My dear friend!
I had expected your argument, that I had deliberately chosen the animals from the other element for my descriptions, as they possibly do have to suffer a lot, because they belong to another world, so that we, with our senses entirely different, have to kill them in a dreadful way without really wanting to. I don’t believe that “without really wanting to,” I would rather say “without giving it a thought, or — without wanting to give it a thought.”
But alright, so you think the death of the other animals, the warm-blooded ones who don’t live in the water but share our own living conditions on earth, you think it’s different, nearly painless, hardly noticed or felt? Mind — not their natural death, but the death of slaughtering we impose upon them.
At first I want to tell you how I feel and think about it as a human being; later on, I will tell you what I know about the way they die, the way they are killed and slaughtered.
I can very well understand the man who lives in the wilds, needing to defend his life and to fight for his daily food, which renders him more or less savage. His actions are natural to him, because they originated in the environment of Nature surrounding him, the law of the wilderness. He prowls about like the big beasts of prey do — and he hides from danger in some concealed place, just as they do. He must fear to become prey to some stronger creature — but where he is stronger,the weaker creatures must fear to become prey to him. He lies in wait for his victims, just as the big beast of prey does. He does the same things the other creatures around him do, and he is one of them, maybe the most intelligent and therefore the most dangerous one. By this, he becomes the dreaded king of the wilderness.
And yet there is a sort of righteousness in all of that: he has the chance to preserve himself, just like any other creature. He may live in the wilderness of years, even for decades, until some day he becomes prey to another. All of his instincts, his intelligence and his skills, every fiber of his body serve that purpose: to survive — to escape danger. And he is successful, now, today, tomorrow — who can tell for how long? He enjoys this kind o life, every part of it: freedom, Nature, even hardship and danger. When he dies, he dies a free creature — maybe killed and torn by some mighty beast of prey — but up till then he was free to live a glorious life, and even the terrible death he finally meets is something familiar to him — he was face to face with it all his life, fleeing from it, dodging it, deceiving it, by exerting his sinews and muscles and brains to the utmost. for a long time he had been winner in this serious game, now at last he had failed.
And what is true for him is equally true for the creatures he had hunted. The antelope, the deer, the wild cow, even the hare, they are all subject to the same rules, though they never kill other creatures. They, his potential victims, also enjoy their wonderful free lives in Nature, and they live their lives, their instincts, their intelligence, their bodies ever tense, to preserve themselves now and again and again. Almost always do they have that chance — some clever action, some physical exertion will save their lives at the very last moment. — They, too, are skilled in this serious game, and the more skilled they are, the more often will they win their lives anew. In this free life, they enjoy the days and weeks and months and years given to them. And to them also, death is something familiar when it takes them some day, an old acquaintance they had always fled from and often faced, and which does not surprise them now as something strange and unknown.
Both of them, the man as well as his prey, had a life in royal freedom, and its end is dramatic, but it was beautiful and worth living and — everyone has a chance to prolong it, to win the game over and over again.
All of that is a cycle of great righteousness. Nature is righteous, she compensates, she makes amends in advance for the wounds she will inflict later on. And what is more: she is honest, she never hides her hardship or conceals her perils from her creatures. She puts her cards on the table, and her creatures confide in her — despite care and hardship, because the clearness of truth mitigates all bitterness.
So you see: I understand the man in the wilderness, or rather — I try to understand — man as a hunter. I regard him as something natural, still existing in the wilderness in our days, like our ancestors did, thousands of years ago.
I said hunter. But I do not mean the well-dressed, neatly shaved man, armed with a shotgun and accompanied by dogs, who goes “hunting” in the forest. He deems himself a man of culture, he holds a higher situation in life, has read a lot and is educated, he is generally considered “humane.”
This man walks through the forest, he loves and admires Nature, is attracted by Nature. He really does love her — he is not deceiving himself. No, he is filled with admiration — for the sparkling dew-drops, the green color of the foliage, the rays of light falling through the tree-tops, the birds’ songs. He watches the animals with delight, enjoys everything. And yet — he would be ashamed if he were to go to the forest for the mere sake of that feeling. No, he is “a man”…! — He must have an aim. — And is not huntsmanship an ancient tradition, praised as noble? And so this man, who loves all of Nature surrounding him, who feels her harmony, and who would need to take but one step to enter and become a part of her — this man brings persecution and injury, anguish and death. — Instead of loving, he kills those he should love, thereby destroying his Paradise.
