Running for His Life
Written by Meghan McClymonds
On Tuesday, February 21, 2017, a young bull escaped from a New York slaughterhouse and ran for his life. Police pursued him for two hours until he could no longer overcome the power of the six tranquilizers shot into him. He died on his way to the Center for Animal Care in Brooklyn due to an overdose of tranquilizers and excess stress.
This bull’s desperate attempt to survive elicited various reactions from both onlookers and the greater public. Articles covering the incident reveal the perception of him as a mere commodity, referring to him as “it,” with one article even describing him as “stubborn” for evading capture. Others demonstrated sympathy for this animal and distress over his ultimate fate. It was hard not to share the sentiment of one onlooker’s empathetic acknowledgement that the bull “didn’t want to be anyone’s steak tonight.” Unfortunately, most of these individuals’ daily dietary choices do not align with the compassion inherent in such statements.
Countless animals have escaped slaughterhouses and aroused strong emotions from the public, including the desire to save these animals from an unjust return to the slaughterhouse. Yet there is failure to extend that sympathy for an individual to the animals so many consume and wear without hesitation. Comments from onlookers imply that they perceive farmed animals who are unable to escape their deaths as either impartial to their slaughter or lacking the cognitive abilities to figure out a way to escape.
It is misguided to interpret this newsworthy bull’s actions as indicative of a rare individual with unusual determination to live and therefore an abnormal right not to be killed. Every single living being values his or her life and fights to protect him or herself. A lack of forceful attempt to escape is not a measure of an individual’s desire to live. While animals who literally run for their lives in public are certainly unique individuals—like all nonhumans and humans with their own personalities, relationships, and feelings—they are not unique in their longing to live. Tragically, more than 90,000 bovines are killed against their wills for human consumption daily in the U.S. Their desperate fight to live is hidden from the public eye, and therefore out of most people’s consciousnesses.
Coverage of the innocent bull’s fight for freedom gives people the opportunity to open their hearts to the plight of farmed animals. One onlooker revealed the transformative power of awakening to the tragic connection between living animals and the meat most people habitually and unconsciously include on their plates, declaring, “The universe is telling me to become a vegetarian.” It is our hope that more who hear this story will react to it with similar compassion. May we all see the billions of farmed animals who do not get news coverage in the individual animal with whom we empathize and give all sentient beings respect and freedom.