Dogs And Pigs

Dogs And Pigs

The PETA blog recently featured a photo and story of terrible animal neglect, a young pit bull who had been so severely neglected that “she had begun to decompose” and “Four different generations of maggots were eating away at her body.” It’s a sad story and euthanasia was probably in poor “Big Girl’s” best interests.They made that case, though moreso through images than words.

The article continued:

“We sent Big Girl off to heaven with kind words and a gentle lethal injection. We wished we could have ended her misery much, much sooner. Those who condemn open-admission animal shelters and organizations like PETA for having to euthanize sick, injured, dying, and unwanted animals must look closely at the source of the overpopulation crisis—people who breed animals, those who neglect and abuse them, and consumers who choose to buy animals from breeders and pet shops instead of adopting from their local animal shelter.

“No one hates the ugly reality of euthanasia more than the shelter workers who hold the syringe. Sometimes, especially when animals have known no kindness and are suffering, the best that we can offer an animal like Big Girl, Asia, and others is a painless and dignified release from a world that showed them no love or compassion.”

Here is the trouble with what  Jeff Mackey, from PETA, wrote:

  1. The phrase, “we sent her off to heaven” could easily be used by ANY animal killer in ANY context. It is not a justification or explanation for euthanasia;  it’s just something that makes some humans feel better about killing animals.
  2. The euphemism that euthanasia is “a dignified release” is yet another phrase that does NOTHING for animals; it just makes humans feel better about killing animals. Animals don’t care more about dignity than death. No animal would choose a dignified death over a pain-free life.  If the animal is in pain, talk about pain. Euthanasia’s purpose is to provide a pain-free release from a pain-filled world, not a dignified release from an undignified life.
  3. The “overpopulation crisis” doesn’t exist. And even if it did, it wouldn’t justify killing animals. It would justify building more shelters, encouraging more people to adopt rather than buy, changing the laws, or doing other things to stop so-called overpopulation. To make this point more salient, say there was an overpopulation crisis among humans. Would that justify killing homeless humans? No, it would not.

But the real trouble isn’t the few animals that PETA kills. The real trouble isn’t that PETA kills animals like Big Girl.  The real trouble is that the term “euthanasia” is being co-opted by animal exploiters. If animal advocacy organizations like PETA don’t defend the definition of euthanasia as in the animals’ interests,

the act or practice of ending the life of an individual suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable condition, as by lethal injection or the suspension of extraordinary medical treatment,” (source: The American Heritage Dictionary via Alley Cat Allies)

they become part of the problem. Refusal to define euthanasia as in the animal’s interests helps justify things like the pork industry’s definition of euthanasia:

“Euthanasia is the humane process whereby the pig is rendered insensible, with minimal pain and distress, until death. For the euthanasia process or method to be considered humane, it must be quick, effective and reliable.” (source)

Notices how the pork industry’s definition does not say anything about the animals’ interests. In fact, the industry says “It is inevitable that on every swine farm, situations that require pigs to be euthanized will arise. These situations include, but are not limited to, illness and injuries.” I’ve added emphasis to point out the fact that the pork industry calls virtually any pig killing that’s not for profit “euthanasia.” (Killing for profit is called “slaughter.”) In fact, here is just one of the many acceptable methods of so-called pig euthanasia, “pithing,” a back-up method:

“A wire or polypropylene rod is inserted through the hole in the head made by gunshot or penetrating captive bolt. The rod is pushed into the brain and slid back and forth and rotated to cause maximum damage to the brain and upper spinal cord. Initially, the pig may show muscle contraction and twitching, but muscles will relax and movement will be inhibited shortly thereafter.” (source: American Association of Swine Veterinarians)

Blunt trauma to the head is an acceptable way to kill runt piglets. They call smashing in piglets’ brains “euthanasia.” This isn’t done just for piglets who are ill or injured, this is done to piglets who are deemed unprofitable.