No, I do not mean that “hunter,” that miserable being that puts itself outside of the rules of Nature — for what he is doing is unnatural in the deepest sense. He, a man of culture, raised over the hardship and the rules of the wilds by the efforts, the striving and yearning of our ancestors who built for us steps to a temple of peace beyond the wilderness, he voluntarily abandons these first peaks, these steps to a higher life, and becomes slave to a base instinct, a rudiment of the beasts of prey. — No longer within the ancient cycle of natural needs, he brings persecution, injury, and death in anguish — and he deems that a sport and a pleasure. What a tragic atavism! The more civilized, the more educated, the more independent he is, the more do I pity him, for he is on a track leading to the exact opposite of what he and all of mankind should be striving for: the bliss of harmony.
It seems queer how often a grim fate strikes such huntsmen, wounding them deeply like they, themselves, have wounded. That is like a hand to show them the way to themselves, to show them what it means to be wounded and to suffer from these wounds. — But how few understand.
That is what was to be said about the origin of animal food, about the hunter who killed in the wilderness for necessity, and about the perversion of the sunday-huntsman who kills for pleasure. I’ve told you how I see it. Think it over for yourself.
What I have been telling you may not be what you had expected to hear, but it was merely an introduction to what I am going to tell you now; I wanted to show you the fundament on which the building of our animal nutrition was erected. The method of hunting was the beginning — as I said: the fundament.
But now I want to keep you waiting no longer. For I know you are waiting impatiently to hear what I am going to tell you about the other animals, those whose flesh is mainly eaten by man — for venison has become rare, at least in the countries we live in.
So I will tell you about the cow, one of the largest of the animals for slaughter. Animals for slaughter — we humans have invented this term, as though it were the specific attribute and characteristic of these creatures to be slaughtered.
In some areas, cattle live free on pastures, at least at times, during the beautiful seasons of the year. — Those are the lucky ones. They live in Nature, on the more or less limited land of the pastures, they enjoy fresh, luscious herbs and grass, they see the sun, the moon and the stars, they breathe the pure air of the meadows and the hills, enjoy the soft drizzle of rain and the warmth of sunshine and the refreshment of rest of peaceful Nature, on the green meadow. They spend their lives in beauty and safety. No harm shall strike them, man himself does his best to protect them against it. the cows give the milk they have to spare, quietly ruminating, surrounded by Nature’s calm magnificence. Yes, they are the lucky ones, and they live that way for days and weeks and months and often even years.
Oh, how enviable must the fate of these cattle appear to their sisters in the shed! For in many areas,cattle spend their whole life in a shed, generally a low, small room with very small windows which admit very little light, and very little fresh air can come in from outdoors. But even if the room in which the cow must spend her life is not too small, it is, in comparison, not much larger than the room allotted to a person for the final rest — the coffin.
The home allotted to the animal is a little bit longer and a little bit wider than the animal herself — but only a little bit. The cow cannot ever turn around, not a single time. Even if there were room enough for that, there is still something else to prevent it: the chain. For the cow or the calf are chained, their head is tied to beam or stone — to the trough. this chain enables the animal to take one little step backwards, so that he or she can lie down when tired, to rest and to sleep. To rest on what? On a layer of dead leaves or straw. It is a good resting place. If the owner of the shed and the animal frequently changes that layer, it is a comfortable bed; if he does not, the poor creature is compelled to lie on its own excrement. And very often, people want it that way — it will render better manure. However, a good keeper will not act that way, he will remove the dung frequently and store it elsewhere.
Now the cow sends her whole life in that dull shed, where it is often unbearably stifling in summer. Morning begins. The keeper cleans the animals’ hide, so that it cannot be infested with parasites or disease. This is a blessing for her. Then he fills her crib with hay or fresh grass and her trough with water or bran. And then there is the long, long day. She can do no more than three things: eating, standing, lying. And the calf, born in the shed, grows up between those gloomy walls, in that tomb-like enclosure — days, weeks, and months … Her mother, the cow, grew up that way too. Never in her life did she see a pasture, never did she sense the wonderful feeling of walking free on a meadow, never did she even have the comfort of being able to turn around herself just one single time.
