Dialogue with Jane Goodall -- Part 3: The Endless Killing of Animals

By Matthieu Ricard on July 21, 2011

Matthieu: Human intelligence can produce Gandhi and can also produce Hitler. But a superior intelligence does not give humans the right to slaughter at will billions and billions of animals every year. It seems that the value of an animal is practically zero compared to that of a human. During the episode of the Hoof and Mouth Disease, for instance, millions of cows were slaughtered to protect a few human lives at risk.

Jane: That was horrible, and there wasn't even a need to do so, since you could have vaccinated the cows.

Matthieu: It was done purely on economical, not reasonable or compassionate, reasons. Throughout the world 150 billion terrestrial animals and 1.5 trillion sea animals are killed every day in a state of great suffering, for human consumption. This is not genocide because the motivation and the goal are different. Genocide is motivated by hatred and the goal is to exterminate a population. In the case of animals the killing is motivated by greed, ignorance, and very often cruelty, and the goal is to repopulate them again and again to kill them again and again. But the process and the methods are the same. In the case of genocide, human are dehumanized and devalued, sometimes as ‟vermin”, in the case of animals they are deprived of their sentience and considered as mere objects, food products, sausage making machines. As for the methods, the slaughterhouses function in very similar way to extermination camps.

Jane: And you know that, in the case of the Nazis, one of the models they used for designing the camps of mass extermination was the large-scale American slaughterhouses. But it is not only the methods, it is the attitude of people working in the abattoirs, people who work in medical research, who stay in places where animals are tortured. Either they can't stand it and leave or they become immune to it. They can become brutal. I have seen people in a medical research lab holding a semi-anesthetized monkey and make him move his arms like a puppet, shrieking with laughter, and putting a cigarette in the monkey's mouth… unbelievable.
There is a book about this that I started to read and felt physically ill and thought that I would not bother with this and then I read a little more. It is an extraordinary book called Etre the Cow. It's about a bull that is doomed to die and tells his story.