Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Humane Eating

Have you ever watched an animal hunt and eat its prey? I’m not talking about The Nature Channel here. I’m talking about watching live and in person as an animal tears into another animal’s flesh and eats it while the animal is still struggling; seen the terror in the prey’s eyes while the skin was pulled off its legs; or watched the animal, with its torso splayed open, struggle to gasp a few last breaths.

It is extremely difficult and wrenching to watch. The very thought of it still puts a lump in my throat. Yet it is part of the natural order of life, and it is only through that prey’s death that the predator is given life.

I have heard many vegan and animal rights activists say that because humans have the capacity for reason and morality, we have an obligation to be compassionate to our fellow beings on the planet, where animals do not have that capacity therefore they are not wrong to eat other animals in the manner that they do.

I agree adamantly and wholeheartedly.

And yet I eat meat, eggs and dairy. I wear leather. I use non-vegan adhesives, waxes and medications. Why? Because I believe that by using modern farming methods, we are absolutely living up to that moral obligation to be compassionate to our fellow beings.

By buying from practitioners of modern farming methods, I know that the animals that gave me my meat, eggs, leather and other products were properly fed with scientifically formulated meals designed to be absolutely optimal for their health and development. I know they were kept healthy with regular veterinary care and very close attention to their health. I know that a great deal of time and attention was paid to their overall well-being, from the time they were conceived to the moment they died. And I know that when it came time for their lives to end, it was quick, painless, and the entire process was as stress-free as possible.

Yes, really.

Cows raised using modern farming methods give four times as much milk as cows raised in the ‘40s (more details). That increased production is a direct result of the improved nutrition and animal care that marks modern animal husbandry methods. Animals that are stressed and unhealthy do not give larger quantities of milk.

In the end, I absolutely and firmly believe that as sentient beings, we have an obligation to be responsible in our interactions with animals. Animals have no sense of right and wrong, only instinct and need. While it is normal and natural for an animal to kill and eat another creature while it is still writhing in pain and terror, that is absolutely not acceptable for humans. Nor is it acceptable to treat other creatures (human or animal) cruelly or inhumanely.

I also absolutely and firmly believe that modern livestock production methods are the epitome of good animal care. Yes, there are exceptions, as in any industry. But the vast majority of ranchers are unequivocally dedicated to responsible and humane animal care. If you doubt this, I encourage you to do research and visit a farm so you can see for yourself.

And if you are in the livestock industry, I wholeheartedly encourage you to tell your story. If you don’t, someone else will.