Tuesday 22 October 2019

Lay of the Land: 'The opposite of love is live animal exports'

File photo: Getty Images
File photo: Getty Images

Fiona O'Connell

Children playing in this country town sometimes remind me of when I was small, and the joking degenerated into jibes and jaunts, usually directed at the child who was a bit different.

Back then, we retaliated by chanting that rhyme "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me". Yet recently I came across a version expressing the opposite sentiment: "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can also hurt me".

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It got me thinking about 'hate speech', which is defined as abusive speech that is prejudiced against a particular group, on the basis of race, handicap, or other attribute. Alongside 'hate crime', which involves violence motivated by such prejudice.

Because if history is written by the victors, then who gets to decide what constitutes such crimes? Especially as they literally ignore the elephant in the room - or zoo - or trophy hunt - of arguably the most pivotal prejudice on this planet. Which is speciesism, with its assumption of human superiority that justifies the most appalling exploitation of animals.

It seems both ironic and unfair, given animals were tried in courts of law across Europe from the 13th to the 18th Century. For a medieval sort of system persists that laughably dubs them 'dumb animals' because they don't speak English or other human tongue. Despite the fact that other species have their own complex forms of communication of which we are likewise ignorant.

Instead, concerned citizens must beg for mercy on behalf of animals who feel pain and fear as well as joy and love like us. We are supposed to be grateful for crumbs of compassion in the form of amendments to legalised acts of cruelty against them.

If this sounds like exaggeration, consider if we would ever use the word 'child' or 'person' as an insult. Yet hate speech towards non-humans is rife; rapists are animals, psychopaths are beasts, while our enemies are stupid cows and pigs. We would ban any industry that inflicted suffering on those involved in it. Yet such hate crimes are concealed in socially acceptable terms like 'veal crates' and 'intensive farming'.

The recent decision by our government to take in refugees that have fled war-torn Libya says it all about our double standards towards other species. They agreed to do so the day after it was announced that 2,500 poor young bulls would be shipped there this month. Live exports to Turkey are also being negotiated, despite 'Eyes on Animals' investigating slaughterhouses there this summer and recording footage of animals strung up by a hind leg, having their throat slit in full view of other animals; animals left for hours in the heat with no water as they waited to be killed; tails being twisted and broken; tendons slashed, and incredibly, cattle getting stabbed in the spine.

So maybe the opposite of love is not hate but live exports. For actions always speak louder than words.

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