The New York Times has the results from when they posed the question, “is it ethical to eat meat?” The finalists, with one or two exceptions, are quite interesting. Certainly, when it comes to opinions about food, everyone has one, and the judges emphasized the variety of the opinions, and interestingly, the near unanimous belief that CAFOs are unethical (I’m with Pollan on that one). The only other topic at the NYT which seems to generate as much diversity of opinion, and frankly insane commentary, is child-rearing. But what I liked most about these finalists were the three writers who actually participate in making food Stacey Roussel, Justin Green, and the winner Jay Bost. Ethical discussions about food production and the ethics of eating meat never seem to involve enough of the people actually producing food. Here’s some snippets about how these farmers who actually grow food think about the role of animals in farming.

From Roussel:

Production of vegetables without the use of animals requires much larger amounts of energy. In small-scale farming, we use animals to clear fields of vegetation instead of relying only on industrial systems like tractors and herbicides. On our farm, we grow rows of vegetables while green cover crops and weeds fill the spaces in between those rows. After the harvest, dairy goats are grazed to get the land back under control, followed by the chickens that eat most of the remaining vegetation, and then finally with one pass of my tractor, I incorporate what is left back into the soil and plant the next crop. The animals clear vegetation and leave free fertilizer. They build biology in the soil rather than destroy it. Working in the natural order reduces our dependence on outside sources of energy, allowing us to harness the energy that is on-farm. The method leads to a better product, one that is more balanced for my customer, my community, my land, and me.

A farm animal is not a pet or a wild animal fending for itself. The farm animal and the small farmer must cooperate to build a stronger herd or flock; we literally cannot survive without each other. The eating of animals is paramount to the production of food in a system that embraces the whole of reality. This is why eating meat is ethical. To not consume meat means to turn off a whole part of the natural world and to force production of food to move away from regenerative systems and to turn toward a system that creates larger problems for our world.

This brings up a good point. The ethics of farming moves beyond just whether or not killing animals is wrong. After all, you kill tons of animals farming plants. You raze habitat, displace whatever wildlife was living there, you spray pesticides (yes even organic farmers use pesticides), you dump freeze-dried ladybugs all over the place (how organic farmers attack aphids), and when you harvest, clean and transport the food animals, especially insects and small mammals, are going to be killed as a result.

Instead what Roussel is emphasizing is that the costs of not having farm animals participating in the process creates other harms, largely in the form of increased fossil fuel use from farm equipment or fertilizer generated by the Haber process. This is reminiscent of one of Pollan’s strongest arguments against CAFOs, that instead of using animals as a component in the cycle of harvesting energy from the sun, CAFOs have broken the cycle. Instead of cows and chickens and pigs serving roles as producers of fertilizer and eaters of waste, they’ve turned them into producers of waste and eaters of oil. They are fed grain, fertilized by synthetic fertilizer, and their manure, once a beneficial source of nitrogen on the farm, is now an methane-producing environmental catastrophe waiting to happen in some CAFO associated manure lagoon. While economically this appears efficient, this is only if you fail to factor in these other costs, including environmental and work-safety costs of these feeding operations.

These costs I think get factored into many arguments and may be the cause of the rise in vegetarianism. Justin Green’s article, about his transformation from a meat eater, to a vegetarian, then back to a meat-eater after he started farming, emphasizes this point:

Merely understanding these relationships does not provide a sound ethical defense of meat-eating, however. Animals play an essential role in our food system, yet it is undeniable that much of our production has fallen out of balance. It’s not enough to simply ensure the safety and survival of my animals. As fellow sentient creatures with whom I am engaged in a partnership, I have a responsibility to show both respect and benevolence, in life and in death. I can’t think of a moral justification for the industrial-scaled confinement operations that fail to uphold our side of the bargain.

Almost 25 years after deciding it was wrong to eat animals, I now realize that it’s not that simple. There is an ethical option — a responsibility, even — for eating animals that are raised within a sustainable farm system and slaughtered with the compassion necessitated by our relationship. That, in essence, is the deal.

