By Chris Hedges
The battle for the rights of animals is not only about animals. It is about us. Once we desanctify animals we desanctify all life. And once life is desanctified the industrial machines of death, and the drone-like bureaucrats, sadists and profiteers who operate them, carry out human carnage as easily as animal carnage. There is a direct link between our industrial slaughterhouses for animals and our industrial weapons used on the battlefields in the Middle East.
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During wars in rural societies, where the butchering of animals is intimately familiar, butchering techniques are often used on enemies. The mutilation of bodies was routine in the wars I covered in Central America, the Middle East and the Balkans. Throats were slit. Heads were cut off. Eyes gouged out. Hands severed. Genitals stuffed into victims’ mouths. Body parts such as ears and fingers were collected as souvenirs. Balkan villages, which hung slaughtered pigs by their feet from tree branches to drain the carcasses of blood and so the hair could be shaved off, on some days dangled human corpses along the roadsides. Cattle prods were a favored torture implement in the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
Killing in our mechanized slaughterhouses is overseen by a tiny group of technicians. Industrial farms are factories. Machines kill the animals. And in modern warfare machines kill our enemies. Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, Somalis, Yemenis are condemned, like livestock, from a distance. Hired killers push buttons. Slaughter, at home and at war, is automated. The individual is largely obsolete. The mechanization of murder is terrifying. It creates the illusion that killing is antiseptic. This illusion is sustained by state-imposed censorship that prevents us from seeing the reality of war and the reality of animal slaughterhouses. Killing has gone underground. And this has made vast enterprises of killing palatable.
I witnessed the dismembering and evisceration of human bodies during the siege of Sarajevo by the Bosnian Serbs. It was impossible not to make the link with animals. For several years after the war I would walk out of a restaurant if I saw blood pooling around a piece of rare meat on a plate. All blood is red. Hunks of meat from cattle look like hunks of human flesh. The high-pitched wail of a pig being butchered sounds like the wail of a wounded person on a battlefield.