‘Humane’ Meat: Don’t Believe the Hype
“Free-range”. “Grass-fed”. “Humane-certified”. “High-welfare”. “Organic”. We’ve all seen these misleading markers slapped onto the carcasses of dead animals and may even have wanted to believe them – but they all conceal the same exploitation and bloodshed.
These labels appeal to people with uneasy consciences who are looking for excuses not to change their habits. But put simply, treating animals ethically means not ending their lives just to satisfy your preference for a certain flavour of protein. Virtually every animal raised for meat ends his or her life in a terrifying abattoir filled with the stench of death, where they will be shackled, electrocuted or gassed, have their throats sliced open, and sometimes plunged into a tank of scalding water while still conscious and able to feel pain.
Considering the token gestures towards animal welfare on some supposedly ethical farms, PETA founder Ingrid E Newkirk makes this telling analogy: “Yes, kicking the dog six times a week instead of seven is marginally better, but that doesn’t mean that we should go around suggesting that people kick the dog, just not as often, does it?” Giving animals a few extra inches in their prison cells hardly makes up for a lifetime of imprisonment, mutilation and misery, followed by an early death.
It’s also worth remembering that on many farms that call themselves “humane” or “high-welfare”, animals are kept in shockingly cruel conditions. Hillside Animal Sanctuary recently went undercover on a pig farm that is certified under the RSPCA’s “Freedom Foods” scheme. What they found there is the stuff of nightmares: semi-paralysed pigs in clear distress, struggling to get up from the faeces-covered floor of the dark barn that they are kept in.
Here’s their deeply upsetting video footage:
This is hardly the first time that supposedly “high-welfare” farms have been exposed as being anything but. In 2012, for example, an Animal Aid investigation discovered that five meat producers who had won industry awards for being “the best farmers in the country” were guilty of appalling mistreatment of chickens, cows and pigs. This included forcing animals to live in bare enclosures on slatted floors or among piles of their own excrement, leaving dead and dying animals in pens with their living companions, confining sows to farrowing crates too small for them to move around in and cutting off pigs’ tails, thereby causing illness and painful infections. Several of these farms were certified under the Red Tractor or Freedom Foods schemes, adding hypocrisy to the list of their crimes against compassion.
Next time you’re shopping for groceries, please look beyond the label to the animal who was robbed of his or her life to be turned into a piece of meat. If you care about animals at all and want to tuck into your next meal with a clear conscience, make sure it’s a vegan one. A diet based on plants is the only kind in which kindness is truly guaranteed.