The winner, Jay Bost, also emphasizes the proper role animals have as potential harvesters as solar energy and contributors to the farm ecosystem:

I was convinced that if what you are trying to achieve with an “ethical” diet is least destructive impact on life as a whole on this planet, then in some circumstances, like living among dry, scrubby grasslands in Arizona, eating meat, is, in fact, the most ethical thing you can do other than subsist on wild game, tepary beans and pinyon nuts. A well-managed, free-ranged cow is able to turn the sunlight captured by plants into condensed calories and protein with the aid of the microorganisms in its gut. Sun > diverse plants > cow > human. This in a larger ethical view looks much cleaner than the fossil-fuel-soaked scheme of tractor tilled field > irrigated soy monoculture > tractor harvest > processing > tofu > shipping > human.

Every argument I’ve been in about meat-eating inevitably seems to devolve into attacks on CAFOs, and I agree, they’re ethically indefensible. Not for their scale, but for the way they’ve disrupted the cycle, and in doing so create environmental problems and waste energy. The animals’ existence is not only unpleasant, but actively harmful to the ecosystem and to us. Bost emphasizes the ethics of growing plants can be equally problematic as long as it is based on converting fossil fuels into food rather than solar energy into food.

This will be the major obstacle our agricultural system will face in the next century. In the last century, the boom of industrialized farming allowed us to generate more food than has ever been seen in human history. It is economically efficient, and allowed us to feed not only ourselves but to export food all around the world. In the next century we need to address the fact that this boom occurred largely due to cheap fossil-fuel, not improved agriculture. This is ultimately not sustainable or good for the ecosystem. Industrial agriculture separated out the constituent elements of a farm and amplified them on a massive scale. But without co-ordination between the parts of a farm you lose energy efficiency for the sake of economic efficiency. Instead of having animals provide nitrogen, we use fossil fuels. Their waste then, instead of being reintegrated into the farm, is now a problem, for both the ecosystem and for the humans working and living there. The need to separate out the component parts of agriculture for industrial scaling has generated new problems we have to address if we’re going to continue to feed ourselves.

Ethical farming and ethical eating therefore shouldn’t be an argument about meat, or worse accepting Newkirk’s profoundly ignorant article suggesting energy-inefficient in vitro meat as a replacement (how will it harvest energy from the sun?) but rather a return to some of the lessons that humans learned through thousands of years of trial and error in agriculture. That of a cycle, with the sun as the predominant source of energy, and animals reintegrated into our production system as a beneficial source of nitrogen and a source of farming efficiency. We will not be able to return to a pre-industrial state of agriculture, but instead we will innovate some hybrid of the two. Agriculture on a scale to feed the world, but with a design that recognizes the ideally cyclical nature of carbon and nitrogen fixation that we need to harvest energy efficiently from the sun, and not from oil.

Comments

  1. #1 Mikeb
    May 8, 2012

    I’m a small farmer who raises mixed vegetables and apples for local farmers markets. Our methods here resemble in some ways those of Roussel quoted above.

    And yet I have come to find people such as Roussel despicable in their assumption of moral superiority and for their question-begging, as in the following self-adoring quotation:

    Working in the natural order reduces our dependence on outside sources of energy, allowing us to harness the energy that is on-farm. The method leads to a better product, one that is more balanced for my customer, my community, my land, and me.

    How does one know that? I mean really: How can one possibly know that this statement is true without a full energy audit? You would have to know how many calories per acre are harvested per calorie of input. You would have to count everything, including animal feed, veterinary care, etc. It would seem to be impossible for a lay person to determine this. The quote sounds like marketing propaganda.

    And, boy, don’t I hate that buzzword “balanced.” WTF does that mean?

    The quote also embodies the Naturalistic Fallacy, which is something organic farmers do all the time: What is “natural” anyway? As an evolutionist, I believe farming is part of our “extended phenotype” and is therefore natural. CAFOs, then, are as natural as beaver dams. But this is not what people like Roussel mean by “natural,” I think.

