Flushing the Toilet Assumption

For my job, I travel to Guatemala a few times per year. I’m often struck by the visibility of animal suffering there. I see cow carcasses hanging off the side of a truck barreling down the road. I see pigs tied up in the back of live transport trucks. I see street dogs, missing large swaths of fur from mange, limping along the side of the road.

It’s not that this immense animal suffering doesn’t happen in the US. It’s that we make it less visible.

Approximately 25 million farm animals are slaughtered each day in the United States. Of those raised for food in the US each year, approximately nine percent — more than 850 million — never make it to the slaughterhouse because they have already died from stress-induced disease or injury. (via Animal Matters)

In the US, we employ the toilet assumption. The toilet assumption is the notion that unpleasant realities will disappear if we remove them from our immediate field of vision. The horrors of factory farming, for example, are invisible to most American consumers.

The current pandemic we’re experiencing is flipping the script on the toilet assumption. What we’ve tried to flush away—inequalities and injustices, including the exploitation of animals for food—has resurfaced in a devastating way, reminding us of just how connected we are. 

Many zoonotic diseases, like COVID-19, developed due to our cruel treatment of animals. Philosopher David Benatar recently published a powerful piece in the New York Times outlining the connection between the human treatment of animals and the coronavirus pandemic. Benatar explains why it’s important to name the connection and explore solutions, rather than shoving it under the rug to avoid perceptions of insensitivity. I encourage you to read his article, “Our Cruel Treatment of Animals Led to the Coronavirus.”

Animals have voices and use them, but most of us can’t hear them from where we are standing. Every action, whether it be choosing more plant-based foods and inviting family and friends to join you or engaging in plant-based events, video outreach, and other ways of advocating for animals raise their cries. 

We are proud to be in partnership with you in this work. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to sign up for the 21-day Explore Veg Challenge and stay up to date with our upcoming events and outreach by signing up for our newsletter.

Thank you for taking action towards a kinder future by supporting Compassionate Action for Animals.


This message was first shared in our Compassionate Times newsletter in May 2020. Compassionate Times is sent monthly as a gesture of heartfelt thanks and appreciation to our donors who help us spare the lives of farmed animals.

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