A very sad story out of North Stonington, Connecticut. Two cows on a family farm were shot, the suspects being three youths known to law enforcement in the area. After being shot and left for dead, one of the poor creatures had a jaw so mangled that euthanasia was necessary. Charges, including animal cruelty charges, are being prepared and arrests are expected soon. The investigation is being handled by the Connecticut State Police.

While I am disgusted at the wanton cruelty inflicted by these individuals and encouraged by the inclusion of animal cruelty charges, I can’t help but wonder about the status of cows in general. Cows are considered farm animals, and farm animals, much like laboratory animals, are treated with different guidelines than our companion animals. In other words, if someone did to a neighborhood dog the kinds of things that happen in slaughterhouses all over the country, they would no doubt be charged with animal cruelty, possibly as a felony (and I am NOT suggesting they shouldn’t). So these cows, while on the farm, are protected, but once they are on the way to being killed (I believe the industry term is “processed”), they are under less protection. Of course even farmed animals are supposed to be killed by humane methods of slaughter, but one only needs to do a quick internet search to discover that significant numbers of animals are subjected to horrifying torture to their physical bodies while they often remain conscious. Some even survive parts of the slaughter process. So for me, this begs the following questions: What defines the cruelty? Is it the intent of the killer, or the outcome for the victim? Is it governed by the location of the one killed (e.g., slaughterhouse vs. farm vs. back yard)? And what about the above mentioned fact regarding the horrors that routinely occur in slaughterhouses? One could (quite easily, in my view) argue that since the meat production industry fails regularly to provide humane deaths, that the entire industry is inherently cruel. Why are killers of cows shot on the farm charged with animal cruelty while the industry that stuns, bleeds, skins, and dismembers billions of land animals each year in the United States is left to continue on its way unimpeded?

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