Lately I stumbled across some information about a company that makes collars for animals in agricultural operations. The solar-powered collars are used to manage the animals wearing them: everything from creating virtual fences to tracking the animal’s location and providing health information right down to when it’s coming into heat. The collars are also used to drive the animals to different locations, using auditory and sensory cues.
While all this seems to be right there on the leading edge of technology in animal agriculture, I find this application distressing. Animal agriculture is distressing to begin with, but amping the whole thing up in such simultaneously intimate and impersonal ways has very disturbing implications in my mind. Where, ultimately, does this lead?
“What we do to the animals, we do to ourselves,” writes Will Tuttle, in his book, The World Peace Diet. He describes the “boomerang effect” – the notion that “as we sow, so shall we reap.”
Tuttle carefully details numerous ways in which this plays out, demonstrating the connections between our oppressive, exploitative practices with animals and related human issues like obesity, rape culture, disease, drug use, stress, confinement, lack of privacy, and so much more. I was astonished at the parallels when I first read the book years ago, but easily saw the truth in it.
And now here we are in 2021, in our pandemic-altered world, where we have had a taste firsthand of just how easy it is for humans to be labeled, branded, herded, confined, medicated, and tracked like collared cows. The only difference is that we just voluntarily carry our devices – and pay for them – instead of wearing them around our necks.
While technology and medicine can do awesome things, everyone should be deeply concerned about the capacity to overtly or covertly exercise impersonal control over individuals and populations in very personal ways (whether bovine or human), who it is that would presume to exercise such a capacity, and why.
I mean, just look at what happens to cows.
Despite or because of the immensely powerful scientific tools we are now capable of wielding, it is imperative we find our way forward with compassion and connection.