Eating Humanely Raised Animals

untitledThe fact that people are bringing up the concern of eating humanely raised, grass-fed, free-range, factory-farm-free, organic animals is a step closer to embracing the much needed change within modern agriculture

Dairy cows are kept lactating, milked to the brink of death and then sent for slaughter.  Their male calves are most often sent to veal crates. A veal crate is a tiny crate that the calf is confined, in order to minimise the calf’s movement, as movement causes the calf’s muscles to harden. A relatively immobile calf results in more tender meat. Yes we are that barbaric.

Goats and sheep share the same fate as cows and pigs. Lambs (baby sheep) experience a similar fate to calves used for veal.

Despite fish-farming, there are no real rules for fishing methods or slaughter (besides the loosely administered amount of catch regulated), its pretty much catch whatever you want, how you want it, hence the result that most of the seas are fished out, with several once very common fish species now listed as endangered.

Fish, crustaceans and other sea creatures have a proven intelligence and sentience and are able to experience pain, contrary to the dogmatic views of fisherman who claim that fish don’t feel pain or experience a higher order of intelligence – ignorance is bliss for the perpetrator, not the victim.

The highlighted existences of the animals described above are common practice and are how the majority of human meat is supplied. Whilst some farming methods may differ in raising the animals, all animals share similar ways of being slaughtered – bare in mind the above-mentioned processes of slaughter are considered as the most ‘humane’.

Before humans domesticated chickens, they were naturally free ranging, all animals were naturally organic, cows and sheep were natural grazers and fish were free to swim without being caught in a 5 kilometre long drift net. Modern agriculture has resulted in humans creating the worst possible farming systems for animal welfare but ensure the most economical value retrieved from the animals. Farmers created and adopted these inhumane, cruel and unnatural practices due to an increasing demand and essentially humane alternatives are now required to oppose what the farmers originally created.

Our measurement for humane practices is not based on nature intended systems, such as the area originally occupied by a herd of cows or flock of chickens in the wild. Instead our definition for humane practices is based on unnatural agricultural standards, meaning our measurements for granting a humane existence for the farmed animals is based on how they were previously being farmed and not based on the original livelihood and natural existence of the animals. What the ‘humane’ consumer is opting for is a choice of lesser evils of farming practices, rather than prescribing nature intended alternatives.

A nature intended practice would be to leave the animal to live a life as closely related to a natural existence as possible, uninterfered by humans – to live in a natural ecological biodiversity, no castration, no separation of male and female or mother and off spring, no modified diet, no drug administration, no manipulation of natural biodiversity’s (killing of possible predators or modifying land for grazing) essentially returning the animal to the wild.

The humane/lesser evil approach is to give the farmed animal slightly more space (free-range), a monitored ‘natural’ diet (grass fed) or free of drugs (organic & grass fed) – no humane alternatives address debeaking, castration, tail chopping, teeth trimming, mixing male and female species, adequate space to form separate herds/flocks or reintroducing the animal into a natural bio-diversity. Of course a natural intended practice is considered absurd by most because it threatens potential economic value, the same was said about agricultural practices regarding plants but permaculture has proved that through mimicking a nature-intended system, demand can still be met.

A true solution for ‘humane alternatives’ should be based on removing humans from the process of raising the animals, choosing to adopt processes that mimic nature intended ecological systems, rather than slight improvements to existing inhumane agricultural processes.

Whilst it may be possible to reach a ‘humane’ alternative by essentially removing humans and basing ‘raising’ processes on mimicking nature intended systems, we are still left with the confusing and contradicting dilemma of how to humanely slaughter or kill an animal.

humane – having or showing compassion or benevolence.

compassion – sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

benevolence – the quality of being well meaning; kindness.

All of the definitions, and sub-definitions of ‘humane’ relate to practices of raising life, this makes sense when raising an animal or human, however being ‘humane’ has nothing to do with processes relating to killing or slaughtering. There is no humane, compassionate, benevolent approach in killing something, be it animal or human.

Perhaps we arrived at the idea of ‘humanely killing’ by the notion of criminals sentenced to death through electrocution, lethal injection, hanging, gas chamber or firing squad. Now these may seem as the most ‘humane killing’ forms, but are somewhat contradictory. Besides ‘mercy killing’ for those who consciously choose to die, how can one be kind and compassionate through killing another? Anyone who has been subject to ‘humane killings’ are not with us to share the experience of whether their death portrayed any forms of compassion or benevolence or humanity. It seems that we have arrived at a conclusion of humanely killing through comparing ways to kill. Dying from a lethal injection seems better than being hacked up, which seems better than being slowly dipped in acid from the feet down.

Just because we have the ability to kill in horrific ways, does not mean that killing in a less horrific way is any better, again, it is more a matter of lesser evils.

Surely the most humane thing to do is show compassion or benevolence by not killing at all?

The correct phrasing for seeking ways to kill or slaughter: To either support the humane approach and not kill or not slaughter, or choose the lesser evil option of stunning the cow then slicing the its neck, instead of slicing the cows neck, without stunning it.

Our inhumanity is what causes the need for humane approaches; sadly, it is the unfortunate reality of humankind. We had to enslave humans to realize that no human is to be a slave to another; we had racism (and still do) but for some it taught us all colours are equal; we still clash over religious and cultural differences. We inflict cruelty and exploit farmed animals for food and by-products, only to (hopefully) eventually all learn that farmed animals are intelligent and sentient beings, equal to the animals we have as pets and ultimately equal to all life, including us.

Ultimately, we will reach a point of total equality of all living life, which will undoubtedly result in massive systematic changes within humanity and society. When we reach that point, being humane will no longer be an option as we will treat all life equally and from a point of compassion and benevolence, without having to seek lesser evils disguised as ‘humane’ alternatives.

The key remembrances is to realize that the humane excuse is more to appease the consumers guilt rather than affecting the welfare of the animal. Humane practices exist only because of our inhumanity, and whilst humane practices are presented as options they are instead lesser evils of cruel and unnecessary practices, not solutions. We may eventually reach a point of truly being humane in ‘raising’ practices through mimicking nature intended processes, but there will never be a humane approach to slaughter or kill. No life or animal should ever be valued on an economical scale and no animal should ever be killed or slaughtered in the name of products, desires or needs of the flawed human mentality.

Written by : Davey Du Plessis






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