Profit motive creates living hell for animals

Profit motive creates living hell for animals
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The People
August 1996
Vol. 106 No. 5

PROFIT MOTIVE CREATES LIVING HELL FOR ANIMALS

BY MICHAEL JAMES

Animals are sentient beings with their own unique intelligence, beauty and reasons for being. But capitalism's relentless search for profit makes life on earth a hell for animals.

Capitalist production methods have turned many animal farms into factories. Imagine a life in which you are denied sunshine, fresh air, movement, the opportunity to nurture your young or act on nearly every other natural instinct.

A Leghorn chicken, for example, with an average wingspan of 26 inches, is given about six inches of space. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says: "The simple pleasure of a dust bath in the sun is unknown to a chicken squeezed into a stifling warehouse...." PETA adds that, "Chickens commonly die because of overcrowding...." John Robbins, author of DIET FOR A NEW AMERICA, writes that chickens are "driven berserk by the lack of space...." Warehousing chickens leads to aggression. The factory solution is to cut off a portion of their beaks, which prevents them from harming other birds and, Robbins states, "renders them incapable of doing much harm to company profits."

Pigs, according to PETA, are "highly intelligent," yet "90 percent of American pigs are kept in close confinement" in cages called "iron maidens." Robbins adds that, "Their skeletons are deformed and their legs buckle under the unnatural weight for which they have been bred...These sensitive, tortured creatures have been literally driven mad." PETA believes that "each year 24 million pigs die from stress and respiratory disease before reaching the slaughterhouse." Factory pigs often mutilate others by biting off their tails. The industry, rather than altering factory conditions that lead to insanity and aggression, cuts off their tails, a practice called "tail docking."

Cows who survive the factory face a truck ride to auction and slaughter. The journey can mean as much as three days and nights without food and water, freezing temperatures in winter, heat prostration and dehydration in summer, and risk of suffocation and crippling when other animals fall on them as the truck rounds a curve. It is heartbreaking to consider that slaughter is the only avenue of relief for the animals. Slaughterhouses, described by Upton Sinclair in 1905 in THE JUNGLE as filled with "terrifying" shrieks and "wails of agony," and by Robbins in 1987 as "infernos of nauseous smells, pools of blood and screams of terrified animals," take a human toll too. The injury and turnover rates among slaughterhouse workers are the highest for any industry.

A brief scan of industry publications reveals the presence of capitalist ideology down on the farm:

HOG FARM MANAGEMENT: "What we are really trying to do is modify the animal's environment for maximum profit...Forget the pig is an animal. Treat him just like a machine in a factory."

THE FARMING EXPRESS: "Feather-pecking and cannibalism easily become serious vices among birds kept under intensive conditions. They mean lower productivity and lost profits."

FARM JOURNAL: "Estrus control will open the doors to factory hog production. Control of female cycles is the missing link to the assembly line approach."

PETA, Farm Sanctuary, Friends of Animals, Inc., Farm Animal Reform Movement, Compassion in World Farming, Humane Farming Association, In Defense of Animals and other such groups call attention to these inhumane practices; but they must learn that capitalism is the true issue and that animals are simply innocent victims of the desire for profit.

Factory farming is a sickening example of the way capitalism perverts life on earth.

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The People
November 1996
Vol. 106 No. 8
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LETTERS TO THE PEOPLE

Marxist and Animal Activist

I was glad to see Michael James' article on the profit motive and nonhuman beings. [August issue.] As a Marxist and animal activist I'm aware of the limitations on improving the lot of nonhumans under capitalism.

I believe that the route to fast and mass vegetarianism lies with the SLP's program. To wit:

With the profit motive abolished, rational decisions can be made. Feeding, watering, housing, transporting, killing and disposing of the wastes of 8 billion farm animals each year for the sake of a product that causes cancer, heart disease and stroke isn't rational. Especially when, even under capitalism, there are healthy plant-based products which taste exactly like animal products.

In a socialist future many national debates will take place about what we humans want and how we are going to obtain it. One of these great debates will involve meat production and I think it will go like this: Yes, most Americans currently like the taste of flesh but, all things being equal, if this taste could come from plant products which were affordable, accessible and convenient (fast-food outlets, etc.), let's give up the cholesterol and fat, the waste of resources, the destruction of the environment and the abominable slaughter of innocents.

When no one's profits or "job" per se hangs in the balance, industries can be looked at critically and either improved or abolished altogether. The replacement of meat is one of many examples of something very good and very possible that can happen once the means of production are socially owned.

Randy Shields

Springfield, Ohio