More Room to Die

Imagine that you are on Death Row, but innocent of any crime. Clinging to the hope that the legion of supporters working on your case will achieve a breakthrough before it’s too late, you prepare yourself for an update on their campaign. Yet nothing in your recurring nightmares can hold a candle to the news you are about to hear.

The messenger – speaking on behalf of a cadre of marquee advocacy groups – informs you that your closet-sized living area will be expanded by one-square foot and the quality of your food will soon be improved. He also reports that, when the time comes, care will be taken to provide you with a less painful method of execution. When you press him about efforts to secure your release, he confesses that he and his peers have adopted a more pragmatic philosophy – assigning a growing percentage of their resources to programs designed to “alleviate unnecessary suffering,” while simultaneously distancing themselves from the goal of saving lives.

The aforementioned scenario does not, in any way, represent the real-world commitment of those seeking justice for men and women who’ve been wrongly incarcerated. However it does bear a striking resemblance to the transformation that’s taken place within the mainstream animal rights movement.

This cow may appear 'free-range', however she has all the trappings of confinement with a nose ring to be tied up, a halter to be confined and ear tags to identify her for slaughter. If she could ask for anything, the bet is she wouldn't ask for more room to die. Photo © Dreamstime Andrew Haddon.

Though a handful of organizations have stayed true to their core belief that animals deserve to live free from exploitation, many, including those with the highest profiles, have aligned themselves with corporations that profit from killing innocent creatures. Such support ranges from backing federal legislation and ballot initiatives that would purportedly enrich the lives of doomed farm animals to literally placing a stamp of approval on the finished product, provided she was rendered “humanely.”

To get a sense of this metamorphosis, consider the content of “A Pig’s Tail”, a four-minute animated children’s film from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Released on 24 October 2012, the cartoon chronicles a piglet’s escape from a factory farm, where living in a body-sized gestation crate is the norm for impregnated sows, and concludes with her arrival at what she believes to be a safe harbor. “A place” she says, “where a pig can be a pig.” To which her steward replies: “And a farmer can be farmer.” Sunbeams fill the sky and smiles ensue. Absent from the script is any indication that her life there will end violently and prematurely.

If I’ve learned anything from decades of advocating for both human and animal rights, it is that honesty is the core ingredient of any successful social justice movement. But, with an increasing number of organizations fearful of driving away their supporters by asking them to make a significant change in their lives – such as becoming vegan – the unvarnished truth is often conspicuously absent from their campaigns. The inevitable result is a series of hollow “victories” celebrated under the guise of progress.

Anyone who’s taken on the responsibility of becoming a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves knows that it is not an easy task. And setting the bar lower will not make it so. In moments of reflection, I sometimes wonder what the animals would ask us for?

The bet, here, is it wouldn’t be: More room to die.

© 2012 John J Morlino, Jr.
John Morlino is the founder of
The Essence of True Humanity Is Compassion (The ETHIC).
The full text of this article was originally published on Truthout.
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