Take a good look at this picture. This is probably the most important picture in the history of slavery, signifying brutality faced by slaves in America but gets limited recognition.
Dr. J. Marion Sims with Anarcha who was subjected to gruesome experimental surgeries without any anesthesia.
—IMAGE / Pearson Museum, Southern Illinois University School Of Medicine
The man on the right is the depiction of J.Marion Sims also known as the father of gynecology. You may have heard about him if you are in medicine or a related field. Below is the statue of this man in Central Park near the museum of the city of New York. But you won’t find it there anymore. It has been removed since 2018.
Don’t worry this is not going to be a hate post about a man who contributed to medical science at the expense of black women. This is just going to be an examination of how we led our lives back then vs. how we are leading life today. And it’s not much different. We are committing the same atrocities with animals. With the advent of industrial innovation came new and unique ways to use animals for profitability. Just like Black slaves were brought in to run the plantations for the profitability.
Wait, are you comparing black people to animals? What the eff?
We are comparing two species who happen to be vulnerable and suffer because for some reason they are either in the minority or subjugated to become a minority at the hands of those in power.
We are treating animals exactly like some white folks treated black slaves some centuries ago. We have made a list of things that our ancestors (or some of our ancestors) did to black people and how they compare to the animals.
Slave owners made several excuses to justify their behaviour towards slaves saying things like “they don’t feel pain”, “they are our property so we do as we please”, and “we need slaves to run our plantations”.
Animal owners made the same justifications for their horrendous treatment of animals saying things like “they don’t feel pain”, “they are our property so we do as we please”, and “we need animals for profitability”.
So let’s look at what we did to black people and how we are treating animals.
One: They are regarded as non sentient (they can’t feel pain)
Slave treatment: We are going to start with J. Marion Sims. So this man performed excruciating procedures on black enslaved women believing that they don’t feel pain. There was also anothe disbelief among white folks that black people’s skulls grew too quickly around their brain and that’s why they aren’t very intelligent and perhaps worthy of slavery.
Vanessa Northington Gamble, a medical historian at George Washington University explained in an NPR episode, “These women were property. These women could not consent. These women also had value to the slaveholders for production and reproduction—how much work they could do in the field, how many enslaved children they could produce. And by having these fistulas, they could not continue with childbirth and also have difficulty working.”
In his autobiography, Sims described negotiating with slaves as follows: “I made this proposition to the owners of the negroes: If you will give me Anarcha and Betsey for experiment, I agree to perform no experiment or operation on either of them to endanger their lives, and will not charge a cent for keeping them, but you must pay their taxes and clothe them.”
Animal treatment: UK MPs refused to acknowledge that animals feel pain or any emotion and therefore refuse animal welfare laws to be incorporated back in 2017. This has just recently changed. Animal welfare, however, still gets no attention because people don’t believe that animals are sentient beings. Animals are still part of excruciating science experiments behind closed doors with no laws governing their treatment. We would include some videos but they are just too sensitive. And PETA does a way better job than we ever can. So we’d leave it to them.
Two: They are recorded in journals as property
Slave treatment: Slaves were considered by law as properties or chattel and were not given the same rights as the free people. Slave women would produce slave children. They were kept as records in a journal. Remember Ben Affleck’s ancestral story? Okay, let’s quickly recall that because it is worth mentioning. So in 1858, a relative’s death left Affleck’s great-great-great grandfather with some valuable property which was, you guessed it, some black slaves. It was common to transfer slaves to another owner.
Animal treatment: Animals are considered “property” and are treated like property. Animals can be transferred to another owner, bought and sold in markets for everything from meat to ritual sacrifice.
Three: Families are separated
Slave treatment: Throughout the history of slavery, you’ll come across chapters that recall how young children were taken away and sold seperately from their parents. Some folks would even buy slave children and give them as a gift to their white children. By law, black people did not have the right to keep their own children. In fact some black women would perform abortions to save children from the horrors of slavery. The children who were sold worked in the farms, houses starting as young as age 7.
