What about “humane” meat?
What about “humane” meat? What if an animal lived a good life and then was slaughtered? Those are some of the questions I get asked often. My simple answer is, there is no such thing as “humane” meat; it’s a euphemism, an oxymoron.
Humane is “marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals”. How could it be humane to exploit and kill sentient beings, which is the case with all animals raised for food. Even if an animal was raised by farmers who supposedly cared for her, and she spent her entire time frolicking, enjoying the warm sun and eating in green pastures, and then betrayed and killed against her will, it would be inhumane.
Let’s not fool ourselves, rearing animals so we can cut their lives short in order to eat them is simply exploitation, not compassion. Treating animals as commodities is not marked by sympathy nor consideration. Animals are not objects, like us they have babies and social life, they can feel pain and fear. Forceful killing, which is how all animals are slaughtered for food, is brutal and violent (just watch a video if you have any doubts). I say “forceful killing” because the animals try to resist the imminent killing. After all no creature wants to die so he or she can be a steak or a nugget for you.
I believe that objectifying and exploiting sentient beings is unethical, and killing them is immoral. It’s totally unnecessary and carried out merely to please our appetite. Imagine a farmer raising a dog or a cat, fattening them up and then, at a very young age, sending then to slaughter; would you consider that humane? What’s the difference between that and doing the same with a cow, a pig, or a chicken?
Another distortion regarding “humane” certified meat is that it’s not regulated, standardized, or verified. According to Market Watch which explored the issue (since it’s not only an animal welfare issue but also a marketing one) ““Humanely raised” and “free range” — and all other “humane” claims, such as “animal friendly” or “raised in a stress free environment” — are loosely defined, so that practices only slightly better than conventional farming can count. “Pasture raised” has no regulated definition. Those claims, meanwhile, aren’t verified, since the USDA doesn’t visit farms to check them. Producers simply submit information about their practices for review.”
I worked as a Regulatory specialist in the most regulated industry, pharmaceutical and medical devices, and I know firsthand what is required for a company to comply with regulations. It’s not only the existence of regulations that dictates the company’s conduct, it’s also the firm hand of a governmental regulatory agency that ensures compliance through various means, including planned and unannounced inspections and legal enforcement. When there are no regulations, inspections or enforcement, and when standards are not required to be met, as is the case with “humane” meat, it’s not difficult to guess how any business or industry will operate – in the most cost saving manner. And it’s also a no brainer to realize who pays dearly for it, the animals, with their pain, blood and life.
For example, the American Humane Association certifies the raising of more than 1 billion animals as being “humane”, and one of their clients is Foster Farms. Mercy For Animals undercover video last June shows abuse and torture both in their raising facility and slaughterhouse, such as chickens being slammed into metal shackles and punched while still alive and other horrific torture. Another investigation documented the horrendous methods of killing sick and injured day-old birds at a turkey hatchery also operated by Foster Farms. If you bought their chicken or turkey, perhaps you felt good seeing the beautiful American Humane Certified seal, however, it is no more than a false and misleading piece of paper.
According to Consumer Reports “the American Humane Association program does not require certain standards that consumers are likely to expect from a welfare label, and producers can be certified without fulfilling 100% of the requirements”. Also “many of the requirements in the American Humane standards mirror the conventional industry’s practices, and livestock producers do not have to meet all of the requirements to be certified.”
Whole Foods’ “Humanely” raised pork supplier, Sweet Stem Farm’s website stated: “unwavering commitment to the humane treatment of our animals” and refer to their products as “happy meat.” However, PETA’s eyewitness testimony, pictures and video tell a different story. “The pigs observed by our eyewitness were never given the opportunity to touch the farm’s lush green grass. They spent almost all their time crammed into crowded sheds on concrete floors. Some of the pigs were allotted about 5 square feet of floor space each. The only time the pigs were ever outside was when they were trucked from one shed to another, put on a scale to be weighed, or sent to slaughter. Some pigs were kept in semi-darkness deep inside a barn.”
And, “PETA’s eyewitness saw obviously sick and injured pigs’ condition worsen for days or even weeks. If a veterinarian did provide these animals with care, the observer never saw it, despite more than two months of working full-time at the farm.”
Those examples are not anecdotal, there are more. And think about other suppliers which have not been discovered, after all, the USDA does not inspect them and how many Mercy For Animals or PETA undercover operations are there? And if this kind of abuse takes place at “humane” certified suppliers, you can imagine, and also see and read, what’s happening in factory farms (where over 99% of farm animals in the U.S. are raised).
Another eye opening fact is that some of the inhumane standard procedures that are practiced in factory farms are the same as in “humane” farms. One example is debeaking, cutting the beaks of young chickens and turkeys with hot blades without anesthesia, or the painful castration of piglets. According to Texas Tech University “In the USA virtually all males are physically castrated at a young age (predominantly) with no anesthesia or analgesia (pain relief).” It is done to prevent the odor in pig meat, known as “boar taint”. You can find plenty of information and videos on how to castrate piglets, such as, the Pig Site Forum, The Castration Process (A Short HowTo). Even if you paid a premium for “humanely” raised pigs, the bacon, ham and pork you ate, were cute innocent piglets whose testicles were removed painfully and violently.
I believe that wanting to feel good about ourselves is human nature. Denial is one way to handle the paradox of eating the flesh of tortured, dead creatures, and thinking we are moral and decent people who never victimized defenseless non-human animals. What people want to imagine regarding “humane” meat is rosy but it’s an illusion, the reality is ghastly, and you pay for the animals’ demise.
Next time you eat the flesh of an animal, “humane” certified or not, please imagine how she suffered with her brothers and sisters, and how he was brutally killed against his will. Then, you can choose between looking the other way and betraying your moral code, or aligning yourself with core values, such as fairness and non-violence, and making it the last needless death you have contributed to.
The Huffington Post American Humane Certified Is Out of Step on the Meaning of “Humane”
Los Angeles Times Undercover video sheds light on turkey slaughter
The Washington Times Another Whole Foods mess: Abuse alleged at pig farm linked to chain
Picture “See No Evil. Hear No Evil. Speak No Evil” (Willful Ignorance), courtesy of Dana Ellyn, danaellyn.com