To Hercules and Beyond: Speciesism in Current Events

Guest blog by: Stephanie Mathers – Ally of the Sage Mountain Team and the Animal Rights Movement


I wasn’t surprised when I scrolled through my newsfeed on Tuesday, January 17th to see cries of outrage by my social media network over the leaked video from the set of A Dog’s Purpose. In the video, a German shepherd named Hercules is directed to perform a water stunt by his trainer. The dog shows signs of distress in his body language and his actions, but he is continually pressed to perform. 


The fact that my newsfeed was filled with friends condemning the actions in the video and demanding a boycott of the film didn’t stand out at first; after all, many of those in my social media networks are animal rights activists and individuals passionate about animal causes. However, as I looked closer at who was posting about the incident, I noticed the more than half of the people on my feeds who were publicly upset were meat eaters.


First, let’s be clear that what happened to Hercules that day was wrong. Since the video’s release, the premiere of the film has been canceled and there is an ongoing investigation by American Humane. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Why was it wrong?


Well, anyone who has loved a pet knows that animals experience a wide range of emotions, the strongest of which might be fear. The fact that the studio has since stated Hercules was not ultimately forced to perform the stunt that day doesn’t seem to matter to anyone, and for good reason: it’s wrong to knowingly inflict any level of fear, pain, or suffering upon a being for our own purposes. In this case, the purpose was a film, but what if the purpose were something different? What if it were another form of entertainment, like a circus? Or, what if it were for food? Moreover, what if it were a different animal, someone other than a dog or a cat?


If you value an animal like Hercules enough to condemn his suffering, then you already have all the beliefs you need to face the real dog’s purpose in this story: the only difference between the suffering of Hercules and the suffering of billions of animals slaughtered for food each year is your own acceptance of each action as dictated by your cultural paradigm. After all, many countries do raise, slaughter, and eat German shepherds, giving them the same treatment as pigs, chickens, and cows in the US – that’s part of their cultural paradigm.




Pigs dream at night just like people and have consistently passed intelligence measures comparable to a 3 year old child and beyond those of most dogs. Baby chicks quickly grasp the concept of object permanence, an intelligence marker that it takes a human baby a year or more to reach. Cows form strong friendships and can be taught to problem solve using tools, such as pressing a lever to operate a drinking device. Beyond these facts is the visceral experience that comes from the opportunity to look into the eyes of any animal: the sentience there is undeniable if we allow ourselves to see it. Surely the emotional and intellectual lives of these animals are just as rich as those of dogs and cats.


unnamed-5Yet even animals in the meat industry marketed with the feel-good label “humane” still have to be loaded onto a truck to go to a USDA-FSIS slaughter and processing facility (this is the only legal way to slaughter, process, and sell meat in the United States – even meat labeled as pasture raised, pasture finished, organic, grass-fed, etc.). Every one of these victims is starved and deprived of water during that multi-day journey to the USDA facility. They line up and march toward the killing floor, watching their peers ahead of them murdered, the smell of blood and the sounds of terror filling the air. These descriptions don’t even touch on the horrific, day-to-day perils suffered by animals in feedlots and factory farms that become the vast majority of meat sold in the United States. Certainly these experiences of fear and panic far surpass what Hercules went through in 60 seconds of footage before he was allowed to stop attempting a stunt.


Culture and tradition can be great things, but they can also be flat out wrong. Those willing to remove their cultural lenses for only a moment will quickly realize that the fear felt by Hercules in this short clip is nothing compared to the suffering of animals used by our society for food and entertainment. At the end of the day, Hercules probably curled up on a cozy bed and got extra treats for a hard day’s work; in contrast, the animals within our agricultural system suffer from birth to brutal death.


For those of you who were outraged by what happened to Hercules and still consume animal products, I humbly ask you to challenge your cultural conditioning and then to educate yourself on the realities of animal agriculture. The reality is that the animals our society victimizes in the name of food have just as much capacity to feel fear and pain as a dog. The reality is that many of these animals actually have higher intelligence markers than the animals we domesticate as pets. The reality is that no matter what advertising tells you, there are no happy cows in the food industry (or chickens or pigs or goats).


One of the most encouraging things for me about this whole situation has been seeing the quick actions that were taken almost immediately after public outcry. So many dog and animal lovers spoke out, that the industry had to respond. Furthermore, many individuals agreed to boycott the film because they did not want to support an animal being treated with cruelty. What could happen if we raised a collective voice against the suffering of animals other than dogs? What could happen if people decided they didn’t want to contribute to any type of animal suffering? I’m inspired just imagining the possibilities.



A pig is a dog

By: Lauren Lockey

It’s difficult to imagine dog and cat meat on the menu in Park City. They  are loved so much here that just the thought of it creates deep anger and disgust. We respect and love our four legged furry creatures so much that we come together as a community to find loving homes for those in need, raise our voice of any inclination of abuse, and fight city council for more off leash areas!

