Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How I Learned to Hate Animals

How are we socialized into accepting systematic violence against animals? Like anything else, I think we learn the rationales for non-human exploitation in drips and drops. This education — or more accurately, miseducation — probably  takes place throughout our lifespan, with different answers formulated to meet our ideological needs at different times and places. There’s nothing particularly nefarious in the process. Speciesist messages are passed on by well-meaning people. Human violence against animals is just the way it’s always been. Plus, it generates a great deal of money for certain people at the top of the economic hierarchy, and one might argue even those humans on the bottom benefit.

Above others, a particular instance in my socialization stands out. In 1999, I was 12. My father had just accepted the headmaster position at a boarding school which, as a result, I would attend free of charge. The institution boasted a farm and in the fall students participated in what was euphemistically referred to as “chicken harvest,” as if killing sentient individuals was no different than the harvesting of potatoes, which took place around the same time. Leading up to the event, the school held an assembly at which the barn manager, a stout Irish immigrant, explained how animals were treated on factory farms and how it was different from that of those in his care.

The implication seemed to be that in raising and killing birds the way the school did, we did them a favor. The unstated assumption, of course, being that animal agriculture was inevitable. I learned there was a certain nobility in participating in violence against animals. Doing so represented a mature embrace of the world’s complexities, in contrast to those who bought the cellophane-wrapped results in the supermarket. Of course, acknowledging a contradiction doesn’t make furthering it less hypocritical. And one’s direct rather than passive participation doesn’t matter to the animals being killed. But it seemed like the reasonable, adult position at the time.

Attending chicken harvest wasn’t mandatory, but there was a strong pressure to do so. Those who didn’t participate were forced to spend the day in the library, writing a report on animal treatment in factory farms. Only a handful of vegetarian students did this, one of whom I had a crush on. And in retrospect, I’m amazed by their ability to resist pressure from friends and teachers.

 

Chicken harvest was videotaped that year. In the recording, you can see me in my denim work jacket, gripping my neck in vicarious horror. There was a performative aspect to my reaction. But despite this, the slaughter was the first real instance of violence I had ever seen, so far as I can remember. And it was horrifying. Undoubtedly I had witnessed schoolyard scuffles, but nothing like this. Nothing that resulted in a bucketful of the lopped-off heads of living individuals, blinking in their apparent last moments of consciousness.

When it was over, I remember laying in the grass with my friends, publicly vowing to become vegetarian. This oath, of course, lasted a few days tops. Later, some boys broke into the car of my English teacher, an outspoken vegetarian who didn’t attend chicken harvest or barn chores, and draped the interior with animal flesh. I remember acting, like my peers, as if it was quite funny. I think we believed she got what she deserved, for not recognizing the way things were and doing so while a woman.

Two years after, in my final year at the school, I was a full participant in the year’s slaughter. Together with a girl I briefly dated, I wrestled a turkey into a large bucket with a small slit, just big enough for its neck to stick out from. I pinned the animals’ writhing body to the ground after its head was cut off with an axe, until the poor creature bled out. From there, we brought the carcass through the methodical process of boiling, plucking, gutting and cleaning. Somewhere, there’s a photo of me smiling, holding the corpse upside down, waving to the camera with a glove-covered hand smeared with blood. It wouldn’t be until I was preparing to go to college, reading Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, that I began to question the assumptions behind that smile.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Cesar Chelala
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
October 18, 2018
Erik Molvar
The Ten Big Lies of Traditional Western Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lockheed and Loaded: How the Maker of Junk Fighters Like the F-22 and F-35 Came to Have Full-Spectrum Dominance Over the Defense Industry
Lawrence Davidson
Israel’s “Psychological Obstacles to Peace”
Brian Platt – Brynn Roth
Black-Eyed Kids and Other Nightmares From the Suburbs
John W. Whitehead
You Want to Make America Great Again? Start by Making America Free Again
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail