Humans experience the brutality of capitalism in wars, harsh working conditions and widespread poverty caused by a class-based society. Every minute a child dies a preventable death.
Capitalism has also been waging a war on animals.
The examples are many:
* the butchering of dolphins at Taiji, Japan, where every day between September and March wild dolphins are herded into a cove, where the “prettiest” are captured for marine parks and the rest are brutally hacked to death and sold as pet food;
* the yearly killing of an estimated 100 million sharks for their fins. The finned sharks are often thrown back into the ocean alive. They do not die peacefully — unable to swim properly and bleeding profusely, they drown or die of blood loss; and
* the victims of trophy hunting — the mountain zebra, the US black bear, the African elephant, the leopard, the lion, the wolf, the brown bear, the chacma baboon, the hippopotamus and the African crocodile.
Voiceless, an animal protection charity, claims on its website that “Every year, about 700 million animals in Australia are confined in factory farms.” On these farms, confinement is mostly permanent, in cages or sheds in such large numbers that the animals struggle to find space to move or reach their food. They also experience mutilation of sensitive areas without pain relief — the tails, teeth and genitalia of piglets and the beaks of chicks are clipped, as well as the horns, tails and testicles of calves. It is practical, cheap and legal.
Abuse for profit
The drive to make a buck leads to cutting corners on animal welfare, hygiene and wellbeing. Australians have been horrified by the exposure of what the live export industry has been hiding from us: the barbaric, hard-hearted way animals are transported across the world, all in the pursuit of making money.
Animals in “bad” zoos are neglected, kept in filthy, small, desolate, concrete enclosures or left in pain and suffering.
Thousands of circus animals are forced to perform silly, confusing tricks under the threat of physical punishment. They are transported on long journeys in cramped and stuffy conditions, kept chained or caged in barren, dull and dirty enclosures and separated from other animals. Many of them die.
Flashy new shopping complexes in China sometimes use wild animals to attrac.t customers. The animals are kept in small enclosures. An example is the Grandview shopping mall in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. It is home to a polar bear described as the saddest bear in the world. It is also home to six beluga whales, four walruses, six arctic wolves, eight arctic foxes and thousands of other species, all confined to glass enclosures.
Animals are tortured and killed in laboratories. Monkeys are imprisoned in cages, where they rock and pace as they go insane from stressful confinement. Dogs are bred with debilitating diseases and used in painful experiments. Rabbits used in experiments where caustic chemicals are applied to their skin or eyes before they are killed.
The most important risk factor for orangutans is the loss of habitat. Suitable orangutan habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia has declined by more than 80% in the past 20 years. It is estimated that an average of 1.15 million hectares of forest has been lost on Borneo every year between 2003 and 2007. This habitat loss is fuelled by the desire for cheap palm oil.
Orangutans are only one of the many species impacted by the loss of habitat. In Australia, many scientists describe habitat destruction as dire.
The pet industry has become an enormous multi-million dollar industry and includes puppy farms and pet shops. Because they are run purely for profit and part of the capitalist culture of objectifying everything to make a buck, they over-breed animals and sell them like toys. This frequently results in sick, injured and dead animals.
And let’s not forget the fur and animal skins trade and the trade in animal parts for “medicinal” purposes.
Loss of humanity
None of this cruelty is necessary. The outcome is the suffering of animals that cannot defend themselves. But the effect must also be the deprivation of positive human qualities, such as empathy, kindness, gentleness, non-violence and compassion.
There is a strong link between the abuse of animals and violence towards other humans.
Research in the US found that between 1988 and 2012, 43% of school shooters had previously tortured animals. Serial killers very often have a history of abusing animals. According to Psychology Today, 70% of the most violent prisoners in US prisons had repeatedly abused animals during their childhoods.
We lose our humanity and our connection with animals when we perceive them as money generating items (in the case of domesticated animals) or a hindrance to money making (in the case of wild animals such as orangutans) when companies want to destroy wild ecosystems.
Modern capitalist culture fosters an attitude of violence and arrogance towards other species. That ordains the justification for profiting from the suffering of animals, but it also leads to violence against our own species.
Research had shown that towns with abattoirs have higher rates of domestic violence and violent crimes including murder and rape. News.com reported: “Flinders University senior sociology lecturer Dr Nik Taylor said it had been established that the more positive a person's attitude to animals, the lower their aggression levels, and that the reverse is also true — if you're cruel to animals, you're more likely to be violent to humans.”
On the other hand living in harmony with animals enriches our lives. We are all part of a complex environment. When we destroy any part of the environment it has ramifications on the whole.
There is a changing mood in many parts of the world. Many people are realising what we are losing through the destruction of so many species. Many people are working to prevent or end the abuse and suffering of animals. There has been much progress. However, while capitalism exists, such progress will be uneven and always in peril.
Due to the development of technology there is no longer a necessity for animals to suffer. We know that suffering is something that humans share with other animals and that we have the possibility to abolish it.
To decisively end animal misery, we need to eradicate capitalism as a first step. This will lay the basis for creating an ethos that values all life and our environment. It is one struggle, as the old chant goes, one fight.