In a recent Salon article, journalist and author James McWilliams discusses “humane meat” as a contradiction in terms.
Factory farming is cruel. There’s no debate there. Even the majority of meat eaters agree that modern farming practices are unacceptable. Many say they’d prefer the animals were raised humanely on organic farms. Unfortunately, farms where pigs, cows, and chickens roam freely in meadows don’t exist outside of fairytales. Even if they did, isn’t “humane slaughter” an oxymoron? Ethicists have long debated this very question.
According to McWilliams:
The primary problem with condemning factory farming while continuing to eat animals from nonindustrial sources comes down to this basic point: doing so demands selective moral consideration.
How is a pig killed for pork any different from a dog or cat who cuddles with you on the couch? The answer is simple: he isn’t.
McWilliams further states:
The rationale applied to animals in factory farms goes something like this: animals have feelings that are worthy of our moral consideration; animals are not objects; their welfare matters; therefore they do not deserve the abusive confines and unavoidable suffering of factory farms. These beliefs assume that animals have emotional lives, experience suffering as a result of being raised inhumanely, and thus have moral relevance. This recognition means that animals’ capacity to suffer, while perhaps different in degree from our own, is nonetheless meaningful and familiar enough for humans to demand that animals be spared the abuses endemic to industrial animal agriculture.
So what does “humane” mean to the factory farming industry? See for yourself. Check out this undercover video recorded at a Foster Farms facility that was certified as humane by American Humane Association:
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