KESTER: All animals deserve humane treatment

The Teeny Tiny Petting Zoo is more than a cute event

Every year, students enthusiastically flock to UPC’s “Teeny Tiny Petting Zoo” event, oohing and ahhing at the adorable animals. Taking place in late March, the event is an outlet to de-stress from the pressure of upcoming finals, generating a great deal of popularity among the student body. Most of the animals are young farm animals such as goats, chicks, etc. There is a beautiful exchange of love between these animals and students that is indeed therapeutic on both ends.

Yet there seems to be a disconnect with the choices students then make in the dining hall. The same animals we hold in our hands to comfort us then appear on our plates. It seems our compassion for animals hinges on their aesthetic — how “cute” or “cuddly” they are. We often pair that aesthetic with age and thus generally regard the slaughter of younger animals as inhumane. However, a great deal of students might be surprised if they learned that the age at which these animals are killed is actually shockingly young for their actual life capacities. The most horrifying average age of slaughter for an animal is the life of a broiler chicken, whose average lifespan of seven years is cut short a mere 35 to 50 days into it. Not only are these young animals subjected to death far before their natural time. What life they are given is marked by treacherous conditions. These animals are still subjected to cramped, dirty conditions with little room to move about and enjoy what life they are given. Students are often surprised to hear these facts but also wonder about organic meat — isn’t that better? While the meaning of organic does affect the feed the chickens are given and the extent to which they are allowed to access outdoors, the lifespan of these organic broiler chickens is still only 63 to 80 days. It probably doesn't occur to us that although a chicken looks much older than a baby chick, their quick physical maturation in comparison to that of humans does not change the fact these animals are practically children when they are killed.

We don’t often connect the animals we pet to the same animals we consume for food, as there is a veil drawn over the pain and suffering of farm animals killed for food and byproducts. Giving students more alternatives for their food choices is definitely a step in the right direction, but instead of building these options solely around a health or sustainability perspective, it is important to also provide people with an ethical argument. This is not to narrow the perspective down to an exclusively ethical one, but rather to provide students with a multitude of reasons for trying out, pursuing, or adopting a vegetarian diet. For example, by having an event like Vegetarian or Vegan Night at the dining hall at the same time as the Petting Zoo, students would be able to form real life connections to the animals and impart the compassion they felt at the event onto their food choices. We should make efforts to harness the positive connection made at such school events and help them transcend into compassionate efforts in our daily lives.

Jacqueline Kester is a second-year College student.

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