Voices: If you get angry about dogs in hot cars and eat meat – you’re a hypocrite

·4-min read

How would you feel if you saw a dog locked in a car on a hot day? A lot of people get so angry that they want to smash the window of the car, free the dog and then hunt down the dog’s owner to teach them a serious lesson. But what about other animals stuck in vehicles on hot days? Do they make you angry too?

Every year, around two billion farmed animals worldwide are loaded onto trucks or multi-decked ships and sent on agonising journeys that can take days – and sometimes weeks.

UK government guidance says that farmers should not transport animals in temperatures above 30C. In other words, it’s perfectly legal to transport an animal in a crowded truck at 29C.

Many animals are more sensitive to extreme heat than we are. For instance, vets say a cow in 25C heat feels like we would in 40C because the fermentation tank inside its body constantly produces a lot of heat. Pigs can’t sweat, but lambs are the animals that die most in trucks.

Overcrowding, loud noises, motion sickness and dehydration put mental and physical stress on animals in transit, making it harder for them to regulate their temperatures. Their fear makes them urinate and defecate excessively, which adds to the heat in the truck and causes the animals to slip and injure themselves.

Forget the nice marketing meat companies use for their products, and look at the reality they hide from you. In June, nearly 16,000 sheep drowned when the boat they were being transported on capsized. Last year, a livestock ship carrying almost 3,000 young bulls spent three months at sea. Pigs have even been flown from Britain to China.

It’s also horrific for animals on factory farms during extreme heat. Last month, millions of intensively farmed chickens died during the record-breaking heatwave. As temperatures reached 45C, the birds were left flapping and panting as they died slowly of heat exhaustion, according to a witness.

One shed worker told The Independent that the birds were simply “left to die in the heat” and “written off” as a cost. Another worker said they were experiencing flashbacks from the “sheer scale and stink of the dead bodies” of the chickens that died. “I often find that I just suddenly start crying and shaking,” they said.

If you eat meat, you’re paying for all this to happen. So why are you able to be sympathetic to dogs in hot cars, but not cows, pigs and sheep in hot trucks and on hot factory farms?

The thing that causes this double standard is called speciesism: the idea that some species have more moral rights than others. You might not have heard of speciesism but you will be very familiar with it.

If you get angry about people eating dogs in east Asia, even though you eat cows, pigs and sheep, then that’s speciesism. If you think trophy hunters are scumbags even though you eat the carcasses of animals that were stabbed in the throat in a slaughterhouse, that’s speciesism. If you fume about people walking dogs at midday during a heatwave but you pay to eat animals that were chained up in factory farms, then that’s also speciesism.

To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment, sign up to our free weekly Voices Dispatches newsletter by clicking here

You weren’t born believing that some animals deserve to be cuddled and others deserve to be killed – you were conditioned to think that way. But who did that conditioning? Or, to put it another way: who is getting rich from your speciesism?

The meat and dairy industries kill an estimated 80 billion land animals a year. They are also killing us: the World Health Organisation classifies processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen, and a UN report in 2020 found that nearly every major zoonotic disease outbreak of the last 120 years has been inextricably linked to animal exploitation, including meat consumption. These industries are also killing the planet: the meat and dairy rackets are among the world’s biggest contributors to the climate crisis.

Meanwhile, the bosses are laughing all the way to the bank. And, if you still eat their destructive products, it’s you they’re laughing at. The good news is it’s never too late to change. You know deep down it’s time to go vegan. It’ll be such a weight off your shoulders to finally do it.