And let’s not forget, these methods were ruled “euthanasia” by a court of law:

The animals don’t need our rationalizations, our feel-good rhetoric, or our paltry excuses. They need our compassion. And they need it now. Nothing else will suffice. Any justification for euthanasia that doesn’t centralize animals’ interests, isn’t in the animals’ interests.

19 Responses to Dogs And Pigs

  1. I just went through a very bad experience with “euthanasia” where “euthanasia” equaled chopping rats’ heads off. Killing euphemism – “humanely destroyed”. Words are so powerful – for most human animals, they construct our reality.

    When I discuss euthanasia with people, I always point out that unless the animal is dying, or in excruciating pain that will not cease, ever, killing them is merely killing.

  2. That sounds horrible, Jen. I’m sorry you – and the rats – experienced that.

  3. I agree that we must use the term accurately and disallow its inaccurate use. The PETA example may have been the right one yet it may not have. The fact alone of an animal having a severe infection or other medical condition is not by itself reason enough to kill it. The real question is, can medical attention alleviate the pain and allow a pain-free life? Even if there is a chance the animal may die while being treated, isn’t it worth trying if there is a chance for a good recovery?

    I understand that most shelters do not have the budget to treat seriously ill animals. If this is the case, then that is where the emphasis needs to go. IF there is a will there is a way. We should not accept limitations that are based on our needs, not the animals’.

    Similarly, of course, the so-called euthanasia of pigs. If they are killed (horrifically, as is usual, or not) for the convenience of the farmer, they are no more than products, never animals.

  4. The animal exploitation industries will probably always try to use words like “euthanasia”, “humane”, or phrases like “we care about animal welfare” because they are trying to sell products. The fact that animal exploiters will deliberately misuse words in order to mislead costumers seems inevitable and, in the case of real euthanasia practices by trained veterinarians at shelters, it seems rather moot. Just because when farmers say they “love” animals it isn’t the same kind of love that a shelter worker is talking about doesn’t diminish the legitimacy of the word when used properly.

    Although the phrase, “we sent her off to heaven” could easily be used by ANY animal killer in ANY context, that doesn’t mean that Mr. Mackey was insincere when he used the phrase. It seems to me that he was just trying to convey the idea that the poor animal was no longer suffering.

    Similarly, I believe Mr. Mackey used the phrase “a dignified release” to say that rather than allow her to continue suffering, the poor dog was put out of her misery in a painless, dignified manner. There are plenty of ways to kill an animal, but PETA ended this dog’s untreatable suffering in a way that did not cause any more pain or stress for the animal.

    While, as you say, no animal would choose a dignified death over a pain-free life, (obviously) I believe that most animals would choose a painless, dignified death over a life of unmitigated suffering. I believe that was what Mr. Mackey was trying to say.

    And finally, I simply don’t understand your claim that the “overpopulation crisis” doesn’t exist. In theory there are plenty of homes for dogs and cats in this country. But in reality, those homes are not being made available for the millions of dogs and cats who are killed in shelters across the country every year. That is not because shelter workers and animal advocates aren’t trying, it is because shelter workers and animal advocates simply don’t have enough time, money and resources available to be as effective as they need to be to save all of the needy dogs and cats in this country.

    Obviously the solution is to build more shelters, find more homes for dogs and cats who need them and to stop the breeding of dogs and cats while so many continue to suffer for lack of good homes. These are all great ideas, but they take money and they take committed people to get the job done. It won’t happen by splitting hairs over terminology or chastising an organization that is working to end the breeding of dogs and cats and is working to find good homes for needy animals.

    Despite the fact that PETA euthanized fewer than 0.001% of the total number of dogs and cats who were euthanized last year, the organization takes the bulk (if not all) of the criticism from euthanasia opponents. From what I’ve read, most of that criticism is from people who either don’t understand the issue at all or who already hate PETA because of the organization’s stance against exploiting animals for food, clothing etc.

