A teacher in an American school recenly decided to kill and skin a rabbit in front of his 10th grade biology class (that’s Year 11, to us). The man restrained the terrified creature, before proceeding to break its neck and then skin it.
Some students had asked to be shown precisely how rabbits are slaughtered and processed, and after initially refusing, he had decided to run this voluntary class. The resulting parental backlash showed us all that – obviously – ‘high school classroom’ and ‘graphic demonstrations of animal slaughter’ still don’t quite go together. But it also brings to light how sensitive we all are to the killing of animals, despite our general willingness to eat them. So are we hypocrites? Should we be more aware of what happens in supplying our demand for meat?
Most of us – myself included – enjoy living in a blissful ignorance about where our food comes from. It is often argued that should everybody learn about what happens in food production, many of us would go vegetarian.
In 2013, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, 2.5 million cows, 10 million pigs, 12 million sheep and 902 million chickens were killed for the production of food in the UK alone. These statistics are quite startling, but numbers on a page do not do justice to the sheer volume of deaths. It is quite saddening when you consider how many animals are born and killed just to meet this demand.
What many animals go through in the food production process can be quite shocking. Animal rights groups have frequently raised concerns about the methods of transport, herding, and killing in some slaughterhouses. However, this has meant that over time the experience and quality of life of food production animals has been greatly improved.
It is currently law that, with few exceptions, all animals must be stunned into unconsciousness before the process of ‘sticking’, where the animal’s throat is cut with a sharp knife ensuring rapid blood loss and eventually death. This is probably what the teacher was demonstrating. As you can imagine, it’s a horrifying spectacle.
And yet, even after knowing all of this, I will almost certainly keep eating meat. It seems that our society is desensitised to the idea of the slaughterhouse, and regardless of the facts, figures, and even the videos available, it never really seems quite real. So we create a kind of willing ignorance towards it, and never really consider what it entails.
There should definitely be more public awareness about the methods that produce our food, so that we’re forced to acknowledge their existence consider them much more often. Just maybe without demonstrations.