How much more can humans take from the other animals? We already take their milk and their eggs. We grab at their fur and their feathers. We exploit and take billions of lives every year in horrendous factory farms and labs.
Now I see scientists want to take the beating hearts out of living animals too. It’s been announced that healthy hearts could be taken out of pigs, messed about with and transplanted into humans. The pigs would then be “collateral damage”; left to die and be incinerated.
“I feel humans have already stolen more than enough from the other creatures we share this planet with. It’s time we repaid our moral debt, rather than adding more.”
While obviously I see the benefit for humans, I feel this is a complete violation of the pigs — a companionate, intelligent species, sensitive to pain. How can this be moral?
Pigs also develop strong bonds with humans and can recognise people they met years ago. They show deep emotions and traits such as trust, empathy and loyalty.
A famous example was when a domestic pig called Lulu saved the life of her carer, who had collapsed with a heart attack at her Pennsylvania home.
Lulu scraped her way out of the yard and lay down in the road opposite, bringing passing traffic to a halt. When a driver got out of his car, Lulu led him back into the home, where an ambulance was called.
These are bright, loving animals. Can we truly bring them into the world just to cut them up and take what we want?
The very fact that pigs’ hearts are so similar to ours, and can replace ours, shows how closely related we are.
You wouldn’t kill your little brother or sister for their organs, so why kill an animal cousin for theirs? Just because you can do something, that doesn’t mean it’s okay.
It’s easy to dismiss pigs as unimportant. If you think about it, humans have devised a whole vocabulary to diminish these animals. Dirty pigs, greedy pigs. Really though? It’s astonishing that humans have the cheek to associate pigs with greed when it’s clearly the greedy meat industry that crunches innocent lives into profit.
“The idea of pigs being raised only to have their organs harvested fills me with similar horror.”
A lot of people don’t know but the majority of sows reared in Britain are kept in metal farrowing crates that are just a few centimetres bigger than their body. These caged sows are artificially inseminated repeatedly and remorselessly.
As a matter of routine, their piglets will have their teeth clipped and their tails cut off (without anaesthetic). If they are boys, their testicles will be ripped or cut off too (still no anaesthetic). Once the pigs have grown to the correct size, they are then sent to the slaughterhouse where, aware and frightened, they usually get crammed into gas chambers. They scream like babies for the final minutes of their lives.
And these really are baby cries. While their natural lifespan could be up to 12 years, exploited pigs are slaughtered for their meat from as young as just six months.
The idea of pigs being raised only to have their organs harvested fills me with similar horror.
The Vegan Society defines veganism as a whole lifestyle - not only a diet - in which you “exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals — for food, clothing or any other purpose”.
Sir Terence English, who performed the UK’s first successful heart transplant in 1979, said of the pig-to-human transplant plan: “There will be animal rights people who will say it’s entirely wrong. But if you can save a life isn’t that maybe a bit better?”
“Would anyone with a conscience want to save their own life knowing another must die?”
His language says it all. The only “life” taken into account is the human life. The animal’s right to life is not even mentioned.
Scientists in the US have already been playing god and trying to put pigs’ hearts into monkeys. These animals should be living free in the wild, not tortured in the labs of 21st-century Frankensteins.
There are clear ethical guidelines for transplanting organs from human to humans. We know it works; it’s just that not enough people are signed up to be donors. I think the answer to that is public education or creating an opt-out (rather than opt-in) register. The answer isn’t harvesting animal organs.
I can only speak for myself but if my choice was between dying or living on with the knowledge a pig had been killed and its heart was now inside me, personally I would rather pass away with some dignity.
Would anyone with a conscience want to save their own life knowing another must die?
A pig’s heart could never be given to me with consent, as with normal transplants. Instead, it would be stolen.
I feel humans have already stolen more than enough from the other creatures we share this planet with. It’s time we repaid our moral debt, rather than adding more. Eventually we must say enough is enough.
Chas Newkey-Burden is an author and writer.