Thursday 27 July 2017

Lay of the Land : If we focus on finance, we lose our humanity

Fiona O’Connell

LAST November, I wrote about the increasing number of Irish horses being slaughtered and sold for human consumption abroad. The recent furore over horse meat means some of us have had an all too literal taste of the dire double life of these beautiful creatures.

It reminds me of that scene in The Godfather, when a horrified man discovers his racehorse's head between his sheets. In our case, bits of Black Beauty were sandwiched between burger baps. And the mafia is intensive farming.

This scandal was an accident waiting to happen; a consequence of the closure of many small, privately owned abattoirs over the past few decades. Whatever your views on eating meat, they were run by butchers who knew their craft, as well as their animals. Thanks to them, Ireland gained a reputation for food quality and safety.

But now we pray at the altar of efficiency, where animals are viewed as mere products to be exploited for profit. When that happens, it's easy to justify brutal activities, like fur farming. Because once the focus is primarily on finances, anything goes.

Politicians often pride themselves on being pragmatic. Especially when they're exempt from its effects. A lack of empathy for the suffering of your fellow creatures is also an asset when it comes to economic viability. As illustrated by Anthony Lawlor, the Fine Gael TD who lamented, when reviewing the Veterinary Practice (Amendment) Bill of 2011, that we don't slaughter even more horses for consumption.

After all, "one should consider the statistics involved: of the 7,000 thoroughbred foals born this year, only seven will win a group 1 race. Only 3,500 will make it to a racetrack... The sad part for the sector is that breeders have potential to earn much more if the stamp 'not fit for human consumption' were to be removed from the passport".

Which brings to mind Aristotle's warning that "educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all". But what did that old Greek know?

Maybe we should apply Lawlor's logic to other surplus animals. For example, why not get rid of all those poor dogs dumped in Irish pounds every year, once people tire of them, and make some money while we're at it by exporting them to Asia to become hot dogs? Same for cats; strays don't deserve one life, let alone nine.

In fact, why not extend this mentality to redundant members of our own species? It would certainly take the burden off meeting budgets.

Sunday Independent

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