Animals Who Escape Slaughter: Why Do We Cheer Them On?

animals who escape

Most of us rarely think about the plight of the animals we eat. Their lives and deaths are hidden from us, and we spare them little more than the occasional guilty thought. But every so often, something happens which brings these animals into the public eye.

Over the years, various animals have escaped on their way to slaughterhouses. They run through cities, swim across lakes and even make their way to sanctuaries. And when this happens, the public response is extraordinary. We see these animals as heroic, and we all root for them. No one wants the animal to be recaptured and slaughtered. We want them to live out the rest of their lives free of fear and suffering.

But what about the vast majority of animals who aren’t so lucky? Who is fighting to save them? Very few people.

Though we all cheer on on the animals who escape, many of us continue to support the exploitation of their companions. How many of us desperately want these animals to escape, and yet continue to pay for the products of their suffering? For every animal who survives, thousands upon thousands die.

It’s the same in movies like Chicken Run and Okja. We all root for the animals, and would be horrified if the film culminated in their slaughter. Yet we continue to buy animal products, paying for the suffering of real animals as we sympathise with those on the screen.

So what exactly is going on here? Why do we care about the animals who escape and turn a blind eye to the rest?

It all comes down to connection. When an animal escapes, we suddenly see him or her as an individual who wants to live, rather than a product. But too often, we don’t extend that sympathy any further.

This has implications for effective activism. If we want people to relate to these animals, then we must ensure they are seen as individuals with personalities. It has long been recognised by charities and other organisations that telling the story of one individual is more effective than just describing the plight of the group as a whole. All creatures are individuals, and all want to live. This is what we must try to convey.


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8 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Wonderful post. I had this exact question when watching Chicken Run. The only convincing answer that I could give myself was that ‘Cute’ animals get mercy, whereas uncute ones are not. Height of shallowness if you ask me. A lot of outrage is generated over the dog slaughter festival in China as dogs are cute.

    1. Are dogs cute though? At least are they any cuter, fundamentally, than foxes or wolves, which are very similar animals really, but treated differently because there isn’t a history of human companionship or other reasons. Cats are not particularly “cute”, but throw a dead cat in a bin and get abuse, throw a dead chicken in a bin and no-one cares. I’d also argue that chickens – at least baby chickens – are as cute or cuter than dogs. I think there are other things going on than cuteness.

      1. Indeed, the history of human companionship is the reason why some animals are treated differently, but then is not human companionship itself determined by cuteness?
        Those animals that have been categorised as food will be looked upon as food. sad state of affairs.

      2. I think what is perceived as cute depends on how that species is viewed in our culture. Dogs are seen as cute because they are pets, and not vice versa. But yes, there is more to it than that.

    2. Yes exactly, it’s a combination of ‘cuteness’ and the fact that animals like dogs are seen as pets. But of course so-called farm animals make great companion animals too! It always seems very hypocritical when meat-eaters get upset about the Yulin festival.

      1. My thoughts exactly, meat-eaters getting upset at the Yulin festival. Animals are animals, whether they are of use to us or not, they should be allowed to live, which unfortunately is not the case.

  2. I have a theory that pretty soon meat eaters are getting to stop getting upset about those festivals since it is going to become more and more obvious to them that vegans will then use it against them. In which case every time meat eaters see something like a dog eating festival in the news it will still become an automatic, unspoken reminder of the hypocrisy of meat eating, which even meat eaters will realise. We’ll have to find another angle. But luckily veganism has plenty of different arguments!

    1. You may very well be right. I think it’s a good thing though, if more people recognise the hypocrisy then hopefully more people will go vegan.

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