The Right to Leave Home

By ANTTI NYLÈN The difference between home and prison is that you can leave home.

One viable definition for home could be: a place that can be abandoned. All homes, like animal lairs, are temporary. Homes are born where human or other beings consent to live. Prisons are absolute; homes are relative. One houses objects, the other subjects. When children play with toy animals, they like to build them cages and pens, stalls or coops. For surely an animal shouldn’t just roam around. An animal must have a home. But if you point out what has been specifically built, the result is a prison. Well, children are children! (It is also possible that they identify with animals and put them in the position where they themselves are too. From the day they are brought into the world, they are told: this is your home, you mustn’t leave here on your own!) When adults, normal and intelligent people, play with real animals, they often act precisely like children with their toy animals. Or, they claim, they don’t play, they… do what? They trade. Make money out of beings – living beings – who have freedom and a will of their own.

One modern expression of gender politics in meat is that animals are shut up in facilities where the conditions are splendid and safe, as defined by law – quite similarly to how women in the old world were shut up in their homes, where they had full power but not the right to leave, no independence.

Freedom is too dangerous and difficult for animals, the same as it used to be for women. They need to be freed from freedom, for their own good. In nature, out in the world, they would be left at the mercy of many cruel forces and predators! This kind of talk – we are thinking about the welfare of animals! – is common wherever criticism is voiced towards the animal industry. The reply is: “We would gladly raise our pigs in spas if we got paid for it accordingly. Now we have to keep them in boarding houses with only shared accommodation.” Or: “A ranch fox has a cushy life in its home cage if you compare it to the wild fox. It even gets its food served to it every day.”

The stupidest answer is one of the most commonplace: “Cows would never survive alone in the woods.” Talk that propagates warm images of home covers up the truth and the crime: animals in the animal industry suffer death sentences as innocents in the top-quality modern cells we have constructed. The same could be said for zoos, even if the cells have all the luxury amenities.

Because we are clever beings, we very well know where animals can have a good life, what kind of “homes” are good for them – although the animal protection laws in Finland, at least, pretend to be blissfully unaware of the matter – but there is only one power in the world that makes us lock them up there for the brief remainder of their lives. The power of evil. We must give animals, too, the possibility to have homes of their own. We have to kick them out of our quarters.

May freedom be the fate and fortune of every living being.

The writer is an essayist and translator.


Aurora Reinhard, Self Portrait, (Dedicated to Artist Teemu Mäki), 1996 c-print on aluminium, framed, 60x50 cm

Aurora Reinhard, Self Portrait, (Dedicated to Artist Teemu Mäki), 1996 c-print on aluminium, framed, 60×50 cm