Thank you for publishing Jim Longworth's editorial piece suggesting stiffer penalties for those who abuse or neglect animals. I share Mr. Longworth's indignation at the "slaps on the wrist" too often given to those who are capable of unspeakable cruelty to helpless and innocent creatures. However, I believe Mr. Longworth overlooked an important irony in the conversation about animal welfare: the treatment of those who spend their lives - if they can even be called real lives - in factory farms.
If a dog were to be discovered trapped in a crate so small it could barely move; force-fed an unnatural diet incompatible with its digestive system; standing constantly in its own filth; and suffering from untreated injuries and infections, we would be outraged. Yet we turn the other way as millions of cows, pigs, and birds are tortured in exactly this way, every minute of every day. Why do they deserve less compassion than our beloved cats, dogs, or other household pets? Because they taste good? Just like the "fur babies" to whom we give our love, these animals are intelligent, sentient, living things. Their unspeakable treatment is every bit as appalling as the tales of animal torture that are broadcast as anomalies. The truth is that we accept and condone animal torture on a massive scale every time we fry a skillet of bacon or grab a hamburger at the drive-thru.
If people really want to have an impact on animal welfare, they might consider educating themselves about the conditions at the farms they support with their supermarket dollars. Farmers who subject their livestock to lives of illness, pain, and misery need to be called out by would-be buyers and persuaded to change their ways. There are meat producers who prioritize humane conditions for the animals they raise, and who deserve support from consumers to change the nature of the industry. Better yet, folks could consider a vegetarian or vegan diet. This kind of eating is easier than ever with the vast array of meat substitutes on the market today.
Mr. Longworth makes a strong case for ramping up measures to combat animal abuse. But just as we would never condone torture for some kinds of people and not others, we cannot bemoan the maltreatment of certain animals while implicitly endorsing the torture of those who end up on our dinner plates.