# The sociology behind inhumane treatment towards animals

mugaliens
What is it about some humans that allows them to treat animals as if they were mindless pieces of flesh grown in a test tube?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20101217/ts_yblog_thelookout/undercover-investigation-of-smithfield-foods-reveals-factory-farm-horrors" [Broken].

Please bear in mind I'm not coming at this from the perspective of an animal rights activist. I loathe PETA, I've hunted, am a meat-eater, and have no problem with people wearing fur. Yet I am boggled when I see dogs chained up outside, shivering, in sub-zero temperatures, and am vexed when I hear of massive die-offs in chicken houses during hot summer days.

Rather, I'm trying to understand if there's something different happening in the brains of those who are able to do these things without remorse. Is it simply learned behavior? Or is there something missing, like the self-check circuits which allow most people to not act out on every thought that comes to mind?

When I read of things like "gestation crates" and other grossly inhumane treatment of animals, however, I wonder how it's possible for these farmers to turn a blind eye to the unnecessary cruelty they're inflicting on other creatures? What must turn off in their brains before they can do this?

This phenomenon has higher implications as to why some people seem to be capable of cruel and inhumane treatment of other humans, up to, and including genocide of other humans.

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Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
It is disturbing, mugs.

My gut feeling is it has to be learned behavior, but at some point the person must take responsibility for his actions. My dad grew up in a hunting culture where it was common for young boys to go out and shoot anything they could find - crows, squirrels, snakes, whatever. He enjoyed it as a young boy, but as he matured, he came to the realization that it was cruel. He's definitely no PETA supporter, either .

I wonder why some people become desensitized while others don't?

dreiter
...I loathe PETA, I've hunted, am a meat-eater, and have no problem with people wearing fur. Yet I am boggled when I see dogs chained up outside, shivering, in sub-zero temperatures, and am vexed when I hear of massive die-offs in chicken houses during hot summer days.
...
When I read of things like "gestation crates" and other grossly inhumane treatment of animals, however, I wonder how it's possible for these farmers to turn a blind eye to the unnecessary cruelty they're inflicting on other creatures? What must turn off in their brains before they can do this?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but how can you be against current animal farming methods and still eat meat? How can you be against gestation crates and still support the results of those crates (ie cheap pork)? How can you be concerned about animal suffering and yet support the absolutely disgusting practice of fur farming?

I wonder why some people become desensitized while others don't?
I think nearly all people do. For example, the employee turnover rate at large slaughterhouses is 100% a year...

trautlein
I know a lot of the people do it because it feels like their "only" option. They are either immigrant workers who would be without a job if they didn't do what the corporation told them to do. Which would leave their family without a source of income.

Also sometimes they get legal workers stuck in a trap, where they literally own no part of the venture, so any straying from protocol would cause them to lose their job. And typically they're in debt to the overarching company.

WhoWee
It seems there are 3 separate discussions in this thread. The first is treatment of pets, second is treatment of wild animals, and third is treatment of animals raised for food.

Accordingly, I'd like to share some personal experience. In my early years, I lived during th summer on my Uncle's farm. There were always 1 or 2 dogs that lived in the house and anywhere from 4 to 12 dogs living outside. The barn cats at one point totalled over 30 - to keep mice and rats away. We maintained herds of cattle ranging up to 200 head and equal numbers of pigs and sometimes sheep. We also had a few horses, chickens, and ducks.

It was a working farm - corn, soybeans, wheat, and barley. Hay was usually obtained from renting fields at other farms. The property had a very productive natural gas well and plenty of water. The woods were filled with game - deer, rabbit, squirrel, turkey, and the ponds were stocked with fish.

A unique feature was the slaughterhouse that evolved into a state inspected meat plant.

To summarize, we had all 3 types of animals of our own, and we handled livestock owned by others.

Admittedly, the house pets received the best care. I attribute this to their constant interaction with my Aunt and Grandmother - they didn't know the outside animals and didn't do extra for them. On the other hand, the outdoor dogs had their own shelters - always lined with stray and blankets in the winter - and they all ate very well including dog food, on slaughterhouse scraps and they hunted wild animals daily. The barn cats were also fed very well (milk and cat food) - plus all the mice they could eat (there wasn't a mouse within a mile of the barns). The only strays that didn't stay were run off by the other animals - if they were accepted by the pack - they chose to stay.

