As a vegan, I’ve heard all the arguments, but can meat really be obtained ethically, and which methods are the least cruel, or in this case ethical?
I’ve learnt something very big as a vegan, both about other people and myself, and that is, people are very protective of their lifestyles, whether they are vegan or omnivore, so for us vegans, when it comes to protecting or justifying the way we live our lives, we become very accustomed to answering many questions and arguments that are put against our ethical ways of living, one of the biggest arguments being: “But they don’t feel anything,” or, “I only buy high quality free range meat.”
So today, I plan on exploring this argument, on a mission to understand really, if meat can be ethical.
Firstly, which method is least ethical? Factory Farming! A method in which production and profit are placed above all else. Practices in factory farming are not only cruel to animals; they are a detriment to the surrounding environment and community.
Conditions – There’s an infamous saying, “packing pigs pays,” which means just that. Animals in factory farming are crammed together in tight, damp, dark, and dirty places, where they rarely see daylight, and are generally, depending on the animal, not let outside. If they are let outside, it will usually be a stockyard compound, which is void of any greenery for natural foraging.
Treatment – Even when animals have their basic earthling rights stripped from them, it won’t stop their natural sentiency. When animals become bored or stressed, they are prone to lash out on each other. Practices like debeaking, teeth clipping and tail docking are very normal, for without these things, there is a less likelihood the victim animal will be damaged for futures sales. These practices are also done without anaesthetics, since this would be both time and cost ineffective. Antibiotics are also used early in Factory Farming in order to prevent bacterial infection, though there are growing concerns of antibiotic resistance, and cross contamination when a human eats the meat of the animal.
Slaughter – The slaughter process is a standard genocide-like mess. But here the questions about ethicality come in, considering the process the animals go through before their premature death. In the UK, all animals, with the exception of some religious practices, undergo two to three main stages of slaughter:
- Stunning – The animal is stunned, resulting in loss of consciousness, and in most cases, pain.
- Sticking– The animal has its throat slit to sever major arteries to ensure rapid death…or…
- Gassing – The animal is both stunned and killed by entering a CO2 gas chamber.
Conclusion – You would have to be pretty stubborn to argue that the facts above are in no way cruel. Even if the animal makes it to its “painless” death, there is no denying the life it’s lead to that point has been traumatising and immoral. If you wish to avoid aiding this type of business, you can choose veganism or vegetarianism, or at least opt for the lesser of two evils:
Compared to Factory Farming, Organic Farming has been put in place not just for the animal’s welfare, but also to help the surrounding environment and community, however, it is still not without its issues.
Conditions – Organically reared animals are generally subjected to “True Free Range” conditions, which means animals have access to pasture, providing weather permits it. However, the laws are still currently askew, where certain meat and slaughter businesses can label their products as Free Range, when really, the animals have no access to outdoors whatsoever. As a rule for now, in the UK, there are currently no Free Range laws for pigs, meaning if you see the words “Free Range” on any pork product, the retailer is in fact lying to you, though there is also no law forbidding them from doing this.
Treatment – Antibiotics, which are prevalent in factory farming, are not used in organic farming, which is not necessarily a good thing, meaning if an animal has an infection, it is usually left unattended in organic farming, as treating infection with antibiotics will void the organic certification. Organic animals also endure the exact same treatment as factory animals when it comes to the practices of dehorning, debeaking, castration, hot iron branding and foraging prevention piercings. Antibiotics are not to be confused with anaesthetics during mutilation.
Slaughter – Unfortunately, most organic meat farming still constitutes the same steps as factory farming. Animals are still crammed and shipped into otherwise boiling or freezing trucks and lorries and are eventually delivered to the same abattoirs as the factory animals. If organic animals are slaughtered on the premises of their birth, they will still undergo much the same process:
- Stunning – The animal is stunned, resulting in loss of consciousness, and in most cases, pain.
- Sticking– The animal has its throat slit to sever major arteries to ensure rapid death.
Conclusion – As you can see, Organic meat farming is almost identical to that of factory meat farming. PETA president Ingrid Newkirk, once said, “Do you think the chicken under the cellophane, was pleased it was pesticide free and organic before or even after its slaughter?”
______________BUT WHAT ABOUT…______________
RSPCA Assured – Formally known as Freedom Food, this means the farm has undergone a strict criterion to ensure the animal’s welfare before its slaughter. This can include things like space, light, bedding, transport and “humane” slaughter. If you decide to buy meat from the supermarket, check the product packet to see if it has the RSPCA Assured label.
