Sunday, December 12, 2004

Humane Slaughter and Factory Farming

We ate the chicken. It was delicious. Farmer Boy said it was the best chicken he's ever had. At which Stephen said, "So I take it you've changed your mind about becoming a vegetarian?" Apparently the sight of the chicken's death had temporarily had him considering becoming a vegetarian again (he was until he was almost four).

So, as promised, my thoughts on raising animals for slaughter...

Let me start by saying I haven't eaten lamb since I was seven. I stopped then because I couldn't bear the idea of such a sweet little creature being sacrificed for my dinner.

I became a vegetarian when I was 20 and remained one for 11 years. When I did start eating meat again it was for health reasons, and was a rather agonizing decision that involved a lot of prayer.

I have always loved animals, and I find myself talking at great length with our animals and calling them "honey" and "sweetie". Yes, even the chickens.

So killing them for dinner?

When I did start eating meat again, I made a promise to myself that I would never forget that it was a real animal that I was eating, and that I would remember to be thankful for the life of the animal. I bought whole chickens to help myself grasp this. Despite the fact that it is missing a significant number of parts that make it look like a live chicken, a whole chicken at the grocery store is a lot more obviously an animal than a styrofoam package of boneless breasts.

So number one: I do know I am eating an animal.

Number two: While it appears that animals were not eaten before Noah's time, after that they have been. I also know that my body (and mind) function so much better now that I have meat in my diet. I know that God provides for our physical needs, and I believe that animals are part of this. I suspect heaven will be like the Garden of Eden, no one eating each other. But what do I know? I am a romantic. I imagine all creatures living in harmony. Here, we simply aren't. And when all is said and done, I will choose to eat meat and be a more coherent mother to my children than abstain and be in a fog all day like I used to be.

And number three, to which I have only recently come: If you eat meat, you should not eat factory meat. From a human perspective it far less helathy for consumption (high rate of contamination, lots of medications given due to crowded unsanitary conditions causing unnatural rates of disease, etc). From a humane perspective, well it just isn't. Plain and simple, factory farming is cruel. There is a complete disregard for the welfare of the animals... the only value considered is the bottom line. If you don't believe me, google "factory farming" and prepare to be horrified. It just might turn you into a vegetarian.

You have probably seen The Meatrix. If not, take 10 minutes and learn some new things... it is well worth the time. It is pretty tame, no actual photos; it's a cartoon.

So my personal goals, as a farmer raising animals for slaughter, are:
1) to provide the healthiest and happiest life an animal could hope for, in a farm setting, which to me includes lots of sunshine, good food, safety, no junk, and us genuinely loving being with them and demonstrating that to them
2) to practice the most humane methods of slaughter we can find

Okay, so that's me. But I live on a farm, we do raise animals for our own meat. We know what they eat, where they live, if they've been sick, who's tops in the pecking order, etc. What about you? Do you eat meat? Live in the city? Want to eat humanely raised meat?

I have ideas for you! :-) For starters, you can buy from us! ;-) Well, eventually. But really, support your local farmer. This is far more important than I ever grasped, not just for farmers, but for the future of the world as we know it. Look for a farmer's market in your area, or a consumer supported agriculture (CSA) farm. If you have neither, ask at your local health food store about the farms that they buy from. Check out this website that has lots of links to help you find local food:

Sustainable Table's Shopping Guide

I challenge you: the next time you walk into a grocery store, look around and think about this: Someone, somewhere had to grow everything in front of you. Who did it, and where? Kinda freaky, eh?

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