Concerning The Necessity Of A Humane Method Of Killing Animals
( Originally Published 1913 )
When an animal is tormented its glands give off quite an amount of secretion, as the excitement develops in them an in-creased activity, during which the ductless glands secrete certain poisonous substances, as has been shown in our work on "Old Age Deferred." That the secretion of the ductless glands is thrown directly into the blood is an undisputed fact, and that these glands are more active according to the emotions can be readily seen in animals—as in the stag, when troating—an expression of sexual excitement—the thyroid gland becomes swollen. In some animals the swelling is so great, when they are tormented, as to form a kind of goiter. That this secretion of the gland is thrown into the blood and is then taken up in the muscular tissues—the meat—is best shown by the fact that the meat of male animals, like the steer, has an unpleasant odor. This odor is especially pronounced in the he-goat, and probably no one would be able to eat of this ill-smelling meat. It is impossible to get rid of this odor. The cooks in Paris, during the siege of the city by the German army, tried in every possible way to do away with this most unpleasant odor of the meat of the male goat, the only meat which was to be had in the best restaurants; they tried strong acids, but to no effect ; the odor remained. In the same way it is impossible to remove from the meat of the muskrat the odor of musk which permeates it during the mating season. In the same way as these substances are secreted by the sexual glands, so are others produced by other glands. We know that these glandular extracts, when secreted in large quantities, have certain poisonous attributes—which fact has been unquestionably proven in the case of the thyroid gland. That the sexual glands also secrete such poisonous substances, which have a deleterious effect upon the nervous system in particular, we have likewise shown in our above-named work. That the blood-serum, which contains the secretions of all of the duct-less glands, may have a toxic action has been shown by the writings of Richet and others.
These toxic effects also make their appearance when the meat of animals is eaten in which all the blood remains, as, for instance, in the ducks of Rouen, killed in such a cruel way—by suffocation. Deaths have even occurred after eating of them. Meat which contains all the blood becomes very rapidly decomposed, as is also the case with the tissues of the ductless glands as soon as removed from the body.
When animals have been hunted and pursued, the meat contains considerable amounts of extractive substances; this is proven by the much more pronounced taste of such meat, which is rich in these "fright-products." Thus, Liebig' found that the muscular meat of a fox which had been brought to bay during the chase contained a larger amount of creatin than that of others which had been fed in the house.
It is not healthy to eat the meat of a hunted animal; before an animal is killed it ought to be well rested. When we see how farmers' wives often tie up a chicken in a handkerchief so that it takes up as little room as possible on the way to the market where it is to be killed, we can imagine what torments are endured by the animal. It is, consequently, not advisable to kill it on the same day; it should be allowed to recover during a couple of days while being fed upon corn. As was told me at the Etoile Belge in Brussels last year, chickens were sent from Italy to Belgium, making the entire journey without food; some few of the animals had even been eaten up by the rest. Such atrocities should be prohibited by the authorities, first out of humane kindness for the animals, and secondly with regard to health considerations based upon the statements made above. How terrible must be the sufferings of a hare when wounded in the legs by shot, and forced to run, shrieking with pain ! The more intelligent an animal is, the more its emotions are excited, and the toxic substances are then also more readily secreted and given off into the meat. The meat of castrated animals, the intelligence of which has been impaired by the process, as is also the case in persons similarly treated, is to be preferred for reasons given in our book on "Old Age Deferred." But even in young and consequently less intelligent animals, as in calves, we may see how they instinctively object to going any farther when they are being led to slaughter and smell the blood of their comrades. If a painless, beautiful death, the appeals to man as a desirable end, this should also be prescribed by law for animals, if only out of consideration for mankind. The eyes of the animal should be bandaged so that it will not suspect its coming end, and will die in a state of composure and in good condition. As I my-self saw in Chicago, in the mammoth slaughter houses of the late Mr. Nelson Morris,—who emigrated, in poverty, from Cannstadt in Wurttemberg to that city, where he amassed a fortune of 25 millions of dollars,—the animals are stood in a row, and a powerful negro goes down the line, stunning—and occasionally killing—each animal by a blow upon the cranium with a dull axe, after which the animal is hung up and the jugular vein is cut, thus allowing the blood to run out while the animal is still hanging up. As was mentioned above, it is more healthy to eat the meat of animals which have been bled. Since, as already stated, the meat of intelligent animals is more injurious, we can understand how reprehensible is the taste of those who are capable of eating the meat of the dog, the truest friend of man among animals.
After all that has been said concerning the injurious effects of the extractive substances when they are present in large amounts and are frequently indulged in, it follows that we should select a mode of death which would in the first place not cause the animal any anxiety, and avoid all pain. Even the elementary rules of humanity would require us to do this, although we may not be always able to follow the lofty teachings of the old philosophers of Hindustan in our battle for life, which decried the killing of any animal as an immoral procedure. Indeed, one sometimes sees persons in India throwing rice on the grass, so that insects may feed upon it.
One should at least carefully see to it that the animal is not unnecessarily tormented. It is, however, so arranged in this world that some animals can only keep alive by taking the life of some other animal. In nature, during every minute of the day or night, in fact, wholesale murder is being carried on, in the air, in the water, above and below the earth, and, with vegetarian principles, a tiger or a lion, for example, would soon be no more. If man, whose foods are very varied, must follow this course, which is tolerated by all God-believing religions, he should, at least, spare the animal all possible pain. And if he will not do this out of humane feelings, he should, in view of what has been said above, do so out of consideration for his own well-being. That the taste of meat can be improved thereby was already known to Shakespeare, who says in the Merry Wives of Windsor, Act I, Scene 1, "I wished your venison better ; it was ill killed."