be misled by packages of meat, eggs, and dairy foods with pictures of happy
animals running near quaint country barns and reassuring labels proclaiming
“organic” or “free-range.” Animals on typical organic
and “free-range” farms often spend much of their time confined
to crowded sheds or mud-filled pens, just as animals on conventional factory
farms do. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires animals
on so-called “free-range” farms to have access to outdoor areas,
it doesn’t specify how much time they must be allowed to spend outside
or how much space they should be given. Typically, free-range animals are
kept indoors for their entire lives, and, while free-range farms generally
allow access to the outdoors, that “access” can be as laughable
as a tiny door leading to a little gravel lot. When a farm calls itself
free range or free run, it might consist of a few dozen happy animals wandering
around outside, but it’s much more likely to consist of a few enormous
sheds crowded with hundreds of thousands of animals who almost never see
daylight until en route to the slaughterhouse. I found it disturbing that
both types of farms qualify as free range.
on organic dairy farms can be kept in crowded sheds, mired in their own
waste, much like cows on factory dairy farms. They, too, are artificially
impregnated every year, and their calves are taken from them soon after
birth. Cows on organic farms often aren’t given antibiotics—even
when they’re sick or when their udders become infected, something
that happens often—because medicated animals lose their “organic”
Animals on organic
and “free-range” farms often endure the same cruel mutilations—such
as debeaking, dehorning, and castration without painkillers—as animals
on conventional factory farms. Cattle, for example, generally have their
horns cut off and their testicles cut out of their scrotums, and many
are branded with searing-hot irons. Pigs on organic farms often have their
tails cut off and their ears notched, and some have rings forced into
their sensitive noses in order to prevent them from rooting in the grass
and dirt, which is a favorite pastime of pigs. Chickens on organic egg
farms usually have part of their sensitive beaks cut off, which causes
them both acute and chronic pain.
raised for meat or dairy or eggs—are sent to slaughter at a fraction
of their natural lifespans. Chickens can live for 10 years or more, but
when raised for meat, the organic ones die just as young as free-range
and factory-farmed chickens—usually at around 45 days old, sometimes
as late as 81 days. And cows can live into their 20s, but when raised
for meat they are slaughtered at only a few years old. Egg-laying chickens
are still slaughtered when they aren’t producing enough eggs, usually
when they are about two, and dairy cows and goats are held up to a similar
end of their miserable lives, these animals are typically shipped on trucks
through all weather extremes—usually without food, water, or rest—to
the same slaughterhouses used by factory farms. There, the animals are hung
upside down and their throats are cut, often while they’re still conscious
and struggling to escape. Many chickens are still able to feel pain when
they’re submerged in the scalding-hot water of the defeathering tanks,
and cows may be conscious as their bodies are hacked apart.
truly humane foods are those that don’t come from animals.
Looking at online
menus for a restaurant to take a visiting friend, I read “humane meat”
and had to do a double-take. This bizarre concept, already seen on labels
in upscale grocery stores, is invading eateries so that anyone who wishes
to order the chicken can feel sort of OK or even really good about it. What
are we thinking? That the animals were blown away in the middle of the night
while dreaming sweet dreams after a life of comfy straw and the sun on their
backs in lush green meadows, like in the fantasy cheese commercials that
PETA sued to have removed from the airways, the ones that failed to show
the real misery and muck in which California’s dairy cows languish
until the truck comes to take them to you-know-where? Or maybe you don’t
One hates to
be absolute, but in my view, there is no such thing as humane meat. Perhaps
if we were being asked to consider roadkill, which at least would not be
cruelly raised or even killed by us (someone else’s non-commissioned
vehicle doesn’t count) if we scraped it up off the tarmac and ate
it, but that’s not what we are being asked to consider. Rather, it
is being suggested that we actually find it acceptable to eat the flesh
of animals who were very much alive, had friends and family — or,
more likely, were deprived of them — and went through enormous trauma
despite some small courtesies, such as perhaps 2 inches of additional space
in their jam-packed prison cells. Yes, kicking the dog six times a week
instead of seven is marginally better, but that doesn’t mean that
we should go around suggesting that people kick the dog, just not as often,
sad flesh “humane” is like calling Britney Spears an opera singer.
Yes, “Baby One More Time” may be easier on the ear than fingers
on a blackboard, but it’s hardly Wagner’s “Ring Cycle,”
is it? I could go along with SLCBSU, or “slightly less cruel but still
unacceptable,” meat, but it’s definitely still not humane by
a long shot.
nothing humane about the flesh of animals who have had one or two or even
three improvements made in their singularly rotten lives on today’s
factory farms. Perhaps they are allowed outside into a patch of mud if they
can fight their way out through the 10,000 other hens competing to get through
the hatchway. Perhaps they are allowed to share a box in which to lay their
eggs. Perhaps they are not kept in iron maidens or sow stalls in which they
can never turn around. But the rest of their lot in life and the manner
in which they are otherwise treated outside these reductions in abysmal
treatment are still an abomination.
