One form of animal use I find particularly repugnant are charity fundraisers that serve or cook animals “for a good cause”. Not only does it use the tired rationale employed by humans to justify the way we treat certain animals – treatment that should not be questioned if it furthers a human agenda or desire – but serving someone’s suffering to raise money to alleviate another’s is about as senseless as it gets.
We see fundraisers like this all of the time: from annual BBQ’s to bake sales to black tie events that cost hundreds of dollars a plate. Organizations from hospitals to private corporations use food as a way to raise funding for charity. I mean, we all have to eat, right? Sure. But we don’t have to eat suffering, particularly when the focus of a fundraiser is to raise money to end it.
This is another example of when our disconnection with animal suffering comes into play and it’s also an example of how we fail to make the connection between linked oppressions. How can we, on the one hand, say we want to relieve hunger, disease, bloodshed, violence and prejudice, while serving pieces of animals who have been subjected to those very conditions, conditions that we – the apparently good and well-intentioned humans – have brought to them directly by our actions and demands as consumers? We systematically – and legally according to laws we create – genetically modify, forcibly impregnate, breed, confine, mutilate, and violently slaughter billions of animals worldwide each year and we systematically turn a blind eye to it too by perpetuating the narrative that an animal’s value and purpose is based solely on what they can provide for us. For instance, we shouldn’t question the suffering of fish if it provides employment. We shouldn’t question clubbing seals if it’s tradition. We shouldn’t question experimenting on rats if it’s for research. We shouldn’t question wearing fur or goose down if it provides warmth, and we shouldn’t question how animals are treated in agriculture if it provides food. All of these justifications have left the moral question of how we treat animals unchallenged and unexamined, leaving them to endure some of the world’s worst suffering imaginable by our hands.
Perhaps the most egregious example of this glaring disconnect was Canada’s National Cupcake Day fundraiser held last month to raise money for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Humane Societies across Canada, organizations that work to rescue neglected and abused animals and prevent animal cruelty. The site even provides recipes to help participants out, recipes with butter, eggs, and milk in them – all products that rely on cruelty to hens and mother cows to exist. There’s even a cupcake recipe with turkey bacon in it, an ingredient that would require killing a 4-month old baby bird in order for him or her to become “bacon”.
I would characterize the relationship between the SPCA and animal activists as strained, and this is one of the reasons why. The SPCA exist to protect animals from cruelty, and can even go as far as to lay charges, but that only extends to animals whom we already view worthy of not killing and eating. We already approve of getting outraged over dog and cat abuse but don’t think twice about that chicken or cow we’re eating. In this sense, the SPCA’s authority only reinforces societal norms rather than challenges them and a cupcake fundraiser made WITH animals to raise money FOR animals is an example of this somewhat ludicrous paradox.
Were I to bring this point up with most people, I would be accused of either putting animals above humans or not caring about a human cause, neither of which is true. The “human problems first!” rhetoric is just another form of deflection we use to avoid considering the suffering of animals at all. And the, “guess you don’t care about children/poverty/cancer/homelessness” is another way to detract from what I am actually saying. And that is that animals suffer because of us. We, as a society, treat animals like garbage and we kill 650 million of them every year in Canada for food.
We must stop pretending that serving an animal’s suffering to alleviate a human’s is vindicated simply because we’re a different species or because we’ve declared our problems to be a bigger priority. Animal rights is a human problem because we are the ones who create these conditions for animals in the first place. And we are never going to heal violence, pain and suffering with “food” that is a direct result of the very things we claim to want to stop.