    Most people seem to think “natural” means that which exists in the wild. But farming is completely a human-managed operation and is therefore by definition un-natural. Farming, no matter how you slice it, always does the following:

    It takes over land.

    It depletes non-renewable resources (fossil fuels, phosporus).

    It grows populations.

    This is the rub: If you want to feed a country of over 300 million (and growing) so that they eat like kings, then please shut the hell up about industrial agriculture, CAFOs, “sustainability,” etc.

    Keep in mind that I use our own cow manure here for soil-building (what the hell else am I going to do with it?); mulching for weed control; cover-crops for weed control and for soil-building; and we are small-scale.

    But I do it because I like it, not because I think I’m saving the frigging world!

    In short: Human population is going to continue to grow, and along with it human management of the wild will continue apace. Certain farmers (like Roussel, like me) are lucky enough to recreate a romanticized agrarian existence, but by and large that way of life is dead.

    Get used to factory food. There is nothing inherently wrong with it (even though I personally don’t like it). It is the effect of our massive evolutionary success on this planet.

    This is us, by the way:

    Dow Farm.

  2. #2 MarkH
    May 8, 2012

    I agree, I don’t like when the arguments are coached in such hippy-dippy terms. I was eye-rolling about how this “balance” makes for better food. I doubt anyone can tell the difference. I think the more important factor ultimately will come from recognition of farming as an energy harvesting system. Proper innovation will increase efficiency, energy production and decrease waste and environmental harm. Industrial farming will not go away but it needs to address two critical flaws. Waste which formally re-entered the cycle as raw materials is now creating environmental problems since it’s being left out of the cycle. Manure lagoons are not acceptable solutions to the problem of animal waste, and it should never have become a “problem” in the first place. The other issue is too much dependence on oil as an energy/nitrogen source. This makes our agricultural system dependent on oil prices and the whims of OPEC, and ultimately makes farming at our current pace dependent on perpetual oil. This seems a recipe for disaster.

    These two problems seem like they should cancel each other out. Why don’t they? Somehow, industrial farming will have to address its problems with energy and nitrogen inputs so it may be more reliable and ecologically sound for the future.

  3. #3 Wow
    May 9, 2012

    “Waste which formally re-entered the cycle as raw materials is now creating environmental problems since it’s being left out of the cycle”

    Part of the reason for that is that the waste was being misused (BSE: feeding sheep to cattle) and another part is that the waste is now slightly toxic (mercury at an acceptable level accumulates as you cycle through until unacceptable).

  4. #4 Calli Arcale
    May 9, 2012

    The problems of recycling waste are not simple — and as Wow just pointed out, it’s not just poo you have to worry about. Feeding sheep to cattle? Poo is waste from *living* animals, but obviously they don’t stay living. When they die, parts of them may become food, but much of their body mass is not fit for human consumption (or at least not sellable that way). And so off to the rendering plant goes the rest. Gelatin comes out of this process, of course. But there’s also a lot of good, useful protein, and it seems a shame just to throw it away, so of course eventually people started using it as a way of boosting the protein content of animal feed. It works very well for that. But because of the nature of the raw material (miscellaneous bits of animal carcass, usually pretty seriously chopped up, after the butchers have taken away everything people want to eat), it’s an avenue for certain types of disease transmission. And, as it turns out, pharmaceutical transmission — poultry feed is made partly from poultry feathers, and poultry feathers concentrate antibiotics fed to the birds during their lifetimes, which creates another interesting problem, viz, is it even possible at this point to get antibiotics out of chicken feed without temporarily making them go vegan (which is a logistical nightmare, considering the size of the collective American chicken flock)?

    Personally, I do think it’s ethical to eat meat. After all, it’s ridiculous to think you can ever have zero negative impacts on other animals. Can’t be done. But you have to do the animal right during its lifetime as well, and you have to try and kill it reasonably humanely. I also think our overall farming system could do with a lot of improvement. There is no single boogeyman (factory farms, synthetic fertilizer, corn subsidies, etc.) but there are many opportunities for improvement.