Thus the seasons with their changes pass by nearly unnoticed, sunshine and rain remain forever unknown and unfelt. Only the sultry air may alter once in a while, and the nostrils yearningly inhale a breeze coming from out there, yearningly inhale the scent of the hay and the grass that arouses a notion deep in the animals’ soul, a notion of something glorious that must be out there, somewhere, far away, where those fragrant plants came from. Yet the chain ties to prison. Nothing but mute resignation and — dreaming? I wonder if a cow can dream, of a meadow or a forest, of fields and hills she has never known? But once in a year, the chain is unbound. With wavering, heavy steps the cow walks out of the shed, uneasy, frightened, rudely pushed by the man who leads her. She comes into the yard. The man holds her tight. The sun is shining — it almost hurts her eyes. It is a strange, unknown world, not a pasture. There are walls, a shed, maybe even a tree. But the cow hardly sees, hardly perceives all of that, she is excited by the unusual happenings, by the change in her environment — it makes her uneasy, it frightens her, because it is unfamiliar.
The man holds the cow tight — he lets the bull mount her with all his brutal strength. The cow winces, she wants to flee, to escape. But from one side she is being held tight and beaten, while from the other she is being raped by the snorting bull, who is bursting with vigor and who flings himself upon her with all the brutality of rut.
It is but a brief struggle. Violence conquers. The cow submits, gives up, and at last she too feels the lust of sex, and the bitterness is sweetened.
As soon as the snorting one releases her, the one she hardly even saw, the man leads her back into her box, chains her, fetters her to the trough, to that tiny spot where she cannot even turn around. Not till a year goes by will she be taken out again for the same purpose; she spends all of her time in that gloomy, narrow prison, eating, standing, lying, tugging at the chain which is not even loosened when she gives birth in pain.
Then, when the calf is lying by her side, the mother caresses it tenderly, feeble, yet happy. Something new has come into her life, a blissful feeling fills her animal soul. The prisoner is no longer lonesome — a child was given to her, and hers is the heaven of motherhood.
But this bliss will not be granted to her for long. As soon as her child is capable of eating by itself, as soon as it is no longer absolutely dependent on its mothers’ milk, man will take it away from her and fetter it somewhere else in the shed, at a place where the mother may not even see her child any more.
Sobbing in her own way, the cow cries for her child. The humans who speak and write and read so very much about motherly love, who have given this feeling a halo of glory, they hear the weeping, the cries of despair, the imploration — but they do not heed it. They are shocked and they shed tears when a human mother is bereaved of her child — but they say a cow is no human being, which is perfectly evident. And as they see no tears, they say a cow cannot cry — as they hear no human words, they say a cow cannot beg for her child, cannot utter imploring cries of distress. They do hear from the sounds the animal is uttering that something most be going on within her, very similar to what a human mother would feel. But as they can always point out that they don’t understand any words she is uttering, they say a cow cannot speak. But they never really want to understand what she is saying, for if they did they might have to heed her implorations after all, and that would be inconvenient. It is much more practical, much more useful to separate mother and child — it renders great profit — the delicious milk, which was originally meant for the cow’s child.
And instead of her child who was torn from her side, instead of the one she loved, who shared and lightened her lone life, man now comes to her every day to milk her, to take her child’s nourishment out of her udder. And she will eventually even be grateful for that, as the undrunk milk would cause her torturing pain, for Nature had meant it to be drawn from her body.
And everything is as it always used to be: the chain — the trough — the crib — standing — lying — and now, being milked. Musty air around her, walls, a wee bit of light through dull little windows. She is forever a tightly chained prisoner, poor thing; and others gain profit by her plight and bereavement. It is always that way: the poor and the wretched have to give most.
I wonder if she is granted dreams, dreams of the scent of hay, or her encounter with the bull, dreams and memories of the bliss of motherhood and of her child? — I hope so.
Years pass by, many years, long years — one by one, each like the other, six, eight, ten — until … yes until she has grown old and lean, until the prisoner’s body can no longer bring forth a child and the fountain of milk runs dry. Then — well, then — but I’ll tell you about that later on. Actually, what I am going to talk about now is already the beginning of that “later on.”
I have told you about the lives of the cow on the pasture and the cow in the shed, how they spend their days. Now id will tell you how they die, will tell you about the death humans have doomed them to even before they were born.
