Animal equality activists strive to ensure all animals are respected and protected, not just the ones we see every day.
Campaigners work with and put pressure on society, governments, and companies to end cruelty to farmed animals.
What is animal equality and is it the same as animal rights?
According to the Humane League, animal rights are moral principles grounded in the belief that non-human animals deserve the ability to live as they wish, without being subjected to the desires of human beings.
Animal rights come into direct opposition with animal exploitation, which includes animals used for food and medical experiments.
Animal equality seeks to ensure all animals are respected and protected. Many people are horrified by cruelty towards household pets like cats and dogs, but may be ignorant of the mass abuses inflicted on animals like cows, pigs, chicken, and sheep. There is also a disparity in enforcement.
Animal rights activist and filmmaker Jack Hancock says: “Consider the life of the average dog in the United Kingdom. To put it simply, a dog is often treated as part of the family.
“They regularly experience joy, are looked after when they are sick and are valued as individuals.
“Now consider the life of an average pig in the United Kingdom. They will have their tales cut off without anaesthesia, be kept in terribly cramped conditions, never see the outdoors and may experience fear, pain and suffering as they die six months after the day they entered the world.
“The stark difference in how we treat pigs and how we treat dogs leads us to a difficult question: How do we determine which beings should be included in our circle of moral consideration?”
Actor and animal rights actor Joaquin Phoenix, speaking at a protest with Animal Equality in London, said: “When you witness the horror that really happens behind closed doors and slaughterhouses to farm animals all over the world, it’s impossible not to be affected by it and to realise that we have to do something drastic to stop it.”
Why are campaigners passionate about it?
With over 70 billion land animals and trillions of aquatic animals slaughtered each year for human consumption, advocates say the concept of animal equality is a major social justice issue.
Abigail Penny, executive director of activist group Animal Equality UK, said: “Annually, more animals are killed at the hands of the animal agriculture industry than the number of humans ever to have existed on Earth. With these animals scientifically proven to feel fear and pain, the sheer scale, severity and intensity of this needless suffering is overwhelming to imagine.
“We profess to be a nation of animal lovers, yet the welfare laws that we have in place in the UK are consistently flouted by the farming industry.”
In 2020, an investigation team from the charity visited 12 farms operated by major chicken producer Moy Park, a known supplier to Tesco, McDonald’s and other major retailers. They uncovered chickens deliberately deprived of water and hundreds more killed or left to die on-site each day.
Moy Park said “despite the examples highlighted, the overall flocks are displaying natural behaviours and appear in good health” and claims to have implemented measures to ensure standards were adhered to, “including refreshed training manuals, and upgraded face-to-face and online training”.
She adds: “In many ways, it is in fact the legal, standard practices that are most disturbing. At the helm are the meat, fish, dairy and egg industries which treat farmed animals as mere machines. Over 90% of farmed animals in the UK are in overcrowded, filthy factory farms, unable to carry out their natural behaviours.
“Selectively bred to the extreme, animals today would be unrecognisable to their ancestors. Chickens grow so big, so fast, their legs break routinely and many suffer from heart attacks; cows are forcibly impregnated and made to produce extreme and unnatural milk yields; and pigs are mutilated, their tails cut off and their teeth painfully clipped.
“The profit-driven industry knows no bounds, nor mercy.”
How do animal equality campaigners spread their message?
Activists undertake investigations to raise awareness about what happens to billions of animals behind the closed doors of farms and slaughterhouses all around the world.
Animal Equality UK has investigated over 800 facilities over the last 15 years.
Ms Penny added: “Companies may blast compassionate consumers with deceptive adverts, but more people are questioning the authenticity of these messages. Images of cheerful animals frolicking across England’s green hills are a far cry from our investigation footage that depict the reality of Britain’s modern day industrialised farms.
“This industry must be held accountable for its crimes. As consumers, we hold the power. As more people opt for plant-based alternatives, we are collectively turning our back on this cruelty and creating a kinder world in the process.”
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