funerals-296-1226348580VH2IThere is a series of television commercials for a particular vacation destination in the U.S. One of them starts out with a number – the number of mornings each of us gets in life based on the average number of days in a person’s lifetime. I was at a funeral today – not as a mourner but as a volunteer helping at the service. I had a chance during a relatively quiet moment to think of all the animals killed every minute of every day – in slaughterhouses, in laboratories, in the wild, on fur farms, by individuals in acts of cruelty, in shelters, and everywhere else they die – mostly unseen and unknown by the vast majority of people. The sadness that overcame me was crushing and nearly took my breath away. I started thinking what would the world look like if we honored every one of those lives the way we try and honor the lives of people who have passed? How many funerals would we have to have? And how much of an impact would it have on our lives if we all had to witness and work around the acknowledgement of all of the lives taken?

To use one country as an example, the number of animals killed in the United States each year by humans for the reasons stated above is in excess of 60 – 70 billion per year – and that is probably a very conservative estimate (breakdown at the end of post). A little math determines the rest. If each of the approximately 30,000 incorporated cities and towns in the U.S. hosted funerals for the animals killed, that would mean that each city and town in the U.S. would have to conduct 5,479 funerals EVERY DAY for the entire year. Think about how just one funeral or two in a town can be noticed – lines of cars, pedestrians crossing the street to get to their cars – sometimes traffic jams resulting – not to mention the emotional toll. And that is from one funeral. There would have to be over 5,000 funerals every day in every town in the country to honor the lives taken each year – lives taken intentionally and unnecessarily. Obviously, that number of funerals, for whatever species, would overwhelm the resources of any town or city – and that is the point. The volume is overwhelming, and the suffering is unknowable. The number of animals killed by humans for voluntary reasons is almost too high for the mind to truly comprehend, which is one of the reasons I did this mathematical exercise. I wanted to present a concrete image of the amount of death that is really involved due to the human choices for food, clothing, entertainment, scientific curiosity, and neglect of companion animals. And the image, at least for me, is horrifying.

Estimated number of animals killed in the U.S. per year:
Land animals killed for food: 10 billion
Sea animals: 51 billion
Shelters: 4 million
Laboratories: 20-70 million
Fur slaughter facilities: 4 million (mink only – more if other species are included)
Hunted on land: 200 million
Hunted in sea – non commercial (also referred to as sport fishing): up to 25% of fish catch of some species
Killed as “bycatch”: almost uncountable – millions upon millions

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2 Responses to “5,479 funerals”

  • This post has really stayed with me since I first read it. Because what if the time would come where you had to have a funeral (or at least some type of ceremonial observance with real meaning) before you were legally allowed to consume another previously living being? It would certainly be a step, I would think, in getting people to acknowledge that they’re dealing with a who instead of a what. And thinking differently leads to different behaviours, which can ultimately lead to a whole different world. Hmmm…

    • Linda:

      Thanks, HGV. I really like your idea about having to in some way acknowledge the lives taken when we choose to consume animal lives for any reason. It is too easy for people to think of animals (especially the ones the want to eat, etc) as things rather than living beings with thoughts, feelings, and the ability to suffer and feel anguish.

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