- The treatment of animals in many factory farms has been the topic of a lot of controversy... and rightly so. These animals are often put in pens too small to move freely or to lie down. They are allowed little or no time outside, meaning their natural muscle development and participation in natural activities is virtually non-existant. They are fed unnatural foods, as well as supplements, anti-biotics and sometimes hormones and steriods, that mean they grow fat at an unnaturally fast rate and are often unable to properly support their weight, and of course have distinctly sad and short lives. Thankfully the organic industry has brought with it many improvements and minimum requirements, and the growth in demand for organic meat is encouraging, though of course it needs to be combined with reduced consumption of meat in general.
- The abattoirs are often located a long distance from the farms, so the animals undergo a long trip in cramped conditions, all standing, causing much additional suffering, sometimes broken legs, fear and stress. And again, to maximise efficiency and save money, these abattoirs are often modelled on the conveyor belt system used in car manufacturing, meaning no one worker takes responsibility for the welfare of the animal. As a result it is not uncommon to find animals are not properly stunned or killed and go through excrutiating pain during the slaughtering process.
"If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian"
- Paul McCartney
“Cattle dragged and choked… knocking ‘em four, five, ten times. Every now and then when they’re stunned they come back to life, and they’re up there agonizing. They’re supposed to be re-stunned but sometimes they aren’t and they’ll go through the skinning process alive. I’ve worked in four large [slaughterhouses] and a bunch of small ones. They’re all the same. If people were to see this, they’d probably feel really bad about it. But in a packing house everybody gets so used to it that it doesn’t mean anything.”
~Slaughterhouse 1997 (A veteran USDA meat inspector from Texas describes what he has seen)
- There remains of course the philosophical/ ethical question of 'should humans be killing animals for food?' I won't go into this in detail, but I believe as long as we distinguish ourselves as being intellectually superior and capable of ethical evaluation of our actions, it is a question one should ask ourselves. The fact we have done it for thousands of years is not a reason to continue doing it. There are many human traditions that from an ethical perspective we have chosen to stop, or at least in majority have agreed should be stopped wherever possible (eg. chistians & lions, slavery, murder, fur trade). I can highly recommend Peter Singer's books/articles.Here is a short video interview with him, summarising his philosophical analysis.
"A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral. If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals."
~Leo Tolstoy 1828-1910
See Recipes to start the evolution