  5. #5 MarkH
    May 9, 2012

    I think the problem is that in the end living, farming, surviving etc., is going to be found to be unethical and create problems. We can not avoid having an impact, animal-free farming creates a host of other problems with sustainability and and the nitrogen cycle, in vitro meat is a joke and probably the worst idea of all time in terms of sustainability. Where do they think the energy that’s in in vitro meat comes from? I’ve read their pie-in-the-sky articles about energy from methane recapture, and biofuel sources, but the math doesn’t work and none of these technologies has been implemented in a meaningful, scalable way that suggests this is an efficient alternative. There needs to be a lot more energy in than out, and that energy isn’t going to come from bioreactors. It’s going to come from oil, gas, coal, or nuclear. It also stinks of hubris. Do they really think that in the lab they’ll figure out a more efficient way to grow tissue without vasculature, keep it sterile without an immune system, and make it taste like anything other than paste without movement and stimulation of the muscle? I’d be surprised if we figure out a better system than a few hundred millions years of evolution has.

    No matter what our methods are we’re in a living breathing soup of species that will have unforeseen problems, complications, and impacts on each other. But that’s no excuse to give up. I’m sure we can improve industrial farming to minimize environmental impact and decrease (but likely never eliminate) fossil fuel inputs in the process. The idea of further separating out animals from agriculture by growing meat in the lab seems a step in the wrong direction however, as it will further disrupt the carbon/nitrogen cycle and move food production further away from solar energy capture.

  6. #6 Windchasers
    May 9, 2012

    Great comments here, guys.

    The idea of further separating out animals from agriculture by growing meat in the lab seems a step in the wrong direction however, as it will further disrupt the carbon/nitrogen cycle and move food production further away from solar energy capture.

    Well, there’s always synthetic meat grown by solar-based electricity. That’s a new way to get back to the “solar energy capture” basis for agriculture (/somewhat tongue-in-cheek).

  7. #7 Givesgoodemail
    May 9, 2012

    Like so many so-called (im)moral acts in life (like for instance, sex), the act of eating meat itself is morally neutral. It’s how the meat is created, processed, and delivered that has moral weight.

  8. #8 veganelder
    May 9, 2012

    I’m presuming those that argue on behalf of killing would acknowledge that a species more powerful than humans would be “ethical” if they used humans as a food source…right? Sentient beings have a right to their own lives. Period.

  9. #9 NJ
    May 9, 2012

    VE@8:

    I’m presuming those that argue on behalf of killing would acknowledge that a species more powerful than humans would be “ethical” if they used humans as a food source…right?

    Which leads us to the conclusion that you must be out there convincing apex predators to go vegan…right?

    Sentient beings have a right to their own lives.

    Do come back when you achieve that state.

  10. #10 Calli Arcale
    May 10, 2012

    veganelder — absolutely. Not so long ago, a grizzly out in Montana developed a taste for humans. (That’s pretty rare; they usually don’t care for people, and kill us only because they feel threatened, or because they want the goodies in our backpacks.) She killed and partially ate several campers. Ethical? From the bear’s standpoint, absolutely, though one might argue she was putting her cubs to unnecessary risk, since humans tend to be vengeful. (And indeed, she was ultimately tracked down and shot. It’s the wilderness; you take your risks out there, bears and humans alike. Her cubs were okay, though, and went to the Billings Zoo for rehabilitation. They were underweight, as mom wasn’t providing enough milk due to a heavy parasite load. They got dewormed too.)

    There are many species more powerful than humans, at least in the sense that they have the ability to take us down and eat us. And from their perspective, it is ethical for them to do so. We may try to prevent them doing so, out of self-preservation, but that’s what any species would do. It is ethical to eat meat. It is also ethical to fight back when someone tries to eat you, or even to take preemptive measures.

