Inhumanity at its worst

Image from the Gallus Domestics show by Diana Durrand

There are no words to adequately describe the inhumane behaviour of a group of men whose job it was to round up for slaughter a flock of ‘free run’ chickens in a Fraser Valley barn this week. Heartless, cruel and stupid will have to do.

But after we’ve tried to make ourselves feel a little better about being homo sapiens by expressing our outrage, we have to ask the same question SPCA animal welfare specialist Geoff Urton posed: “Why are these people abusing these animals in the first place? … There’s a fundamental disrespect for animals,” he said. “These workers need to see that these are living things that are capable of suffering.”

Of course, the abuse of some chickens bound for slaughter can’t compare to the atrocities humans perpetrate daily against one another. Still, as an example of innocent creatures being maimed and killed for no apparent reason – other than to generate a few laughs – the footage is truly appalling, and symbolic of a psychopathic streak in human nature.

So rather than letting the ghastly moment slip by in the jumbled stream of TV and digital consciousness, we should pause, reflect and look for answers. We should remember that the men who did this share our genetic code, that they might have significant others they love, dogs they shower with affection, children whom they look out for. They aren’t monsters all the time; only when they think no-one who cares is watching, and nobody they care about is being hurt.

That gives them opportunity, but what’s their motive?

Could it be that these men are so low in the social pecking order, so frustrated at having to scratch out a living and suffer the indignities of a menial job, that they find in Gallus Domestics the perfect lightening rod for their inarticulate rage – a creature they can pay back with savagery and abuse, knowing their sacrificial victims will never be able to complain?

Have they become so desensitized in the agricultural gulags where they work that they can no longer distinguish the line between hilarity and horror, and have to prove to themselves that there is no horror, that the creatures they are in charge of are not worth a moment’s mercy, because a moment’s mercy can open up an eternity of painful soul-searching?

The perpetrators of this carnage have been fired. They’ve paid a price for their reprehensible acts. But responsibility doesn’t end there. We have to continue asking ‘why?’ until we find answers that will help us prevent these kinds of gruesome episodes. We have to humanize people who have become cruel because inhumanity at its worst is a reflection on all of us.