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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR || published in full in the Irish Independent on 1st of April

Very few people enjoy being a witness to cruelty of any kind. When confronted with a situation in which an animal is being abused and is clearly in pain, our instinctive response is one of shock and disgust. Many of us will intervene to try to stop the abuse, while those of us who cannot, for whatever reason, will nonetheless be deeply affected by the experience.

When we see a dog being beaten and kicked, we are horrified. Likewise, if we saw a pig being beaten and kicked (unlikely, as the majority of pigs are farmed indoors), we would be horrified and we would instinctively know it is wrong. In both scenarios, we might call the guards, or the SPCA, or we might report the pig incident to the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine.

Every day, on factory farms across the globe, pigs and chickens suffer at the hands of those whose job it is to care for them. They are routinely shouted at, kicked, beaten, even thrown. 

There is a vast amount of undercover video footage available online from pig and chicken farms across the EU and the rest of the world, all containing disturbing visual evidence of extreme cruelty, both by commission and omission. A recent investigation into the lives of pigs on Irish pig farms by the National Animal Rights Association (Nara) produced visual evidence of truly shocking conditions on two randomly selected pig farms. The short film makes for difficult viewing, even for this correspondent, who has viewed many hundreds of hours of distressing footage over the years.

Factory farming is a hidden industry. We may have an inkling that all is not right down on the farm, but because the animals are never seen, we can — and do — turn away. Life is less complicated if we do not know; easier by far to look the other way.

All farmed animals are sentient; that is, they experience a wide range of emotions and can feel pain, just like us. Surely we have a moral duty to insist that they live a life free from exploitation, abuse, suffering and pain. They are, after all, giving up their precious lives to become rashers and sausages, chicken wings and chicken nuggets.

Gerry Boland, Keadue, Co Roscommon 

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