On the 23 March 2020, the New Zealand Government announced that in 48 hours the country would go into what they called a lockdown where only the essential businesses such as supermarkets, pharmacies, and emergency services were to remain open. All non-essential services and shops were to shut. That included movie theatres, gyms, playgrounds, cafes, bars etc. You could only leave your house if you were an essential worker, going to buy essential items, or to exercise within the suburb you live in. Otherwise, you were to stay home.
When I first heard the word ‘lockdown’ I automatically thought I would have nothing to do and be stuck at home bored. I heard people complaining about the things they couldn’t do for only five short weeks; no gym, beach, restaurants or bars, as well as complaints about being stuck at home bored or only being able to exercise in their own neighbourhood. Some of those thoughts crossed my mind a couple of times, but looking back, I was happy throughout the lockdown. I was happy staying at home and doing simple things like reading or puzzles, and I was happy to be able to exercise by going for runs and walks outside, even if it was on the same roads every day. I wasn’t 100% confined to my house. I had things I could do.
When I hear these kinds of comments and complaints, I can’t help but think about all the animals that live a lifetime of confinement with never anything to do. I think about this a lot anyway because animal welfare is often on my mind. I think about the millions of factory farmed animals in New Zealand and abroad crammed into dark sheds for their entire lives. They only see the light of day and the outside world for a fleeting moment between farm and slaughterhouse. I think about dolphins and orcas confined to tiny pools, bears stuck in pits in zoos, elephants chained in concrete rooms, monkeys or tigers locked inside small cages. These animals are smart and sentient. Pigs alone are as smart as toddlers and dogs.
These animals are aware of their surroundings and their suffering but cannot do anything about it. They have no enrichment in their day. They cannot get out of their confined areas. They are the ones that have every right to complain, not us.
As individuals we have the power to change lives and alleviate suffering of confined animals, especially for pigs and chickens in factory farms. This is not a push to make people vegan because I don’t believe that telling people what to do is a way to make change. But I do believe that educating and creating awareness is a way to make change, and if people care enough then they will change their lifestyle. You don’t have to become vegan, but you can easily reduce your intake of meat and animal products. If enough people just took this one step then there would be a lot less animals raised in factory farms. A lot less animals confined to a life of misery.
By comparing our “lockdown” to animals living in confinement, or in other words, living in an actual, permanent lockdown, I hope everyone takes a moment to reflect on a few things:
- We shouldn’t take our freedoms for granted, however limited they are. Our lockdown wasn’t that bad; we could still get outside and we still had things we could do.
- Imagine how these millions of sentient animals feel living in an actual lockdown. Suffering, bored and lonely, for their entire lives.
- You can easily make changes to your lifestyle which would make a difference to the lives of countless animals.
Amy Smith is an activist for Direct Animal Action and works in the environmental sector.