The idea the RSPCA has a Higher Welfare Food Label, has sparked some controversy from vegans and vegetarians, with the argument that the charity is in a sense “promoting” animal slaughter. As stated on their website, the RSPCA have mentioned that they are aware the majority of the UK population chose to eat meat, and that their idea of the label is there to ensure animals have the best in their short lives before their slaughter, and until more people opt to be vegan.
The issue with this is that animals are still subjected to the same slaughter processes, meaning they are still killed prematurely, and in the case of veal, are usually stripped from their mothers at birth.
Halal – In the UK, Muslim animal slaughter is exempt from the legal requirements to stun their animals before they are slaughtered. Whilst most (around 84%) of halal meat abattoirs do adhere to stunning, many still do not, meaning the animal is strung up, and has its throat slit without any form of stunning, meaning the animal is very much conscious whilst it bleeds out, which for some larger animals such as cattle, can take up to an agonising 40 seconds before they pass out from blood loss.
Shechita and Kosher– Jewish faith also has their own methods of animal slaughter, which like the Muslim faith, are outside the animal stunning requirement law in the UK. If a stunning is performed before the slaughter, the meat is rendered unfit for Jewish consumption. Shechita is performed by a trained slaughterer, known as a Shochet, who will use a Chalef, a surgical styled blade to deliver a swift incision that will sever the blood vessels in the neck, resulting in a loss of blood pressure to the brain, and therefore consciousness.
There are many rules required for Shechita, and Judaism takes the slaughter of animals very seriously, stating that a man who treats animals poorly, is likely to do the same to his fellow man. They also state that stunning has no real evidence to suggest the animal is unconscious, rather just unable to portray their pain during temporary paralysis.
So is kosher meat the way to go? Well, from the facts acquired, it would seem it is the least cruel, even if stunning is not part of the slaughtering process. Having said that, if it is being observed from a vegan’s point of view, which it is, it is still the taking of a fellow earthling’s life, regardless of whether it is an integral part to Jewish faith.
______________SO WHAT NOW?______________
At the end of the day, it is quite clear the procurement of meat is very much an unethical one. Whilst there are many precautions in place to suggest otherwise, there are too many moral arguments against it.
Whilst there are efforts put in place to reduce the suffering of animals on organic or factory farms, such as RSPCA Assured, Red tractor, and Soil Association, it must be noted that these, although of good intention, can also be seen as flashy excuses to continue the consumption of sentient beings, beings who may not be aware of their impending demise, but are very aware of the pain and discomfort they are subjected to leading up to their slaughter.
As human beings, we need to understand that animals would not exist if it weren’t for their intelligent intuitive natures, stimulated by their awareness of their surroundings. All animals with a nervous system feel pain, and have a desire to live, regardless of their unawareness of slaughtering practices.
Oxford Dictionary Definition of Slaughter: The killing of a large number of people or animals in a cruel or violent way.
If you are reading this as a non-vegan or vegetarian, I hope the facts above have given you some newfound knowledge on the matter. If not, I want you to ask yourself a few things:
1. Now you are educated on the above, will you within all honesty, continue to purchase meat without any conscious decision?
2. If you feel as though the slaughtering of animals is not a cruel act, I suggest you test your insensitivity and visit an abattoir, and maybe even take your children. If you are insulted by this suggestion, then your morals have succeeded, and you know deep down the act of slaughter is a cruel one.
3. If you think eating meat is an ancestral human right, are you absolutely sure you are not using this as an excuse to avoid showing your true feelings, at the cost you will be branded as a lesser person? Because believe me, protecting life is enormously braver and commendable, than taking life.
4. Or, If you think eating meat is an ancestral human right, are you absolutely sure you are not using this as an excuse to avoid the fact you have no other arguments to justify the fact you like the taste of dead flesh?
5. If you use animals for anything including meat, and find yourself justifying your choices, are you sure you’re not using your justification to hide the fact that you, an intelligent human being, with capabilities that outmatch many other earthlings, are indeed reliant on animals for your comforts?
I understand this is a very controversial topic, and I must stress now, I am in no way condemning anybody’s religious beliefs. I also know there are many types of slaughter I may have left out, so if I offend, I apologise. You live the life you want, providing you hurt no other doing it. But this is a blog about animal and human rights, and from the information I have gathered, the acquiring of meat, is hurting others.
You may also have a different view on what constitutes ethicality. Here at OrionNebbs.com, my view on ethicality is a world where animals are no longer exploited. Until the day comes when animals have evolved to match the intelligence of humans, and out rightly “offer” themselves to us, is the day I will change my views on what is and what isn’t ethical.