  11. #11 Calli Arcale
    May 10, 2012

    I had to cut my last post short because I had to go to a meeting. To conclude:

    What makes us different from most (and perhaps all) other animals (currently) is not that we can choose not to eat meat. It’s that we have the capacity to understand the suffering our food endures to become our food, and to mitigate that. A lion pack may bring down a baby elephant by separating it from the herd as the herd navigates a narrow canyon, force it down by clamping shut its trunk (they cannot breath through their mouths), and then begin eating before it has even lost consciousness. We can do better than that. We can choose swift killing over long, agonized suffering, and we can study, understand, and reduce the ecological impact of our farming the land and harvesting the waters. That’s what makes us different. Not that we can choose not to eat meat; that’s a cop out that lets a person feel superior without solving the problems. That we can choose to regulate our impact on individual animals, whole species, and the environment.

  12. #12 Janet Camp
    May 10, 2012

    Interesting discussion. I would only add that the QUANTITY of meat a person eats is a big factor in achieving any kind of sustainability. I am mostly vegetarian (lacto-ovo occasionally), but eat fish occasionally and meat (usually bison) on special occasions (a couple of cook outs in the summer). I sometimes make a turkey (heritage or something that seems to be better than all out factory farmed) under pressure from my lovely family.

    If lots of people only ate meat “ceremonially” (as most “primitive” people did), there wouldn’t be as much stress on animals. The price could reflect the cost of smaller scale operations as well if people only ate meat occasionally. I can’t define “occasionally” precisely–for me it’s about once every couple of months–fish maybe a bit more often, but I’m rethinking that in light of “resource depletion”.

    I’m not sure there is an answer to whether or not eating animals is “ethical” (right or wrong) and we certainly aren’t going to come to any overall agreement about it. Most people eat a lot of meat and that is pretty clearly not sustainable for the environment, so it would seem prudent to encourage the adoption of an “ethic” of eating less meat and perhaps returning to a model of special occasion (ceremonial) meat eating.

  13. #13 Joyzza
    May 12, 2012

    Just a few comments on some assumptions that have not been given sufficient address:

    Humans are capable of existing (healthily) without eating animals. Top predators have a very limited diet, and cannot be selective.
    Human animals are also capable of empathy, and are relatively more conscious than non-human animals (hence our ability to manipulate or mimic nature). Therefore, it is a moral obligation, as conscious, empathetic creatures, to be aware that the consumption of meat is 1. the destruction of a sentient individual(not so dissimilar to ourselves), and is the result of a process that is detrimental to the environment (by now this should be obvious, as land, air, and water systems are showing significant stress due to this type of farming).
    As far as these arguments about the symbiotic benefits of animal husbandry, fine, but it is not at all necessary to kill and consume these creatures to possess the benefits of keeping them. Goats will forage weeds and chickens will provide manure whether they are killed and eaten or allowed to persist.

  14. #14 MarkH
    May 14, 2012

    As far as these arguments about the symbiotic benefits of animal husbandry, fine, but it is not at all necessary to kill and consume these creatures to possess the benefits of keeping them. Goats will forage weeds and chickens will provide manure whether they are killed and eaten or allowed to persist.

    Clearly another non-farmer. Animals are expensive to keep and house, and you have to control their numbers. There is no point in keeping animals with all of their costs and then not reap the economic benefits when you thin their numbers or when they’ve ceased to be useful. It would be economically untenable, wasteful, and just stupid to keep them as manure generates because you’re afraid of killing animals. Try keeping a relatively useless animal like a horse for a while. You see what keeping a damn hay-eater is like for your budget. The manure isn’t worth it. No sane farmer is going to lose money keeping animals alive past their usefulness because people are queasy about getting their hands dirty.

    Also the “never kill sentient animals” people still have not addressed the fact that farming plants still kills animals, still disrupts habitat, still requires pesticides (even organic), and when grown in monoculture disrupts the carbon and nitrogen cycles while making our food system dependent on oil. It’s also just a tiresome argument that requires people to totally ignore their impacts on animals that they just don’t see. If you really think it’s unethical to survive while other sentient animals die just kill yourself now. Don’t drive a car, don’t live in a house, only eat food you gather etc., it’s just not possible. You’ll never manage to avoid harming other animals by your presence on the earth, and certainly one of the greater threats to animals on the planet is our continuing and increasing use of fossil fuels, including our extensive use of fossil fuels for corn and soy monoculture. The authors of this essay make the important point that minimizing your impact by not eating animal products probably isn’t any better given the problems monoculture and industrial farming generate.

