Whatever you eat, there’s better ways to make meat
There are lots of things in our lives that cause animal, human or environmental harm. Some we already know about. Others we blindly ignore until an intrepid investigator breaks the story.
Even the most innovative or seemingly innocent products can have a murky past. Angry Birds loses its fun when you consider the Apple workers committing suicide in China. And Valentine’s Day becomes ever so slightly more nauseating when you learn that those chocolates you bought the mother of your children may have furthered the slave trade of other children in Africa (at least, that’s what I told her when I forgot to buy them).
Human actions always seem to have an impact somewhere in the world. All we can do is try to mitigate or fix the problem once we are made aware and move on better for it. Except, it seems, with meat production.
I read an article yesterday exploring this very topic. That now the glass walls of the slaughterhouse are up, in the guise of secretly recorded video footage, we have an opportunity to embrace empathy in order to return suffering animals, and ourselves, some dignity.
While I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t think this vague romanticism is the answer.
I’m a committed vegetarian, trying to be a committed vegan, and now that I have discovered a soy cheese that doesn’t make me want to kill myself, there is some hope I may actually get there.
I have been aware of the suffering associated with meat for a long time. Of course, that doesn’t make me intelligent enough, nor put me in a position of authority to argue the finer intricacies of whether or not the wider public should continue to eat animals. Greater minds than mine have argued that point and found no resolution.
Avoiding meat works for me, it might not work for you, and that’s fine.
But as a relatively compassionate human being, I am in a position to ask if there is a better way to source it. The phrase “humane killing” may appear somewhat of an oxymoron, but there is merit in it.
If our pets are sick, and treatment will only prolong the suffering, we put them to sleep. Killing them, yes, but as humanely as possible. (More humanely, in fact, than we allow ourselves in similar circumstances.)
So in the 21st century how is it that we cannot, or will not, find a better way to process the millions of animals we send in fear and agony to their deaths, simply because we were going to eat them anyway?
A blade might be cheap and relatively quick, but I would hope that many of the meat-eating population would gladly pay a few extra cents for their food if they knew the animal they were about to tuck into had not suffered in order to keep production lines and profits moving. Chances are you might even convert a few wavering vegetarians back to the BBQ.
The recent footage from that “rogue” Hawkesbury abattoir displays some pretty awful acts. Whether these are in actuality representative of what happens in slaughterhouses in general is a matter of some contention, but it should be noted that the abattoir in question had passed four separate inspections in the past year alone.
Modern media works wonders in raising the plight of animal cruelty in situations such as this. But it can also serve to desensitise us. These stories ensure that even the most sheltered understand the basic premise that in order to eat meat animals must die. We don’t necessarily need to view the video nasties to know that this process takes place in an abattoir and it will be unpleasant.
Of course, the recent push for CCTV monitoring in all abattoirs, properly managed, will certainly help ensure that standards are maintained and rogue operations become a thing of the past. Already several large supermarket chains in the UK have demanded such monitoring—and we can only hope big brand Australian chains stop butchering their adverts long enough to take note. Animal welfare would certainly be a unique selling point.
But CCTV is only a start. Because the standards as they stand still allow for unnecessary cruelty and we can do better.
Yesterday’s article raised the usual heated commentary, pitting meat eaters against “tree huggers”. Yet debating whether we should / should not eat meat will get us nowhere, and the lack of agreement will ensure the shaky middle ground continues to be followed.
Eating meat is part of our culture and will not soon disappear. The world turning vegan overnight is not an option.
So surely the more important question to ask is one of human, rather than dietary, evolution. Ignorance is no longer an excuse. We are aware of the problem of animal suffering in slaughterhouses, so can we fix it and move on better for the act?
The answer is, simply, yes. If we afford our pampered pets compassion in their final moments, it is not a great stretch to do the same for those animals who sacrifice their lives for our food.
There will be more stories like this in the coming months. And more angry exchanges about meat being murder, alfalfa feeling pain too and a general chorus of “it’s nature, deal with it.”
Well, it might be nature for other animals. But we are human. Top (arguably—see sharks) of the food chain for a reason. We don’t live in a repetitive age-old cycle of kill or be killed. Each day on our journey we find other, better, ways of living our lives. Wherever we started out, we’re not there anymore.
We don’t wander around naked (mostly), we have fire at the flick of a switch and we have a fantastic farming network that provides us with more choice of what to eat than any other creature on the planet.
We evolved. And we continue to evolve.
Take a moment, wherever you’re reading this: maybe in a newspaper, on your computer, on your phone. Think about it. Clearly we’re not cavemen. Animal cruelty is simply unnecessary in any walk of modern life. Vegan, vegetarian or meat eater, we should all be able to agree on that.
If evolution has taught us anything it’s that there is always a better way. For humanity’s sake, and for the animals in those slaughterhouses, we should try and find it.
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