Next were the wild animals. While neighbors allowed hunting platforms and salt blocks for deer - we didn't and only let a few people hunt. Uninvited hunters were chased away.

Last was the livestock. We had heated barns, unlimited food supplies, plenty of water, and ample room to roam. We also maintained a veterinary room and kept combiotics, formula, and pink eye meds in great quantity. That was not the case with everyone we dealt with.

Some farmers fed animals nothing but the grass growing in the field - others bought feed and took very good care of them. Some farmers didn't feed their cats and dogs anything - justifying it as they had all the rodents they could find - others took very good care of them.

There were observable reasons for the various levels of care and compassion - some behavior remains unexplained. One major reason for neglect was many farmers couldn't afford to feed themselves. They probably shouldn't have been allowed to have animals. Another aspect was numbers of animals. If you on 1 or 2 animals, you get to know them better. It doesn't mean you'll like each other more - but you will be more familiar. You will know if 1 of 2 animals didn't get anything to eat or whether it came in from the cold. If there are 200 head of cattle - you can't be certin of anything.

There were also cultural differences. The was easy to observe in the slaughterhouse. The old timers wanted to hit cattle in the head with a hammer - often times injuring the animals. Others had unique methods of "sticking" their pigs or goats - to bleed them out.

My Uncle set the standards and we all followed his rules. The cattle and other animals were put down swiftly using either live rounds or a mechanical device (spring loaded steel ball). He had zero tolerance for abuse. If his standards had been different, I'm not certain that everyone else (the workers) would have been as disciplined. Unfortunately, I do know for certain at least one of them wouldn't have been.

This fellow worked for my Uncle for about 12 years - and knew the proper way to care for animals. When my Uncle passed away and we sold the property, he found a small property of his own nearby. One night we were watching the local TV news and heard his name mentioned. The health department had raided his farm and confiscated all of his starving and abused animals. It was bad enough that he went to jail. To this day, I can't understand his behavior.

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I feel that are inhumane treatment of animals is linked towards commerce. It's the American virtue of greed prevailing over conscious. If running a slaughterhouse in a way that is cruel to the cows makes the slaughterhouse say, 20% more efficient, then when money is your only concern, what do you care? You don't see these cows, they aren't your pets. There are thousands of them, and their entire lives are dedicated to being eaten anyway, so who cares if they're miserable, they're going to die anyway.

The same concepts are applied when somebody destroys sections of a rain forest to build a hotel, or when Big Pharma decides it'd rather exploit the average consumer instead of helping them to the best of their ability. To make bad matters worse, we don't need to worry about just animal cruelty, we need to worry about biological cruelty in general.

WhoWee
I feel that are inhumane treatment of animals is linked towards commerce. It's the American virtue of greed prevailing over conscious. If running a slaughterhouse in a way that is cruel to the cows makes the slaughterhouse say, 20% more efficient, then when money is your only concern, what do you care? You don't see these cows, they aren't your pets. There are thousands of them, and their entire lives are dedicated to being eaten anyway, so who cares if they're miserable, they're going to die anyway. QUOTE]

If you're asking if anyone is going to hand feed apples and sing to a steer in a holding pen - the answer in NO. However, happy cows are healthy cows (old saying). Another common belief is that undue stress gives the meat a foul taste. I don't think professional slaughterhouse operators would purposely injure or agitate the livestock - there is no financial benefit to such behavior.

But that's a false dilemma. There's a big difference between treating a cow humanly and treating it like a king.

If foul tasting meat is the only type readily available in every market, how would you differentiate? Have there been studies concerning the deliciousness factor of steaks made from different slaughterhouses? If there are three plants in America that handle all of our chicken needs, then chances are they're all using similar procedures and cranking out similar products.

