The Cruel World We Tolerate: A Response to “Earthlings”

Nallely Padilla, Staff writer

Sitting down in my favorite burger joint, I sip on my coke and I wait for my veggie burger. I keep my mind busy with my Facebook feed, randomly liking pictures and videos of cute dogs doing tricks. As I continue waiting, I see a woman with an expensive-looking fur coat with leather boots. While I admire her clothes, I realize animals are all around us. But before watching “Earthlings,” I never thought about how they are silently being slaughtered and maltreated for our benefit.

I recently saw the 2005 documentary “Earthlings” and I was shocked. What is an earthling, you might ask? It’s all of us inhabiting and depending on Earth: all living beings. Peter Singer, a DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, would argue that earthlings are all living things capable of feeling pain, which includes animals, not just people. To be clearer: animals are sentient beings, but many other philosophers argue that this isn’t so. Hearing the constant squeals from pigs, the high-pitched screeching of the cows, and the squawks of chickens as they are being slaughtered would rapidly erase any doubt that animals feel pain.

Have you ever stopped to think where your food comes from? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2,850 commercial cattle were kept in slaughter factories during the month of June 2017 alone. In “Earthlings,” I saw detailed images and videos of how these animals are poorly mistreated and their causes of death are due to illnesses, injuries and poor living conditions.

There is a parallel between animals and slavery.

Part one of the documentary explained how these animals are our pets but have you wondered where your pet came from?

Usually, large amounts of these pets are kept in pet mills, which are low-budget shelters with poor living conditions where a veterinarian is rarely available. There are about 25 million animals, like dogs and cats, kept in pet mills. About nine million of those animals are exposed to injury and illnesses, and 16 million are forcefully killed since there’s not enough room in the shelters.

These animals are kept in small, metal cages for most of their lives, and almost all of them go insane from isolation. Most of them don’t know what a caress feels like because they are often thrown savagely from cage to cage. Due to overcrowding, a lucky few are euthanized, but the majority are forced into gas chambers where it takes roughly 20 minutes to die. Or some are repeatedly smashed onto the ground, where a pet mill worker kills the animal by kicking its small body just for their amusement.

Cows suffer greatly due to the dairy industry. A healthy cow usually lives for 20 years on average. A milking cow lasts only 4 years due to dehydration and being stuck on a machine for almost their entire life.

What most people don’t think about it, due to overcrowding, the animals are dying inside the cages. Other animals, like pigs, resort to cannibalism as a way to deal with their stress. Some are forced to share cages with dead pigs, while others aren’t able to walk because of how sick they are.

“Earthlings” demonstrated how slaughter factories perform debeaking, also called beak trimming, so that the chickens won’t peck at each other. Yet they still continue to peck and eat each other. These living conditions are sickening as the animals are being mistreated and they do not have their basic rights met, including living in a clean environment.

As I remembered the lady with the fur coat and leather boots, I thought about how wolves, raccoons, seals and polar bears are killed in slaughter factories to make that fur coat and those leather shoes. The many ways that these poor animals are killed include having their necks broken, suffocation, carbon monoxide poisoning, and anal execution. Once the fur is skinned off, the carcasses are fed to those who are still caged.

Animals are often used as entertainment, and that is a way of being mistreated. It opened my eyes when I learned that people in other parts of the world participate in “pigeon bowling,” where you literally throw a pigeon like a bowling ball. Other forms of animal entertainment include rodeos, pig races, horse races, hunting, and circuses.

The last point brought up in “Earthlings” is using animals for medical experiments. This includes head injury research involving fully conscious baboons. Their heads are forcefully crammed in a metal helmet and then thrust into a sixty-degree angle of 1,000 gs of force. The animals used for these experiments also encounter electrical shocks, burns, infections, along with physical and psychological torture.

“Earthlings” reiterates that animals are living beings that are strong, mobile and feel emotion. Slaughter factories and the mistreatment of animals are a result of our society’s demands, which reflect our lack of sympathy for other living creatures. Speciesism is at the core of these industries.

We are responsible for these actions, but there are ways that we can prevent this cruelty from happening. Some lifestyle changes you can make are limiting meat, dairy, and eggs in your daily diet. Also, stop purchasing leather, fur, or any other animal skin product. Let’s educate us on where our products come from.

From a personal experience, after watching many documentaries on slaughter factories and where our food comes from, I have adapted more to a plant-based diet. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t eat meat, but I limit myself. Making the transition can be very difficult, but slow progress is better than no progress.