The Non-human Genocide | by Jon Reynolds

The Non-human Genocide | An examination of this word reveals damning evidence of a mass-genocide taking place right this very moment, one that many prefer to leave unacknowledged


The term "genocide" was coined in 1943 by a Jewish-Polish lawyer who survived the Nazi Holocaust only with his brother (everyone else in his family was slaughtered).

In January 1951, Article Two of the United Nations (UN) Convention on Genocide was established, defining "genocide" as "acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group". 

According to the UN, acts considered genocide include: "killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and,] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group".

Since 1951 (and long before), there have been dozens of genocides fitting the aforementioned description. From 1975 to 1979, the Cambodian Genocide took the lives of 2,000,000 people, less than one-third of the population. The 1994 Rwandan Genocide saw the systematic murder of over 600,000 people, or 14 percent of the total population. Yet, if one takes into account mass-murders involving non-humans, these examples become utterly trivial in comparison.

The Non-human Genocide, like genocides of the past, involves perfectly sentient, innocent beings with the same capacity to suffer as any human, targeted not because of religion or race, but because of a mere difference in species.

Should the distinction of species mean anything when measuring the barbarism of what's taking place? Is it something less than genocide merely because non-human animals are the victims? If aliens of a foreign species came to our planet, rounded us up in death camps, bred and butchered us for food and clothing, what would we call it if notgenocide? The definition seems fitting, especially when the numbers are taken into consideration.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), over six billion non-human land animals have been mass-murdered every year in the U.S. since 1990, a number that has, at it's peak, reached so high as nearly ten billion (see 2007, 2008 below):


In the context of such statistics, the level of discrimination taking place is revealed as astounding, all of it aimed at a particular group of non-human persons, justified on the sole basis of a difference between species. Why shouldn't this be considered genocide?

A further examination of the UN's criteria for the term (as mentioned earlier: "killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and,] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group") easily matches the conditions faced by billions of non-humans at any given moment:

- "killing members of the group": Non-human "farm" animals would be the member of the group being targeted by the billion for genocide (see image above).

- "causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group": In June 2011, Mercy for Animals uncoveredhellish conditions at Iowa Select Farms, the largest farm in the state. Their investigation found piglets being carelessly thrown around, many with untreated, open sores. 

Just a year prior, the Humane Society of the United States released a video depicting cruelty at a farm owned by Smithfield Foods, a major pork supplier. That investigation also uncovered images of injured and sick pigs left to suffer and die without treatment. 

These types of gruesome discoveries are of course not restricted to pigs. Along with other non-human animals such as chickens and cows, turkeys have also been found to be thoroughly abused and neglected by corporations such as Butterball, a major supplier of turkey meat in the U.S. One such investigation in 2011 found turkeys on a Butterball farm in North Carolina "covered in flies, living in their own waste, unable to access food or water and suffering from severe feather loss and necrotic (dead) muscles and skin".

As for the "mental harm" done to farm animals, there's unfortunately plenty of that too. Since these non-humans are often unable to do things that would otherwise be natural to them, their stress levels tend to be through the roof. 

Cows, generally social animals, are restricted from nursing their offspring after pregnancy, a traumatizing experiencefor both mother and child, while nursing pigs may engage in "bar biting, pacing, rocking, self-narcotizing behavior, and increased aggression" while confined for most of their lives to gestation crates -- tiny stalls roughly the size of an airplane seat. 

Any sentient creature unfortunate enough to be born to handlers on a factory farm will likely endure vast amounts of "mental harm" in their short, tortured life.

- "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part": While the destruction of non-humans may not be in "whole", it is most certainly "in part". The goal of factory farming isn't so much about wiping certain non-human animals permanently off the planet as it is about keeping a various number of them alive at any given time for the sole purpose of exploitation. 

- "imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group": Non-human "farm" animal births are heavily regulated and controlled. Those born are brought to life intentionally so that they can eventually be butchered by and for humans. Those born unintentionally are discarded, as evident by a 2009 investigation of a major chicken supplier in the United States which uncovered fully-conscious, unwanted male chicks being thrown into a spinning grinder.

- "forcibly transferring children of the group to another group": According to the USDA's website, veal calves are usually separated from their mothers within 3 days after birth. The supposed logic behind this is that mother cows are unable to provide adequate care and nutrition to their offspring, which is remarkable considering they've been doing it for centuries without our help.

The real logic behind this is that "any dead calf is an automatic $400-500 or greater loss", according to John B. Hall, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist at Virginia Tech. Simply put: factory farm owners would rather not take the chance of letting the mother naturally nurse her child when profits are being threatened.

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Imagine the collective backlash in the U.S. if factory farms suddenly decided to raise and kill playful puppies instead of playful piglets. Even though there aren't significant differences between the way a dog and a pig would suffer on a factory farm, only one of these two animals is born into a world where abuse against them is thoroughly condemned by society. But what is compassion and empathy without consistency? 

To put an end to this ongoing brutality, it must first be dragged out from the increasingly secret confines of factory farms and into the sunlight to be exposed for what it really is: a genocide of historic proportions.

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See also: 

Rethinking the "non-aggression principle" - Should non-human animals lose the "right" to experience life merely on the basis of their species?

The hypocrisy of caring for dogs while eating pigs - If it holds that dogs deserve to be treated humanely, why not pigs? The similarities between the two outweigh most of the differences

Non-human discrimination rampant in modern society - The exploitation of non-human animals is prominent within nearly every country on earth

Six million pregnant females stuffed in cages - One of the largest corporations on the planet has announced that it will finally end the practice of stuffing pregnant females into tiny cages and breeding them

Love 'em like family, feed 'em like family - If dogs and cats knew about the places where the commercial pet food they eat every day originates, would they still want to eat it?

Posted 7th December 2012 by Jon Reynolds

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