The cattle on the pasture are suddenly captured and led away — let’s suppose several of them. There are young animals among them who have enjoyed the happiness of the pasture for no more than half a year, while others are a year old or two. And among them is a cow who has a young calf frisking around her. She does not give enough milk any more. She is the sister of that cow in the shed. Now her child, her calf, is torn away from her side; she is torn away from her child’s side. The calf cries plaintively for his mother, and his mother cries despairingly for him. But a man with a thick hard stick drives her away without mercy. The more she resists, the harder and the more cruelly does he beat her. Her head is tied and she is led with a rope, just like the other cattle who are also being cruelly beaten. The drovers think they have to do that, they know no other way of controlling the big animals, of forcing them to go where they want them to go, for the strong cattle are shaken with fear and distress. So the blows hit the most sensitive parts man knows, the head, the soft nose. It is a desperate struggle. The animals’ desire and instincts bid: back to the familiar pasture! But the drovers’ desire is: forward on the ordered way! These two contrary desires are struggling with each other, but mans’ greater brain-power, combined with his brutality, finally enforces his way.
And it is a long journey.
But what is happening to the animal from the pasture is happening in the same way to the animal from the shed — their terror, their grief, and their suffering are exactly the same. And those whose past lives were so different, they meet on this journey. The poor from the shed and the rich from the pasture, they meet on the road to death, where you can seem them trudging in your mind — that is where their death-journey begins; it may be a short way, or it may be a very long way on the road, and it its end the freight-train, the stock-wagon will be awaiting them.
“At last!” — you say: “Now the tormenting walk is over, the weary animal will find a resting place in the wagon and will no longer be beaten or driven, having reached an intermediate station.”
Your idea is logical, but reality is altogether different. The journey, the hard journey of suffering on which the cow is now no longer walking but riding, will now consist of hunger and thirst.
You look astonished and ask: “Hunger? Why? — They will feed the cattle with hay — in every railway and freight traffic the livestock transported will be cared for promptly and reliably.”
That is true: — But it is up to the man who is responsible for the transportation. He must order that service, as he is the animals’ owner, and he has to pay for their feeding or else feed them himself. But the livestock-dealer hardly ever gives that order; usually he does it only in case it is a very long journey, at the end of which the animals would have died of starvation. Quite the contrary, he usually gives the workers who attend the transportation strict orders not to give his animals any food. For the man we are talking about is either a butcher, or he is the buyer for the slaughter-house.
For both, the transportation is no more than an intermediate — they have but one goal in mind: the slaughter-house; and in their minds they see these animals already killed, with bodies cut open, they see men dragging the entrails out of the steaming, open carcasses. The emptier, the cleaner those entrails are, the less work do they cause. But a filled stomach results in filled intestines. No, the intestines must be as empty as possible. So it is important that the stomach must be as empty as possible. Which means in other words: the animals must not be fed. and so nobody feeds them.
A freight train is comparatively slow, and so the animals do not reach their destination very soon. Often they must ride for a day or two or three or even more — without any food. It does no harm to leave them hungry for three days — that bears no risk of their dying. And you can even extend it for one or two days more, if the animals doesn’t fall off too much — and provided it isn’t too young. Of course, a calf would die. You mustn’t take a risk!
These are the thoughts of the man who possesses the animals and who has them taken to slaughter. He generally has no objections to giving them water — and yet that is often neglected, for convenience of laziness. Everybody knows what a torture thirst can be, especially in summer. How must the frightened animal feel, having found a little rest in the dusky wagon after all the terror and the beating and the unfamiliar impressions? At first, that rest must be a relief, being left alone, without the presence of man who brings danger and fear.
But then? –
The cow from the shed knows her feeding-time, her stomach is adapted to it with the precision of a clock. The cow from the pasture bitterly misses the fragrant herbs she used to eat whenever she felt like it. At first, all the new and unfamiliar impressions make them forget their hungry feeling. But not only hours pass by, half a day passes by, a full day — a night — and another day — and another night. And hour by hour, they get more hungry, more and more, until it drives them to despair.
At first, the animals call, they beg, they demand — but then they cry out loud for help. No one is near to hear them. Wheels are rolling beneath them. Every one of their cries is lost unanswered, as though it had never been uttered. They grow weak and feeble and are filled with mortal dread. They grow weak and feeble and are filled with mortal dread.