Animal treatment: Majority of the cows on the farms lose their calves within 24 hours of birth. The milk becomes the product of a food market rather than nourishing the calf. Just like white men justified their behaviour by issuing statements like “they don’t feel pain”, “they are not like white people”, animal agriculture apologists issue statements like “animals are different” or “the cow doesn’t miss her calf like a human mother would”. The truth is animals do have emotional connections with their offspring. They are aware of their surroundings, feel distressed when they see or sense danger and mourn the loss of their loved ones.
Four: Beatings for non-compliance
Slave treatment: Most slaves were beaten for non-compliance, for being late to work, or for defying authority. They were not allowed to cry, complain or even fight back against their masters commands whatever they may. Those who ran away or tried to run away were whipped brutally giving scars to remember for a lifetime. The man in the picture below is Peter who eventually escaped and showed the world what’s it like in slavery. Slave owners would abuse slaves however they saw fit to make them do as necessary.
Animal treatment: Farm animals are routinely subject to abuse that includes extreme confinement, routinely mutilations, and aggressive treatment as they are considered non-sentient.
Five: Masters owned their slaves’ bodies
Throughout the history of slavery, white masters or any masters for that matter had a complete control over their slaves body. The exploitation of a slave’s body started at the auction block where slaves were stripped naked and prodded before the buyers bought them.
This also included slave breeding where masters would force slaves to produce slave children so there economy will keep thriving with unlimited supply of slaves.
[Ref: Marable, Manning, How capitalism underdeveloped Black America: problems in race, political economy, and society South End Press, 2000, p 72]
Animal treatment: Many animals are inseminated so they can keep birthing healthy offspring without any genetic defects to keep the meat and dairy industry up and running. Artificial insemination is a common practice to make sure the cows are impregnated so they keep giving milk and help the industries make substantial profits year after year.
Six: Free slaves were captured and sold to plantations
Slave treatment: Under the fugitive slave act of 1850, free slaves were hunted down and returned to their owners even if they were in the free states.
Animal treatment: Animals are captured from their natural habitats for food, entertainment, and clothing for various industries that make billions and billions of prophet. Canada’s seal hunt is one such cruel act that allows fishermen to kill hundreds of seals through gruesome clubbing.
Why do we do it?
Mostly for business. Most slaves were owned for business. Seals are clubbed for business. Furry animals are killed for business. Zoo animals are captured for business. There are a number of arguments that the meat and dairy industry likes to make, including the very common one “we need animal products to survive.” It’s true. For millions of years humans have relied on animals for transportation and food and that has actually helped us survive harsh geological changes and contknue human race.
Learn why we started eating meat and how it changed our physiological wellbeing.
Is there something wrong with us?
We want to exploit others. Anybody. Any species. If we are not exploiting animals at one point, we’ll find something, someone else to exploit. Is that the way of life? Can we not find a way where we can coexist with nature in harmony? What’s stopping us from adopting practices that are good for the animals, the planet and us?
While slavery is abolished, our mindsets still has that supirioty diesease that makes us think that we can use others for our advantage. That’s why racism thrives below the folds, people and children are trafficked all over the world, and animals suffer significantly.
What can you do?
The only way you can put an end to barbaric farms and industries that exploit animals is by avoiding animal products. There is simply no other way to end it. Now some farmers and industry owners are trying to ethic-wash their brands just like a lot of fast fashion brands green-wash their brands to keep the younger generation who cares about these issues satisfied. But do not be fooled by their ethics or green-washing. Choose vegan products and vegan brands or ethical/sustainable brands that take these issues seriously. In the coming posts, we’ll share a comprehensive list of vegan brands for food, clothing, and accessories that you can look into.
The picture is grim but there’s hope. Younger people are increasingly becoming active in conversations regarding sustainability, animal rights, and people rights in general. Are you a part of that conversation?