The commotion around Boxtel is still keeping minds busy. After my previous blogpost I have kept a watchful eye on the opinion of the public, but I want to use this blogpost to share my opinion with all of you.

Hardworking farmers

Let’s get this out of the way first. I understand completely that it is intimidating to the farmer(’s family) to suddenly have over a hundred activists and a police helicopter in and above your stables. There’s also no doubt in the fact that the activists have disobeyed the law. Let it be clear that Meat The Victims is a peaceful protest group that does not use any violence and does not have any other goal than revealing the cruelty and the practices in the animal agriculture industry.

An argument often said by people who are against the action is “those poor hardworking farmers”. Now I will be the last person to deny that farmers work hard, I believe that immediately. The question that arises is whether people that work hard are suddenly excluded from the law. Does working hard make you licensed to abuse and neglect your animals? In the current political climate the answer is “sadly, yes”, but we think this is unacceptable.

Poor pigs

As I’ve stated in my last blog, I think it’s at the very least odd that a lot of people seem to think it’s normal for pigs to have to be killed after disinfected human contact. Do you think all the dogs and cats that some activists surely have also die by triple digits? Do you think a wild pig would drop dead after getting a desinfected stroke on his head? Not even discussing petting zoos yet.

Do you reckon the low amount of trust in the pigs’ resistance is because of the human contact, or because these pigs are so sick, neglected and genetically manipulated that there’s almost no natural resistance left? Stuff to think about.

Dutch article: Deaths by selection in animal agriculture

In case the animals do have to get killed, the only reason for that is that they serve no economical purpose anymore. Pigs raised for meat are sent to slaughter at 5 to 6 months old anyway. In the end they still end up as blood-dripping cadavers on a hook, so why it’s suddenly less sad when in the end a sausage gets pushed out of a machine, is a little beyond me.

In regards to the justification of the action in Boxtel, I don’t want to waste many more words. The entire case has now been subjected to the law. It doesn’t really matter what you think about the action to judge the animal welfare; Or rather the lack of it.

In 2013 animal agriculture in the Netherlands has made 2.700.000.000 to 3.400.000.000 violations of the law in regards to animal welfare. This has caused 500.000.000 victims serious harm. 1 You’re reading that right: Five-hundred million victims. In one year. 2.7 to 3.4 billion violations. In the end only about a hundred cases end up as official reports.  Uiteindelijk leiden maar een honderdtal zaken tot een proces verbaal. A report by Dier & Recht (Animal & Law) and Varkens In Nood (Pigs In Distress) from 2014 states: “If it even gets to an official report, it often gets dismissed in court by the public prosecution” and “it can be stated without exaggeration that nearly all cattle farmers do not comply with animal welfare laws.” 

Of course farmers are responsible for their animals, I don’t want to deny that, but animal welfare and economic interest are often in direct opposition with one another. Farmers have to make money and that’s easiest the bigger the amount of animals per farmer, with production as efficient and industrial as possible & the least amount of opposition from welfare monitors and -organisations. Activists are not against farmers, but are trying to get on the political agenda.

The thing about this that animal welfare has not been high on the political agenda for years either. The animal agriculture industry is only intensifying and economic interests are too high to get a majority in any votes. To ‘unmask’ what’s behind this industry, we’ll need more than drinking a cup of tea with a minister. Animal welfare seems to be but a small foornote in the bigger picture that is being weighed up against the economical risk that activists pose on the system.

Dutch article: Minister puts effort into fighting incidents regarding animal rights activism

My personal opinion is that the political support is mostly symbolic. Farmers in the animal agriculture industry do not really make the big bucks. Smaller farmers are not all that amazingly supported by politics and their profit on meat is low. There’s a lot of subsidy for export, but this is often invested in the richer, bigger farms. From an economical view it’s inevitable for many farmers to keep more pigs on a smaller amount of space.

Because of intensification of animal agriculture and the huge amount of work a farmer has to put in to make a big profit, animal welfare gets pushed back on the agenda. This goes as far as animal welfare monitors getting threatened or physically assaulted and get pressured to issue the least amount of warnings.

Dutch article: Karen Soeters: Many wrongs at the Dutch authority for food and products, heads must roll!

Meat The Victims, and myself as well, plead for state contribution to switching to plant-based farming. This benefits the environment, overall health and most importantly basic animal rights. I still stand behind my claim that there is no possible way to impregnate your animals every six months, take away their babies, leave them sick and crippled in the hallway and in the end stack them in three to four rows for days without any water of food in a truck destined for the slaughterhouse… and still love them. I haven’t even mentioned the filed teeth, burnt tails, psychologically broken animals and unsedated slaughter.

It’s impossible to look at the footage from Boxtel and not see that these living conditions are abominable. It is known that pigs are just as intelligent as dogs, experience feelings and can express love and affection. It’s also known they can suffer and experience an incredible amount of stress and health risks from the production process.

Dutch article: Dutch Animal Party wants debate about poignant fate of young animals in dairy chain

Production process. Animals are part of a production process. Instead of living souls with emotions these animals get treated like cookies rolling off an assembly line, with their only right being staying alive long enough to fulfill their economical purpose. Imagine Meat the Victims did not take place on a pig farm, but on a puppy farm. You don’t have to imagine anything other than the footage I shot, but instead of piglets just imagine puppies. What do you think the public’s opinion would have been? How do you think the politics would have responded?

If instead of pigs, there were labradorpuppies in the stables, the entire operation would have been taken down by the police. Animal welfare organisations would have rise to the tips of their toes and political figures and public opinion would be filled with repulsion and incomprehension. In this case there is só much emphasis on the activists, the action itself, hardworking farmers and how much the pigs have allegedly had to suffer from the presence of the activists. I am left here wondering one single thing: Where is this public outrage when we speak of the hell these animals have to live in day in, day out? The tremendous stress they suffer from when being transported, mistreated, slaughtered… Why do we see pigs as bacon, pork chop or sausage, but would we be repulsed at the idea of eating spaghetti with labrador meatballs?

Dutch article: Animal Rights: When is a pig stable disgusting enough to interfere?

Have another look at the footage. Look at the pink puppies. Little creatures capable of feeling and giving just as much love as a labrador can. With the exact same level of intelligence and the exact same capability of suffering. Would it be fine if we did this to dogs and cats? Does it justify that slice of ham on your sandwich? If you could talk with these animals, would you be able to look them in the eye and tell them their suffering is “worth it” because you can put some pepperoni on your pizza later?

If you would never wish these living conditions to a few thousand labrador puppies, why would you to a few million piglets? Open your eyes to this lifetime of abuse and neglect. This is not an exception, this is the animal agriculture industry. I’ll raise you one, the footage of Boxtel is “far above European standard”, according to a spokesperson. These animals are all condemned to a living hell, for the crime of being born.

1 Dier & Recht, Varkens in Nood. 2014. Naleving Dierenwelzijnswetgeving in de Veeindustrie.