Mistreating the animals let's them do things at less of a price, and less of a price will directly translate into lower prices in the market. If you're going to end up paying $1 a packet of processed chicken, you'll obviously be aware that it wouldn't be as delicious as fresh chicken from a local farm. The difference is that the local farm will charge you more because they aren't doing things like pumping their chickens full of growth hormones and since they're the ones directly handling the livestock, I'm sure they're more inclined to treat them at least somewhat better than the man who's writing the regulations for a slaughterhouse he'll never step foot in. WhoWee But that's a false dilemma. There's a big difference between treating a cow humanly and treating it like a king. If foul tasting meat is the only type readily available in every market, how would you differentiate? Have there been studies concerning the deliciousness factor of steaks made from different slaughterhouses? If there are three plants in America that handle all of our chicken needs, then chances are they're all using similar procedures and cranking out similar products. Mistreating the animals let's them do things at less of a price, and less of a price will directly translate into lower prices in the market. If you're going to end up paying$1 a packet of processed chicken, you'll obviously be aware that it wouldn't be as delicious as fresh chicken from a local farm. The difference is that the local farm will charge you more because they aren't doing things like pumping their chickens full of growth hormones and since they're the ones directly handling the livestock, I'm sure they're more inclined to treat them at least somewhat better than the man who's writing the regulations for a slaughterhouse he'll never step foot in.

How exactly does mistreating animals help save money - do you have any support? A well fed, protected, and clean animal does not fit a standard definition of mistreated - does it?

If all any life boiled down to was sustaining the biological need for food and shelter, then you could argue that holocaust victims were not mistreated.

I find it shocking that you would ask me to provide evidence of mistreatment in slaughter houses. I thought knowledge of the horrifying practices that happen within them on a daily basis were more well known.

It was only four years ago that veal crates were banned. A veal crate was a tiny crate where a cow lived it's entire life, unable to have any contact with any member of it's species, unable to have any type of stimulation. Now veal live in veal pens, were they fit as many veal as possible into a pen and call it a day. If there's enough room, they can turn around and maybe interact with another veal.

Either way, the trend is that we let these animals live their entire lives in complete misery. Just because we eat them does not mean that their entire existence needs to boil down to growing large enough to be fully edible. I'm being speculative past this point, but I assume that if so little care is given to living conditions of these animals, there won't be many types of mercy waiting for them at the time of slaughter.

http://www.humanesociety.org/news/p.../vt_slaughter_investigation_part2_110209.html

This slaughterhouse in particular was famous for skinning it's veal alive, but I'm sure that's just an isolated case that is the exception to the rule of what is otherwise a shining record of humanity in American big business.

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WhoWee
If all any life boiled down to was sustaining the biological need for food and shelter, then you could argue that holocaust victims were not mistreated.

I find it shocking that you would ask me to provide evidence of mistreatment in slaughter houses. I thought knowledge of the horrifying practices that happen within them on a daily basis were more well known.

A "Holocaust " comparison? I'm certain that some people would be offended by US Government Inspected meat plant operations regardless of the level of comfort provided to the animals. Have you ever visited a working plant?

JaredJames
How exactly does mistreating animals help save money - do you have any support?

Ever heard of battery farmed chickens?

By mis-treating the animals, you can save a lot of money. It's why battery chicken is cheaper than free range chicken. The proof is in the prices.

The key is what is considered 'mis-treatment'.

Not all slaughterhouses are mis-treating animals. That is a fallacy based on the end result of their work.

I have no problem with hunting / killing animals for a reason (some use), but I do have a problem who people who just kill for sport.

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WhoWee
The key is what is considered 'mis-treatment'.

Not all slaughterhouses are mis-treating animals. That is a fallacy based on the end result of their work.

I agree.

DanP
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I have no problem with hunting / killing animals for a reason (some use), but I do have a problem who people who just kill for sport.

Why ? The end result is the same, a dead animal :P There is no moral difference in killing something to eat it or kill it just for the sake of the sport.

JaredJames
If you kill to make use of the animal, I don't have a problem with it (pointless uses such as taxidermy aside).

It's when you kill for no reason (shoots bird, leaves it where it lands) that I don't agree with. It serves no purpose. You are taking the life of an animal for your own pleasure without a need.

Moral values are personal. You might not see a problem morally with simply killing something, but I do.

If you feel taking the life of another creature is acceptable, that's up to you. But it's not something I advocate and I can't see any valid reason to do so outside of what I've addressed out above.

DanP
If you kill to make use of the animal, I don't have a problem with it (pointless uses such as taxidermy aside).