This is not the case in countries such as China. One example is their yearly event called the Yulin Dog meat festival. 10,000 dogs and cats expect to be eaten during the 10 day event. Dogs and cats are cramped together in wire cages and often transported  1000 miles without food or water. It is one of the most horrific scenes  you can imagine. These animals are often beaten and tortured because instilling fear and stress into their bodies is believed to make their flesh more tasty and desirable. Hung by the neck and beaten with a bat, mouths stapled shut, boiled and skinned alive are just a few of the torture tactics.


It is gruesome and heartbreaking to read or listen to hero, Marc Ching tell his story of going undercover in these areas as a dog/cat meat buyer.  Watch a short interview with him here.

However, as we gawk at the very idea of consuming dog or cat meat, most of us have no issue with biting into the flesh of a cow, chicken, lamb, fish, or pig. Maybe it’s too difficult to wrap our minds around such a number as 150 BILLION animals slaughtered each year for human consumption. Therefore today I am going to keep it rather simple and focus on pigs. That brings the number down to 115 MILLION slaughtered each year. That’s quite a few lives taken for  bacon, sausage, ham, pepperoni, and pork which are  considered to be just as carcinogenic as cigarettes. In other words, they cause cancer. In blunt words, feeding children these foods is like giving them a pack of smokes!

Besides the health effects, this is an ethical issue that must be brought to light again and again. These are 115 million individuals who endure similar lives as those dogs and cats being butchered in other countries.

For a moment, imagine spending 4-6 months in an airplane seat.  Yet you can’t get up and stretch your legs or go to the bathroom. We can barely handle a few hours right?! That is the life of a pig in the meat industry.



Their natural life span is 10-12 years but instead they spend 4-6 months(longer if it’s a sow in which they are continually impregnated for up to 4 years) in a metal crate on a cement floor where they are fed specifically to make market weight in a short time without the ability to move or care for their young. You can imagine the stress and boredom this causes when pigs naturally like to burrow in dirt, be social, and oh I don’t know, turn around and walk. Then,  just like the dogs and cats, they are transported for long hours/days without food or water in extreme temperatures to the slaughterhouse.


The transport is similar to being stuffed with other humans in an elevator. Except it’s not just for a few floor levels, it’s for a few days. No water,  no food, and covered in fecal matter.  Pigs are actually very clean animals when given the space.  They don’t sweat naturally so they enjoy mud as it keeps them cool. In factory farms and transport trucks they do not have that chance. As piglets, their tails and tips of teeth are docked without painkillers. This is because the crowded conditions cause such stress that pigs will bite eachother to death. You will often find them chewing the bars of their crates.


One single processing plant slaughters 1000 pigs per hour. Yes, per hour! How can such a large scale number not be questioned? Have we become so desensitized and ignorant because of pleasure and convenience?  Often due to improper stunning, pigs are still alive when they reach the scalding hot water or have their throats slit.  Sound similar to dogs and cats being boiled alive? This is in no way humane. Just the sheer number per hour make it impossible. Therefore, it’s torture. In fact, humane and slaughter are complete opposites! One can’t humanely slaughter someone. It makes no logical sense!

Life matters to all beings.  Your life matters to you. My life matters to me. Rats lives matter to them. Cats lives matter to them. Dogs lives matter to them. Pigs lives matter just as much. They are not all the same. They have unique personalities. Some are extroverts, some introverts, etc.. Just like our dogs and cats we love so dearly at home.

This video gives you an idea of what the life of a factory farmed pig is like.  I ask you to be courageous because we must bear witness to create change. No matter how hard it is to watch it’s not even a fraction of what these animals go through. You think it’s difficult to give up taste and convenience? Think how difficult it is for these animals destined for our plates. We must begin to think outside ourselves.

What you can do:

  • Stop giving your money to the meat and dairy industry. The abuse and slaughter will continue as long as we pay for it and demand it.
  • Educate yourself. Watch films such as “Forks over Knives,” “Cowspiracy,” and “Earthlings.” More great films coming out this year and next!
  • Make a plan! Everyone is different! Some can give up animal products overnight, some need to be gradual. Try meatless Mondays or meatless 2 days a week! As you gradually introduce more plant foods and grains, animal products will slowly disappear from your plate.
  • Join Park City Utah Vegan Fb Page or SLC Vegan FB page for great restaurants, recipes, events, etc..
  • Try new recipes and cook yummy plant based meals for your family and friends.
  • Explore all the plant based meats and milks out there! These foods are becoming more and more available!
  • Leave the animals alone! Sorry..but seriously!

This is not some cult or religion. It is about looking outside ourselves and opening our eyes to the injustices everywhere around us. This choice stems from the ability to educate ourselves and realize how ingrained and brainwashed we are from these multi billion dollar industries. Our government spends roughly $40 billion each year to subsidize the meat and dairy industry. We are constantly bombarded with commercials and slogans to keep up the unhealthy habit. Do you think these industries are really looking out for our best interest? No they are looking out for THEIR best interest! And it all happens on the backs, skins, blood, and bones of sentient beings that value their lives like we do.

We are here for just a speck of time. Let us all leave a legacy of kindness and compassion. Even the world’s greatest scientists and thinkers agree!