Animal Liberationist Leila Scott on the 5am vigils outside the Marsa abattoir

Ten questions for Animal Liberation Malta spokesperson Leila Scott

Animal Liberationist Leila Scott on the 5am vigils outside the Marsa abattoir
Animal Liberationist Leila Scott on the 5am vigils outside the Marsa abattoir
Animal Liberationist Leila Scott on the 5am vigils outside the Marsa abattoir

What is Animal Liberation Malta?

So, Animal Liberation Malta is an animal rights movement who advocates veganism and basically educate and inform people of what’s happening around the world, ways they’re being exploited and abused.

Do you fundamentally see animals as being equal to human beings?

I mean there are many similarities between humans and animals. I’m not saying they’re exactly the same, there are more similarities than people think there are, and I think when it comes to a life…yeah, they’re equal.

For years animals have been fundamental to human progress. Why should they be considered differently now?

I think now we have more choices. I think back then it was a matter of survival and even hunter-gatherers, their staple diet was nuts and they only killed animals in winter when there wasn’t a food source. It was a matter of survival, but nowadays we don’t need animals to be happy and healthy, so we just exploit them to make money which I think is unethical.

Why are you holding vigils outside the abattoir?

To help people make the connection. I think when people see the animals before they go into slaughter, they’re more aware of their food choices, so you know those animals on that truck have personalities, some are shy, some come up to you and lick your hand, some have blue eyes, some have brown; it’s helping people to make that connection and see animals as individuals. And we just want to raise awareness and many people have actually contacted us, telling us because of those vigils that we’ve been doing they’ve stopped eating meat, so they have been effective.

Is there a humane way to kill animals?

In our view, there is no humane way to slaughter someone who doesn’t want to die. It’s the greatest oxymoron. If you look at the definition of humane, it means kindness, it means respect. If you look at slaughter, it’s killing, it’s murder. The two can’t possibly go together.

How do you think Maltese react to your activism?

Well, first of all we do have a lot of people who support us who are Maltese, and then we of course have the people who are not happy that we’re here trying to change culture, tradition and so we have had a mixed reaction.

But I would say that on the whole, it has been positive. I think people are finally waking up to the truth and realising that even in Malta there is so much cruelty and abuse that we cannot be pointing the finger at other countries anymore. It’s happening on our doorstep and it’s about making people realise that.

Hunting aside, how does Malta shape up on animal rights?

I do think that Malta has a long way to go. I think that animals do lack basic fundamental rights in Malta, for example, the Maltese are the largest consumers of rabbit in Europe, and the way rabbits are reared here is appalling; you know they’re in tiny cages, wire cages, all crammed together and at three months they have their necks snapped and their throat slit, and that’s the way they’re killed and I think the Maltese consume 530,000 rabbits per year, so it’s a lot…

And of course, the bird hunting, the bird trapping, we visited dairy farms here that are just…. I mean dairy farms are bad all over the world, I’m not saying that Malta’s to blame, but there are many ways in which this island can improve.

Photo by James Bianchi
Photo by James Bianchi

Is the eradication of pests animal cruelty for you?

I think there are humane ways to get rid of pests that doesn’t involve killing. For example, citronella is a great way to deter mosquitoes and bugs from getting in, and cockroaches and things like that. So I think there are ways that you can deal with pests that doesn’t involve killing.

I would say that it’s quite rare for people to have mice and rats in their homes. I’ve never had mice in my home, I don’t know about you but it doesn’t seem to be like this common problem that people are finding difficult to deal with.

I think if I did have a mouse, I would use a trap that would trap it without killing it then I would release it.

Do you think certain types of meat consumption beyond beef, poultry or pork should be banned?

To me there’s no difference between a crocodile burger and a beef burger. It’s still an animal that was slaughtered against its will, so this is the point when we look at cats and dogs. At the moment there’s the Yulin festival in China, it’s a dog festival where they are killing 15,000 dogs in a matter of 10 days, and people are outraged. You know, we are going to these vigils and seeing these beautiful sentient beings on their way to being gassed, and nobody’s batting an eyelid, yet they’re outraged with the Chinese for killing dogs. What is the difference between a pig and a dog? It’s all in the perception.

Aren’t humans predatory animals genetically designed to consume meat?

So I’m sure if I put you out in the jungle, and left you to fend for yourself, you wouldn’t probably last long. We’re not actually carnivores, we don’t have carnivorous instincts, we don’t look at a chicken and get hungry and salivate, you know.

It’s only once a chicken has been slaughtered without us seeing, cut into pieces and cooked and had spices put on it that we would want to eat it. In terms of our anatomy, we are 100% herbivorous, the way we chew is from side to side, we don’t rip and swallow like carnivores do.

If you look at our intestines, we have very long intestines compared to carnivores that have short intestines, so they digest the meat much more quickly, and it has been proven, many studies have proven that a vegan diet, or a plant-based diet, is the optimum diet.

You know heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer are much, much lower when people eliminate animal products from their diet.

Is veganism just a trend for people who afford to spend more?

Being vegan isn’t expansive, that’s one of the greatest myths there is. Pasta isn’t expensive, beans aren’t expensive, potatoes aren’t expensive. You know you can be vegan and not have to spend a lot. If you want to buy organic produce, then yes it may be a little more costly.

Is there an ethical way to consume meat?

There’s no ethical way. It’s killing. You’re killing an animal when it is in its prime. A cow for example naturally lives for 20 years. At four years, when the cow has been milked dry, it’s sent to the abattoir, to have a bolt gun to the head and have her throat slashed. It can never be ethical, it can never be humane. If you don’t want this kind of treatment upon you, then don’t pay for it to happen to others.

What are your views on ‘speciesism’?

I mean these sayings go back a long time. We’ve been using these sayings for a long while, and I have to say when I use expressions like ‘kill two birds with one stone’ I always feel a little bad when I say that, so I think it’s quite nice that PETA have come up with these alternatives. I think it’s quite humorous, I mean I find it funny, I don’t find it… I don’t think people should be offended by it. There are far more things to be upset by than a bunch of sayings that PETA have adapted to become more animal friendly.

With speciesism, you are categorizing animals into different groups. So you are saying these are companion animals, these are food animals, these are wild animals. You are basically putting animals in groups depending on your culture and your preference. I think if speciesism was eradicated, the world would be a much better place, just giving respect and showing kindness to all species you know, to other humans as well as non-human animals

Save 100 dogs from an Asian restaurant for the price of one human. Who would you pick?

Well, I mean I wouldn’t slaughter any, and I think that’s the point with veganism, we have a choice, we don’t have to kill to thrive. It’s not a matter of survival, so why would you kill anybody, in any situation, I mean unless it’s a matter of survival, which most of us aren’t in this part of the world.

Do you consider the ownership of pets as animal cruelty?

It’s because of humans that animals have been domesticated and we are now in this situation. I mean millions of animals are euthanized at shelters ever year because they cannot find homes and you know its people breeding them and it’s just got out of control. From the animal’s point of view, if they had to choose between getting stuck in a shelter and possibly being euthanized because nobody wanted to adopt them, or a family taking them and offering a loving home, then I think I know which one I would choose.