It's when you kill for no reason (shoots bird, leaves it where it lands) that I don't agree with. It serves no purpose. You are taking the life of an animal for your own pleasure without a need.

The issue is, in BOTH cases enumerated by you you kill with a reason , mainly to satisfy a physiological need. In the first case you eat the dead animal. In the second you kill it for sport, to lower your stress responses. Any kind of sport has this effect. Both motives are equally selfish. In one the immediate goal is to satisfy your hunger, in the other to manage stress.

Moral values are personal. You might not see a problem morally with simply killing something, but I do.

If you feel taking the life of another creature is acceptable, that's up to you. But it's not something I advocate and I can't see any valid reason to do so, other than what I've pointed out above.

Well, you have the choice. If killing an animal makes you "shudder", perhaps you shouldn't try to justify satisfying hunger as a valid reason. What about, eating a carrot or some grass ?

It's pretty much equal to kill an animal for sport or to eat it. In both cases the end result is the same, the poor creature ends up dead.

WhoWee
Why ? The end result is the same, a dead animal :P There is no moral difference in killing something to eat it or kill it just for the sake of the sport.

Should an injured animal be killed? Should a starving herd be thinned - oldest and weakest killed?

I'm not sure if you are against eating cattle or not - I'll assume against? Given my assumption, what should we do with all of the cattle, pigs, sheep, chicken, and turkey in captivity - should they be purchased by the Government and released into the national park system? This is a serious question. These animals have been bred for one purpose - to feed us. If no longer used for that purpose, what should we do with them?

DanP
I'm not sure if you are against eating cattle or not - I'll assume against?

Im arguing against "shudder" morals. My fav meals are meat, and I won't cease eating them anytime soon.

My point is simple, if you think is not moral to kill for sport, you shouldn't try to justify that killing to satisfy your hunger is better. Both serve the same purpose, to satisfy something in a human.

JaredJames
The issue is, in BOTH cases enumerated by you you kill with a reason , mainly to satisfy a physiological need. In the first case you eat the dead animal. In the second you kill it for sport, to lower your stress responses. Any kind of sport has this effect. Both motives are equally selfish. In one the immediate goal is to satisfy your hunger, in the other to manage stress.

There are numerous ways to lower stress, there is no other way to get meat to eat.
Well, you have the choice. If killing an animal makes you "shudder", perhaps you shouldn't try to justify satisfying hunger as a valid reason. What about, eating a carrot or some grass ?

Did I say it makes me shudder? I said (very specifically) that when you kill without, what I consider, a valid reason I disagree with it. Killing to feed yourself is not something I have a problem with.
My point is simple, if you think is not moral to kill for sport, you shouldn't try to justify that killing to satisfy your hunger is better. Both serve the same purpose, to satisfy something in a human.

One satisfies a vital requirement, the other satisfies a need in 'modern' humans - something we can live without. I'm not aware of many of the tribes left on the planet killing for sport.

DanP, with all due respect, I won't continue this discussion as I've seen some of your posts in other threads and frankly I don't see this ending any time soon. Your own views are quite far off my own (and others as they've also noted) and I don't see this ending reasonably. I'm going to leave it at this disagreement as I don't want the thread to get bogged down in a argument over moral values.
(New years resolution - not to argue pointless issues)

DanP
There are numerous ways to lower stress, there is no other way to get meat to eat.

And now morals became a question of how many pathways are to satisfy a need ?

If you kill to satisfy your hunger, you shouldn't take a "holier than thou" attitude towards a human who kills for sport.

One satisfies a vital requirement,

Eat carrots ? Grass ? Nuts ?

dreiter
And now morals became a question of how many pathways are to satisfy a need ?

If you kill to satisfy your hunger, you shouldn't take a "holier than thou" attitude towards a human who kills for sport.

Eat carrots ? Grass ? Nuts ?

Agreed on all points, however if you take a utilitarian outlook, then you are very well justified by saying that killing for food is less immoral than killing for sport, since the food you get from killing provides a physical value, while in a sport the animal's meat is wasted as well as it's life.

I think people in general tend to get very upset when you point out the problems in their dietary choices. For some reason people take it very personally, like they would with their religious or political beliefs, and sometimes more personally than that! Perhaps because serious thought into the matter would require them to change their life in some fashion? *shrug*