By being asked
to support meat from living beings who are marginally less cruelly treated,
we are being encouraged to support animal breeders, the people who bring
our fellow animals into this world for the sole purpose of putting them
through the wringer — causing them stress, trauma and pain —
and then, because we’ll pay for those body parts, pronouncing, “Off
with their heads!” In asking us to endorse humane meat, we are also
being asked to endorse artificial insemination (a hideously terrifying procedure
carried out on what farmers themselves call “rape racks”) and
to support mutilations such as castration, dewattling, decombing, and ear-punching
— all without painkillers. Being asked to support humane meat means
being asked to support the suffering of animals in transport, to approve
of treatment that causes them palpable fear, their bodies shaking and their
eyes wide as saucers, as they are slung by their legs into crates that are
slammed onto the back of a truck. And we are being asked to find acceptable
and humane their experience of barreling down the highway in the freezing
cold and sweltering heat. How can we accept any of that if we are against
cruelty to animals? It’s simple — we can’t.
By being asked
to endorse this grossly misnamed “humane meat,” we are being
asked to endorse the ways in which the animals are killed, the final moments
that culminate in the fear and the stench of the slaughterhouse. For most
meat is obtained from the slaughterhouse, a place of blood and offal and
struggles and screams. If that is so humane, why don’t we take the
kids and make a day of it? Because it isn’t humane, that’s why.
All of us in
society are supposed to believe that cruelty to animals is wrong and that
it is a good thing to prevent needless suffering. So if that is true, how
can meat be acceptable under any but the most extraordinary circumstances,
such as perhaps roasting the bird who died flying into a window? The pig
or hen’s misery, suffering, and pain were certainly needless because
we know now that we have no justification for eating meat at all. And given
that much of what is bought to eat in this country — fully half of
it — is thrown away for one reason or another, if we support any meat
consumption, we are supporting hurting and killing animals not even for
the table but for the compost heap. You can’t get much more needless
If we support
any meat consumption, we are supporting not only continued animal slavery
— for if we are honest, that is the accurate way to describe how animals
are treated when raised for meat — but also continued human disease,
desertification, agricide, environmental degradation, topsoil depletion
from raising feed crops for factory-farmed animals, the pollution of rivers
and streams from waste with its accompanying destruction of wildlife —
and you can’t raise animals for the table without having them defecate
and urinate ... and bleed.
As for organic
and pesticide-free meat, I think two of PETA’s campaigners summed
it up nicely. They were standing in a supermarket check-out lane, and behind
them was an unattended cellophane package containing a chicken. The label
read, “Young chicken” and “Pesticide-free.” One
campaigner said to the other, “Look at that! Do you think that poor
young chicken lying dead under the plastic wrap was pleased that she was
pesticide-free?” The man buying the chicken came up and heard her
and said, “Ew, I can’t buy that now.” So they took him
and showed him vegan Gardein “chicken,” as that was the taste
that he wanted, and gave him a vegan starter kit. Now that’s public
education. What if instead, they had suggested that he eat “humane
meat”? They would have kept his preference for meat alive, taught
him nothing, and made it seem as if even animal protectionists believe that
it is somehow acceptable to eat meat. Which is the better approach? Meat
facilitation or real education? Meatification or vegification? Supporting
the fantasy of humane meat works against vegan education, and that can’t
be helpful or right.
As we look around,
we see society at a turning point. Everyone from Bill Clinton to Anne Hathaway
to the Rev. Al Sharpton to Martha Stewart to the young skaters and movie
stars whose names I do not recognize seems to be talking about how going
vegan boosts their energy and keeps them slim and healthy and is environmentally
friendly and, yes, animal-friendly, too. Grocery stores are packed with
tasty vegan foods, from faux meats to vegan milk and cheese! It’s
no longer unusual to ask for a vegan meal in a restaurant, even a steakhouse,
and there are vegan options at schools across the country. Some universities
have all-vegan cafeterias. With so many fantastic vegan cookbooks, like
Alicia Silverstone’s and Chef Tal Ronnen’s, and with programs
like the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s 21-Day Vegan
Kickstart and the wildly popular PETA vegetarian/vegan starter kit, people
can easily step away from eating animals — and they truly won’t
miss a thing except ill health. Now, more than ever before, it is time to
push that way of thinking forward, not to turn it upside down and keep animal
factory farms in business. That hideous mechanized system that thumbs its
nose at animals’ feelings is not humane in any way, shape, or form.
It is a nightmare for animals, the Earth, human health, and every living
being. It has to go!
a little poem:
tell me, dear, don’t pigs love their cages,
farmers pay them tip-top wages?
they dine on pine cones, nuts, and clover,
go gladly when it’s over?
tell me, dear, what can I eat,
I’d refuse the meat?
I shun liver, tongue, and ground-up body,
I end up feeling shoddy?
about veal and legs of lamb?
brains and fried-up spam?
beans and nuts be quite as yummy?
greens and grains fill up my tummy?
yes, they’re good, the answer came.
eating them involves no shame!
meat’s like ... the Easter Bunny.
problem is, this myth’s not funny.
a human is just another animal,
you eat your fellows, you’re actually a cannibal.
Dusk 'til Dawn
An Insider's View of the Growth of the Animal Liberation Movement