The vast majority of people in Hong Kong eat meat, eggs, dairy products and sea food on a daily basis. Intensive methods of animal production have led to spectacular increases in productivity. What were special foods only a few decades or so ago have been turned into mass-produced and highly-processed low-price commodities. But this desire for ever-cheaper food has devastating consequences not only for the welfare of food animals but also for the environment and human health.
Many of us find the realities of industrial livestock production too horrific, but we do not make any connection between the lives of the vast majority of food animals and the fish, meat, eggs and dairy products we buy. We can all make a dramatic difference to the lives of food animals if we open our eyes to the realities of food production.
Animals are sentient beings. This means they are capable of being aware of sensations and emotions, of feeling pain and suffering, and of experiencing a state of well-being. The SPCA believes that our own behaviour towards animals should be guided by this recognition of their sentience. The welfare of an animal includes both its physical and mental state and we consider that good animal welfare implies both fitness and a sense of well-being. Any animal must at the very least be protected from unnecessary suffering.
During a field study conducted by HKU and the SPCA slaughterhouse workers were seen to be regularly hitting the animals. Pigs with suspected pelvic injuries had their legs tied together to enable them to be forced up ramps to slaughter and the electric voltage used to stun the pigs before slaughter was found to be significantly lower than that used in other common law jurisdictions, allowing for the likelihood of consciousness when the animal is shackled and has its throat cut.
Food animals are every bit as sentient, every bit as capable of fear, pain and suffering and every bit worth respecting as our pet cats and dogs.