Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Frank Lloyd Wright of slaughterhouses writes book on animal happiness

The New York Times reviewed a book on animal happiness by Professor Temple Gardin, well-known slaughterhouse designer.  It's kind of like having the makers of Smith & Wesson handguns write a book on pacifism.  Some excerpts...
Some people think death is the most terrible thing that can happen to an animal.  The most important thing for an animal is quality of life.
This is a real head-spinner.  She says it's the quality of life that's important.  But death ends life.  There is no quality of life after the slaughter.  There is no life period.  And it's not like there's some Dr. Kevorkian of the animal husbandry world putting animals out of their misery when they've lived out most of their lives and are nearing death.  These animals are slaughtered in their youth.  So if quality of life is the most important thing for animals like she says, then death IS the most terrible thing that can happen to an animal since it terminates life and there can be no quality of life without life.

She says slaughterhouses need "strong, caring" managers.  Strong and caring.  That sounds like the hero of a Danielle Steele novel.

"Stand back, my darling" the heroic slaughterhouse manager said, stun gun held firmly in his thick, corded arms, his strong yet caring voice sending chills down Tessa's spine, "this animal will feel no pain.  But you might want to take a few steps back so you don't get brain tissue on your beautiful green dress, which would spoil our first dance at the ambassador's ball tonight.  Oh, and better plug your ears, my darling, because the stun gun doesn't always work right the first time and the steer will start to scream, disturbing your delicate ears which should only hear my tender words of affection, not the death throes of the cattle."

Temple Gardn's advice for these strong, caring managers?
A captive bolt gun has a steel bolt that is powered by either compressed air or a blank cartridge.  The bolt is driven into the animals' brain ... if a non-penetrating captive bolt is used the animal may revive unless it is bled promptly.
This word "caring" comes up over and over among people who talk about improving "animal welfare."  Words have agreed upon definitions.  These definitions turn otherwise random sounds into pieces of communication.  If you use the word to describe something that's the polar opposite of the agreed upon definition, communication is no longer possible.  Caring slaughterhouse worker.  If Temple Gardin arbitrarily decided to suspend the agreed upon definition of "caring" and replace it with a new one, if caring now means "willingness to drive a metal bolt through the skull and brain of an animal," then I suppose these slaughterhouse workers are caring. 

The article tells us Temple Gardin has consulted, i.e. received money from, McDonald's and Wendy's.  And guess what?  "She has kind words for them."  They sent her home with a wad of cash and a Happy Meal and she spread the word.   People suspect PR agencies of being bought off so they don't believe press releases by companies like McDonald's.  But when an animal rights thinker with genuine cred and books to her name and a publicity photo of herself surrounded by happy animals has kind words to say, that's going to sell a lot of Big Mac's.

Don't bother reading the book.  Wait until the McDonald's tray liner version comes out.