    But then there are the people who criticize PETA’s euthanasia policy because they think that an animal’s right to life outweighs the animal’s right to not be made to suffer needlessly. And in some cases, people simply don’t understand that most homeless dogs and cats suffer in ways that homeless people don’t. In many cases, homeless people can go to and from homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Homeless dogs and cats who end up in so called no-kill shelters may spend the rest of their lives in a tiny, barren cage where they go crazy for lack of companionship and mental stimulation. Unlike homeless people who usually understand traffic laws, many homeless dogs and cats are hit by cars every year and die a slow, agonizing death on the side of the road. Unlike homeless people, homeless dogs and cats are often picked up by bunchers and sold to vivisection labs where they are cruelly experimented on. Unlike homeless people who may have trouble finding romance and making more homeless children, homeless dogs and cats often end up breeding uncontrollably, creating hundreds of feral dogs and cats who also suffer for lack of proper homes.

    The homeless human vs the homeless dog or cat anaology just doesn’t work very well. Perhaps instead of going to such great lengths to make such an analogy, or the analogy between the culling of animals by farmers who put profit ahead of animal welfare vs shelter workers who make an honest effort to do what is in the animals’ best interests, you could devote more time and energy to trying to find homes for needy shelter animals – as you did here:

  5. Matt,
    You said, “The fact that animal exploiters will deliberately misuse words in order to mislead costumers seems inevitable and [...] rather moot.”

    The swine “euthanasia” quotes are taken from a pamphlet designed for farmers by veterinarians. It is NOT intended for the general public or “the customer.”

    I’m talking here about actual definitions, legal definitions and colloquial definitions of the term “euthanasia.” I’m pointing out that PETA has room for improvement. If they want to defend euthanasia, they ought to at the very least ensure that they use the proper definition. Otherwise, we’ll see PETA quotes in legal documents defending animal exploiters when we should see the opposite.

    I’m not going to comment on your other points. For now we can simply agree to disagree.

  6. Oh, we are talking about actual “definitions” of euthanasia, not just your personal view of euthanasia. Well, in that case, Wikipedia says that the definition of “animal euthanasia” is the act of inducing a humane death in an animal. It lists the following reasons for animal euthanasia:

    1. Terminal illness – e.g. cancer
    2. Rabies
    3. Behavioral problems – e.g. aggression
    4. Illness or broken limbs that would cause suffering for the animal to live with, or when the owner has insufficient financial reserves to pay for (or a moral objection to) treatment.
    5. Old age – Deterioration to loss of major bodily functions. Severe impairment of the quality of life.
    6. Lack of space – Some shelters simply do not have the available room to provide shelter for an abandoned animal.

    It seems to me that PETA is using the term accurately and appropriately. The fact that you disagree with their reasoning doesn’t change the fact that they are using the term correctly. The fact that the pork industry is using the term inappropriately doesn’t change the fact that PETA is using the term correctly.

    The fact that PETA could make improvements (couldn’t we all?) doesn’t change the fact that they use the term euthanasia correctly.

    Again, less time playing word games and more time actually helping homeless animals is needed here.

  7. I sincerely apologize if any of my previous comments seemed harsh or rude. That is not my intention. I sometimes get frustrated when people second guess and criticise organizations that are making honest efforts to help animals. It’s especially frustrating to me when certain organization recieve the bulk of the criticism and that criticism serves more to fuel the anti-animal crowd than it does to actually fix the problem.

    I feel the no-kill movement has some merit and it also has some serious problems. I feel the pro-euthanasia side also has some merit as well as its share of serious problems. But instead of focusing on solutions, we seem to harp on the problems with over-hyped rhetoric. We need fair and reasoned, constructive criticism – or better still, we need to get on with the work that is needed to actually solve the problems we are all so eager to point out. Enough talk of problems, let’s start focusing on the solutions.

  8. Matt,
    First, I’ll say it again:

    Any justification for euthanasia that doesn’t centralize animals’ interests, isn’t in the animals’ interests.

