Commoditization of Animals

Shomit Sengupta

Shomit Sengupta

We have been indulging in the practice of “commoditization of animals” for so long now, that it doesn’t seem one bit inhumane. Let’s pause and think again? To read more such articles, please visit our library.

In today’s era, it is not uncommon to come across the practice of commoditization of animals for the sake of consumption. In this practice, domestic animals such as hens, cows and pigs among others are artificially produced by the millions to satisfy our craving. They are separated from their mothers at a very young age and put inside a cage with others of their kind, such that once they reach a suitable age, the males are slaughtered for their meat and the females are inseminated with the male sperm. Once the baby is born, the process is repeated infinitely and indefinitely, till Corporates achieve their desired bottom line… and even then, they aim for higher “production” the following year.  

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By commoditizing animals, we are preventing them from engaging in two very important activities that are essential for every mammal’s well-being. They are –

1. Playing – Playing is the mammalian way of learning social behavior. All animals (including humans), over a period of thousands of years, have developed a sort of evolutionary psychology that requires us to make friends and play with them. The idea behind this is to be able to find a mate and reproduce so that the survivability of our species improves. We never think about it consciously but ingrained deep within our subconscious mind is the indispensable need to make friends and have an active social life, thus increasing our chances of finding a suitable mate and enhancing our species’ survivability.  

2. Maternal Bonding – Maternal bonding is the need for every young mammal to bond with its mother, whose milk and care is paramount for survival.  

Thus, by encaging animals for their flesh and milk, we are treating them as mere machines that do not have any feelings and needs. Even though they are provided with all the necessary nutrition and medication required to survive and reach a certain age (that we deem fit), they still feel the urge to indulge in the above activities. And this is the basic lesson of evolutionary psychology – that even though we supply all the required nutrition that a hen would need to grow up, it would still feel the need to satisfy its social cravings.

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By snatching away these two very basic rights from our mammalian counterparts, we are causing them great suffering and anguish. They grow up to be emotionally disturbed and end up having high levels of anxiety and aggression. This was proved by a research that was conducted by psychologist Harry Harlow in 1950, when he closely studied the development of two different groups of monkeys over their life cycle.

The first group comprised of new-born monkeys that were allowed to stay with their mothers and given the freedom to play and socialize with other monkeys; the second group comprised of monkeys that were separated from their mothers shortly after birth and put inside a cage, such that they cannot interact and socialize with other moneys. Nonetheless, the monkeys of this group were provided with the necessary nutrition and medication required to sustain their health and well being. Harlow discovered that the monkeys from the second group grew up to be mentally disturbed and displayed heightened levels of anxiety. Moreover, they were unable to communicate with other monkeys and suffered from various psychological ailments. The monkeys from the 1st group grew up to be mentally healthy and active.

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We have been indulging in the practice of animal commoditization for so long that we see it as an indispensable necessity. We have set up hundreds of thousands of commercial hatcheries across the globe, where we systematically “produce”, nurture, and slaughter animals by the millions. Animals that have complex sensory and emotional needs, just like us. So, the question is this – are we really alright with consuming emotionally distressed animals that are powerless to defend themselves? “What choice do we have?”, you might ask. Well, we have three options –

1. Turn a blind eye towards it all and continue doing what we do. After all, ignorance is bliss and sooner or later, we get accustomed to the cruelty of a practice, no matter what. Besides, we are not directly involved in the process of commoditization.

2. Become vegetarians, or better, go vegan.

3. Indulge in the ancient practice of hunting. Well, to be fair, this is not really an option. After all, who in their right mind would do this?

On a concluding note, to those who believe in the food chain theory – that the more powerful animal naturally consumes the less powerful one and hence it’s alright to eat chicken and beef – let me politely remind you that it’s not the same thing. Carnivores such as Lions and Hyenas don’t artificially “grow” their prey; instead, they feed on mentally fit and emotionally sound (for all we know) deer, who until recently enjoyed a game of catch and cook with other deer.

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