But at last, when there seems no hope left for them (and I know that animals can hope), the train slows down — and stops. The doors are opened, bright golden light dazzles the animals. A rude hand unties the ropes, a stick, hard and merciless, beats and drives. But what does that matter, compared with the fact that a door was opened, like a ray of hope, that the dazzled prisoners are now stepping through this very door towards a new life, maybe new happiness? But starvation has left its mark on their bodies. The first eager steps are alright, but then the animals begin to stagger. A cow breaks down, falls on her knees. A cruel blow makes her stand up again.
“Well emptied” — the drover says in a professionally satisfied way — “well, we’ll get them there those few miles.”
The staggering animals trudge ahead.
Again a cow falls on her knees and then another. And each time it gets harder to thrash the broken-down creatures up again. One of them cannot get up any more — she is the weakest of all. The drovers try it in vain. But they are experienced — it happens all the time, you know — and they know some tricks for such cases. when the most cruel beating, when twisting the tail is not used any more, they don’t give up — oh, no — they still have some things up their sleeve that they can do. Of course, they’d never tell anybody about them, nobody but a fellow-worker, because it’s a professional secret. If other people knew about it, they would call it cruelty to animals — but let them try and bring such a beast that keeps falling down all the time to the slaughter-house, then they’d see for themselves! What else can you do? You can’t leave the animals lying there.
And they get where they want to, they are actually able to bring the cattle to their destination, to the slaughterhouse.
From a distance, the lowing of the cattle there can be heard — loud from those outdoors, muffled from those in the sheds. But this is not the kind of lowing that joyfully greets a new day or the food in the newly-filled crib — you will hardly hear sounds like that in a slaughterhouse. These are sounds of horror and despair, mingled with cries of hunger.
The cattle being driven to this place hear it,k and they enter the slaughter-house yard shuddering.
Animals have very sensitive instincts — in times of danger they are even more sensitive, and they perceive things humans can no longer perceive. Hardly are we still capable of presentiments, which makes us sense coming events like terrifying, burning smoke to show us that we are approaching fire.
The animal widens his nostrils in horror, he smells blood — he wants to flee, exerting the last bit of strength left in his weakened body. Too late! Feebleness — and man — are stronger.
The smell of blood, the desperate cries are everywhere around, and the animal joins his own voice in these screams of terror.
That is the end of the long journey thus far, the end of its first and second part — but the third and hardest is yet to come — it is the shortest part, for it is the way to death. The events before the this were merely the preliminaries, they are now gone through, trudged through.
The animal waits for a long time, standing in the burning heat of the sun or in the bitter cold of winter, standing in some corner of the slaughter-house yard, waiting, filled with dread and fear. But then he takes his last steps, is led into the house of death. All resistance is in vain. With every step he senses more and more the smell of blood, the sickening reek of warm, open carcasses, more horrible than biting icy cold, more penetrating than burning sun. Blood is on the threshold, blood everywhere on the floor, making it slippery, so that man and animal are in danger of sliding and falling.
The animals’ eyes and nostrils are opened wide in horror and dread. He sees carcasses cut open, he sees humans, their hands and arms dripping with blood, busy at tearing the entrails out of them.
Then he sees the mighty bull who is standing there shaking, he sees him hit by a heavy blow, sees him fall like a tree falls when the lumbermen cut it down. The fall is heavy and dull. Blood bursts forth from the opened artery — like a torrent — a steaming red fountain. And the huge animal’s body is still twitching.
And now, blood-spattered hand seize the newly arrived animal, drag him ahead to his very last step — the step into death.
The animal is silent now, horror has choked his voice — only his wide-open eyes are screaming, screaming with terror, screaming for help, screaming for mercy. But now those frightened eyes are covered. It grows dark around this creature who is doomed to death.
The terrified animals’ nostrils are quivering with dread. And then the blow hits him, the very last blow of his life, and for that reason perhaps the kindest one.
That is the end of the journey, that was its destination. Deep darkness descends upon our animal brother, the same darkness that will some day descend upon us. Or maybe it is no darkness at all? Maybe it is a wide ocean of light, so vast that our feeble eyes are dazzled and unable to perceive it, so that we take for darkness what is in truth the lightest and brightest of all?
I have led you along the road down to its end, and I know you accompanied me and have seen it all in your mind. I don’t think I have to add anything to this letter; everything I might yet say, you will hear it within yourself.