Warning: disturbing images
It’s been dubbed the world’s most gruesome market. Pictures of dogs crammed together in tiny cages waiting for their turn to be flame-roasted in front of one another and the charred bodies of rats, cats and monkeys lying lifeless on the market floor.
With extreme stories concerning animals, the pictures are usually very upsetting, and anger and xenophobia directed toward the host country almost always follows. But, as the saying goes, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. It's time we took an honest and hard look at our own abhorrent treatment of animals.
You don't have to travel halfway around the world to see cruelty similar to that in the Tomohon Market in Indonesia on display: crates and cages jam-packed with live animals, limp and lifeless bodies blow-torched in preparation for eating, whole carcasses on display by meat vendors – it all goes on here, too. The only difference is the species of animal that is being served up.
INFOGRAPHIC: How we treat animals around the world
The thought of tucking in to Spot or Fluffy quite rightly repulses most animal-loving Brits. In fact, if the British meat industry did to dogs and cats what it does to pigs, chickens and cows, it would be prosecuted for cruelty to animals. There is no rational justification for this arbitrary double standard.
It is prejudice and prejudice alone that allows us to protect certain species, to take them into our homes and make them part of our families while treating others as mere commodities. All animals are some one, not some thing to put on a plate. When it comes to suffering, there is no difference between a dog or a cat and a pig or a chicken – we all have the same capacity to feel fear and pain and share the same desire to live, have families and do what is natural and important to us. Irrespective of the species, every living being with a will to live should have a right to live free from unnecessary pain and suffering.
Warning: disturbing images
In pictures: Tomohon Market
Like many vegetarian or vegan commentators this week, I welcomed JBS Family Butchers' decision to return its display of dead animals to its window – at least it's being honest about where its meat comes from. Why should society be censored from the reality of the bloody violence that's behind every slab of steak or bucket of chicken wings?
Don't misunderstand me – I'm outraged by the photos of dogs as they await their executioner and of dead animals with pained expressions etched into their burnt faces. But my anger extends beyond them, to the way we in the UK incarcerate, mutilate, terrify and kill smart and sensitive animals by the hundreds of millions every year – the unseen, unheard victims of our greed and indifference.
I often think of the words of Isaac Bashevis Singer, that "in their behaviour toward creatures, all men are Nazis." It's an uncomfortable notion, but who could argue with it? Like Paul McCartney said, "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian". If the thought of eating one of the tortured dogs from Tomohon Market disgusts you, stop clinging to a double standard. In today's world of virtually unlimited choices, it's never been easier to make the compassionate choice to leave all animals off our plates.
Image credit: Raymond Walsh http://manonthelam.com/