    If euthanasia is promoted and defended merely as a pain-free death, euthanasia will be used more to satisfy human interests than animals’.

    Next, your criticism of “less time playing word games and more time actually helping homeless animals is needed here” could easily be used against your time spent criticizing me or against PETA’s time spent at their blog defending themselves.

    Re-read my article. What else is there? What kind of writer am I? How do I weave my criticisms of PETA into something that truly helps animals, too?

    I do it in a way that talks about the animals’ interests.

    I do it in a way that discusses dog neglect and abuse. I do it in a way that offers real alternatives to killing: building more shelters, encouraging more people to adopt rather than buy, changing the laws.

    I do it in a way that shows factory farming images. I do it in a way that forces people to think about farm animals. I do it in a way that likens dogs to pigs.

    What do you think the effect of that is on readers?
    The effect is that some non-vegan readers will be inspired to go vegan. Some animal lovers will be inspired to adopt a shelter dog. Some people will be inspired to create a no-kill shelter…

    I AM helping animals.

  9. Yes, you are helping animals and I appreciate reading your blog for that reason. But PETA does offer free spay/neuter services and is helping reform shelters and is campaigning to end breeding and is encouraging people to adopt instead of buy animals and still there are 4 million dogs and cats who go without homes each year – so I guess I just see PETA’s efforts to help animals as a bit more genuine than the efforts of those who just complain about the issue.

  10. Matt, I fear you’re not acknowledging the full context here. All you can see is the criticism against PETA, which is the frame for my message, not *the message.* You don’t seem to even notice the five links to PETA webpages, the criticism against the pork industry, or any of the other factors. I’m sorry to have inspired your defenses, but please, take a look at the total context here. This isn’t about PETA or the good work they do. This is about killing animals – when it’s moral and when it’s not. THAT is the issue here, nothing else matters.

  11. Elaine,

    I completely agree that we must never use the term “euthansia” unless it is in the animal’s (human or nonhuman) interest to end a life of incurable, unending, and terrible suffering.

    Putting to death healthy dogs, cats, and other animals held in “shelters” is not euthanasia, it is killing. It violates the rights of each individual whose life is cut short. It is unjust and wrong.

    Breeding “pets” will never be recognized as a problem until the “shelters” stop acting as executioners. No-kill is a moral imperative.

  12. What of an animal’s interest not to suffer a life of terrible suffering (and inevitable painful death) on the streets or their interest in not suffering from dispair and madness in a tiny cage in a no-kill shelter?

  13. Matt, please read this:

  14. Back to the animal users… the pork industry… and their guideline for killing animals. It’s interesting that their chart includes “Aesthetics”… as if any one method of extinquishing a life is “prettier” than the next. And how it describes what to do to babies – just slamming it against a hard surface… What kind of devils work in these places anyway, that they can do such things on a daily basis… even to healthy “runts”. Very sad, the whole business of killing – be it in shelters or in agriculture. And not a “necessary evil” – just a cruel compromise and apathy.

    ~ Recent blog post: Pseudo Religious Agri-Biz Plays God with Animal Rights ~

  15. I think that there is often a time in an animals life that it is time to put it down. Some die peacefully, but it is not nice to see a pet suffer daily for weeks before a painful death.

  16. “I think that there is often a time in an animals life that it is time to put it down. Some die peacefully, but it is not nice to see a pet suffer daily for weeks before a painful death.”
    I can’t understand people like you. Humans get old, and are in pain then die weeks, months or even years later. Most people would rather deal with the pain and enjoy as much life as possible. And I’d think that animals are the same way. There are many animals in the wild missing limbs, or even worse that go on living for years, because they have the will to live. Killing your pet because it’s hurt or old isn’t fair. It’s like if you were walking in the woods, and saw a rabbit with 1/2 an ear gone or a crab on the beach missing a limb, and you feel the need to crush it’s brains in.


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