Suffering in Silence: The ethics of viewing animal suffering.

“Numbed or stunned, we are left unable to act, diminished by witnessing terror, much like the steer in the footage who stares ahead at fellow cattle being slaughtered in front of him, trembling violently.”Fiona Probyn-Rapsey, from Stunning Australia, 2013

There’s no denying that films such as War Horse and Marley and Me tug at our heart strings every single time we watch them. It seems to be that watching any animals suffering or hurt most definitely evoke an emotional and sympathetic response from viewers, perhaps even more so than that of our fellow humans who are suffering and poverty-stricken. This is because we often feel more empathy towards animals who are in need as they cannot help themselves and don’t have a voice to communicate their suffering, in comparison to humans who do have this ability.

In 2013, the animal rights groups Aussie Farms and Animal Liberation ACT crowd-funded a project, which took its form in a documentary “Lucent” to expose the cruelty and mistreatment of pigs in Australian abattoirs and pig farms. This cruelty had been going on for years undetected with many instances of abuse and neglect for the pigs in these farms. It shows hidden footage from these abattoirs and farms with a harrowing depiction of the hidden cruelty. The footage taken highlights “the day-to-day cruelty accepted by the industry as standard practice.” It depicts pigs of all sizes cramped into small metal pens with little to no room to move around, some feeding their piglets in dire conditions. Unfortunately these are the harsh conditions that most factory farmed animals will face during their short miserable lives, never being able to graze in a paddock or smell fresh air. The film was shown in Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane in 2014.

Whilst this film raised a lot of awareness and was praised by animal activists and everyday Australians but it comes to down to the fact this this documentary was designed to shock and confront it’s viewers in order to evoke an emotional response yet it leaves me questioning whether this is this most effective way of advocating for animals. The graphic nature of the video does evoke an emotional response, mainly anger and disgust, which suggests to me that this is beneficial in spreading awareness of the issue and getting the point across. In comparison to my blog post on the ethics of viewing human suffering, it is more the case that the animals are suffering more than the humans watching the film and this is due to the fact that humans are inflicting this pain and suffering on the pigs in the first place and we have the power to stop it. That is the difference.

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