying hens in battery cages, “dairy” cows hooked up to machines that steal their babies’ milk and their babies, the thousands of chickens and turkeys living on top of each other in sheds, for example. These and other factory-farmed animals have their toes, beaks and tails cut off, their genitals mutilated and more. They live out their lives with little to no positive human interaction and in utter misery.
In the other scenario, we have the farmed animals who live on so called “humane” farms. We are told that their lives are idyllic – lots of land to roam upon, proper diets, the ability to live in packs and do all of the things that are innate to their specific species. I suppose that some of their interactions may be classified by some as positive. And yet, I would say that they are betrayed to a much greater degree than the animals living under hellish conditions in factory farms.
Why do I say this? Well, the animals living in factories are under no illusion that any human loves and cares about their wellbeing. All they know is a constant life of violence, neglect and suffering. Yet the animals living on the so-called “humane” farms are cared for (as much as one can care for a being whose body one profits from) and at least know a life that resembles their innate imaginings of life.
And then the moment of betrayal, when they are taken from their home, sometimes brutally murdered next door, but most likely forced onto transport trucks and taken to the same slaughterhouses that the factory farmed animals are taken to. And they must wonder where the humans are who have cared for them, not unlike the millions of dogs, cats and rabbits coldly dropped off at shelters every year, or the dogs, cats, rats, mice, nonhuman primates and others who suffer in “research” labs all over the world, or the elephants, dolphins and other wild animals languishing in cages and tanks for our entertainment, and the sheep, cows, silk worms and fur-bearing animals in cages and traps for our clothing.
It’s the ultimate betrayal, really. I would assume that the transport and violent end comes as a surprise to these beings, beings who are mostly children based on their age at slaughter, marched off to death.
Further, I wonder if animal lovers who advocate for this paradigm are guilty of major betrayal.
And the other betrayal, the so-called vegans who, for whatever reason or excuse, go back to eating sentient beings and their property. Especially the ones with blogs who scream from the top of the mountain how sick they got, how naïve they were, how no one should make the mistake and follow their path towards a diet and lifestyle that supports compassion, justice, empathy for others and acknowledging that other animals deserve to be part of the moral sphere. Such a betrayal.