While I don’t think about it much, when I do I am appalled at the factory farming method of raising pigs and chickens (and other animals) so we can eat them (and in the case of chickens I guess you can say eat their young before they are even born).
I’m talking about those giant swine factories where the poor mother pigs (sows) spend their entire pregnancy (and life I guess) in a cage barely big enough to move around in.
Not all pigs are raised that way, but I imagine the bulk of the pork we eat is.
In times past the common method or a common method was to let the critters roam in pastures or range land. Pigs can root up all kinds of things to eat. In the parts where I live or nearby they used to roam the valley floor and hillsides, feeding on acorns from oak trees when in season.
Even in the proverbial hog pen or pig sty at least the critters can move around in a healthy manner. But in the factory farm method space is money. Raise more pigs in a smaller space.
(Oh, and I raised some pigs as a teenager in Future Farmers of America. They do like to wallow in mud if they can. They have no pores in their skin, and it’s a way for them to cool down in the hot weather. They are actually clean and intelligent animals by nature.)
And we all know how most chickens spend their lives in coops.
Then there is the way we kill the poor things. What got me going on this little essay is a video I saw of chickens fresh off the truck, still alive, hung upside down, sent down a line through a machine that slices their heads off. According to the video narration, some of them manage to survive by moving their head at the last moment. But then they can’t survive the next step, being dipped in scalding water.
(And do any of you recall that absurd and gruesome video with Sarah Palin that circulated on the web? The one where in the background someone was pushing live turkeys upside down into a mechanical contraption that mutilated their heads. My dad told me that my grandmother Walther used to go out to the yard and grab a chicken with a cane and then chop its head off for the day’s dinner. Somehow that seems a little more humane. But I have a cousin born and raised on the farm where my grandmother did this and he told me he can’t stand the sight of an animal being killed. His dad raised sheep, and as I recall he didn’t like the killing either and let someone else do the dirty work.)
Trying to come up with a more humane way to slaughter animals in our food chain is something like trying to come up with a humane system of capital punishment, somehow nothing seems appealing or satisfying to the conscience, that is unless you get off on killing…
But as consumers we really ought to give some thought to it and put pressure on the meat producing industry.
Capital punishment is a different subject and I should not have conflated the two, I was just trying to come up with a simile of sorts. I’ll stick to the question of killing animals to eat from here down:
Hey, I’m no vegetarian. And I know where hamburger comes from or how it is made.
I did tour a cattle slaughter plant once. It was a relatively small one. I have to say, while not the most appealing thing to watch, I did not witness anything inhumane at that particular one. The cow, fresh off the truck, was held in a small chute, and before the poor thing knew what was coming it was stunned with a metal rod between the eyes that came shooting out of a gun. Next, the unconscious animal’s throat was slit after being hoisted upside down on a cable. Then the carcass, bleeding out along the way, moved into the slaughter house. There its hide was mechanically ripped off. And then of course the carcass was cut up into everything from the finest steaks to hamburger.
Not fun to even think about but I don’t think there was really any pain for the animal.
But we have all read and probably even have seen some videos of animals being mistreated at slaughter houses while they are being held to kill. And we’ve seen diseased and disabled animals abused, drug along on the ground.
So, if I had my preference there would be no factory farms, and the handling of animals would be as humane as possible, and the killing of them would be too.
But I am like most consumers, I’m not likely to take any immediate action in that regard myself. But if there were some way I could support such a movement that was practical I would.
I do often buy so-called “free range” or “cage free” eggs, but more from habit than anything else. I mean the brand I buy always seems good. I have read that even when chickens are raised in the so-called free range or cage free methods the eggs can be just as contaminated with various bacteria as those from caged ones if not more so. But maybe it is more humane to the creatures.
Humans eating meat and using animal products is something I accept, but I would not mind a bit if all the factory farms were done away with and if all those who mistreat or basically torture animals were prevented from doing so.
The industry will cry: the cost, the cost, the consumer will have to pay the cost.
Yes, doing the right thing can have its costs.
In my real job, as a truck driver, I sometimes haul poultry products and other meat products. So I profit from the industry myself. I’m still for humane treatment of animals, at least as humane as practical.