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Frozen chickens, escapee piglets: But why don't all animals get our sympathy?

Some 1,181 chickens endured a grossly inhumane death, a judge has ruled in one of the 58 court battles against Maple Lodge Farms, Canada's largest independent poultry producer.

In February, 2009, a truck carried more than 10,000 chickens to a Brampton, Ont. plant and tragically some birds froze to death, experiencing "undue suffering," said Justice N. S. Kastner.

"Wet birds," the judge wrote, "whether actually frozen or not, are unable to sustain their body temperatures for the reasons given by the veterinary evidence."

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Without question, it's a horrendous story – and there are likely more to come. The visuals in this instance make me queasy: Hundreds of frozen, wet hens stuck to the side of the truck, without any protection from the Canadian winter, already featherless from laying so many eggs.

The outrage – from both animal lobbyists and the public at large – has been loud and ceaseless.

Still, is the fate of these frozen birds any worse than the fate of those who didn't freeze to death then – but were slaughtered in the plant, beheaded and then eventually frozen and stowed away in Canadian freezers?

The hypocrisy, too, is in the headline-grabbing tale of the wee piglet who fell off a truck bound for a Quebec slaughterhouse – he has been named Yoda, put up in an animal sanctuary, and deemed an "intrepid hero" and "the luckiest pig alive." (thanks, Huffington Post.)

Are all of his truckmates – who weren't at all so lucky – not given sympathy, because they're faceless?

It's no secret that conditions in mass meat plants aren't the nicest – and I'm sure many would argue animals bound for grocery store shelves and fast food restaurants experience "undue suffering."

Where is the public sympathy for those animals?

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What's irksome here is that there is public outrage over the frozen birds, and a collective "awww" for the little piggie who did not go to market – but seemingly little sympathy for the animals who don't make headlines.

Full disclosure: I'm a vegetarian, and can't remember the last time I ate an animal – because, personally, I'm not okay with killing animals. (Blame Charlotte's Web.)

I agree with Oprah: if you can't enter a slaughterhouse, and can't come to terms with how your food is prepared, you probably shouldn't eat it. On the other hand, if you're okay with that process, I say by all means – enjoy.

Why do these select animals garner public sympathy, while so many others are ignored?

(Follow and tweet at the author: @amberlym)

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About the Author
Editor in the Opinion section

Amberly McAteer is an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe and Mail. She has been a homepage editor, online editor and community editor in Features - including Life, Travel, Style, Arts and Books. She's written columns about her quest to run a 10K and find the perfect dog. More

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