  15. #15 Calli Arcale
    May 14, 2012

    Janet Camp: I disagree that “primitive” (which I take to mean hunter-gatherer) folk mainly ate meat for ceremonial purposes; they tended to eat it whenever they could get it. Whether or not this was every day tended to depend on local conditions, but even where meat was scarce, I think it tended to be the other way around — meat wasn’t always eaten ceremonially, per se, but wherever it was a special treat, its availability might warrant a celebration. And, of course, anything rare is coveted for special occasions.

    For instance, the traditional Inuit diet is very meat-heavy, not because they are ritualistic but because of availability. *Fresh* meat would be used for special occasions; most of the time, they’d be eating preserved meat.

    I think you’re right about eating less meat overall. There’s the famous advice from Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He was speaking from a health standpoint, of course, and not so much an environmental one. But it’s good broad advice that can fit just about anyone.

  16. #16 Ev Mutfak Malzemeleri
    May 15, 2012

    I had to cut my last post short because I had to go to a meeting. To conclude:

    What makes us different from most (and perhaps all) other animals (currently) is not that we can choose not to eat meat. It’s that we have the capacity to understand the suffering our food endures to become our food, and to mitigate that. A lion pack may bring down a baby elephant by separating it from the herd as the herd navigates a narrow canyon, force it down by clamping shut its trunk (they cannot breath through their mouths), and then begin eating before it has even lost consciousness. We can do better than that. We can choose swift killing over long, agonized suffering, and we can study, understand, and reduce the ecological impact of our farming the land and harvesting the waters. That’s what makes us different. Not that we can choose not to eat meat; that’s a cop out that lets a person feel superior without solving the problems. That we can choose to regulate our impact on individual animals, whole species, and the environment.

  17. #17 Calli Arcale
    May 15, 2012

    Oh, how flattering! (Not.) A drive-back linkspammer chose my post to cut-and-paste to make it look like they’re participating.

  18. #18 Calli Arcale
    May 15, 2012

    (Er, I mean “drive-by”, not “drive-back”. Typo + autocorrect has strange results sometimes.)

  19. #19 palebluedot
    May 15, 2012

    I am a long time reader of your blog but this is the first time I have commented. I agree with most of the contributions to the New York Times that we have an obligation to reduce our consumption of animal products and that the moral case against factory farming is airtight and damning. However, the assumption that limited meat eating is just as ethical as vegetarianism seems slightly disingenuous. The point of moral vegetarianism isn’t that it’s cruelty free, but that on balance it causes less harm than a diet that includes meat. You mention that a plant-based diet kills wild animals, destroys habitat, uses pesticides etc, but in general an omnivorous diet has a greater impact because farmers have to grow plants in order to feed animals, and overall more agriculture is needed to support a diet that includes meat. This includes most of the world’s soybean and corn crop, as well as huge quantities of water and land etc.

    As for the benefits of symbiotic animal husbandry, there may be some traction in that argument, but it doesn’t seem to be enough on it’s own to feed a significant number of people, and I don’t think it justifies meat eating in general. Even in the best tradition of animal husbandry, virtually all animals end up in the slaughter house, where disturbing abuses happen on a routine basis. This has been attested in the recent book ‘Every 15 Seconds’, which documents the reality of intensive production line slaughter. An interesting article though.

  20. #20 Santiago
    May 18, 2012

    Truthfully speaking, I wasn’t impressed by any of the NYT essay submissions. Appealing to a romanticized “sustainable” agriculture is an understandable approach, but seems to misrepresent the issues at hand.

    I’ve never heard of a farm, even the ones often advertised as a beacon of sustainability, that were genuinely sustainable. Even Polyface farms requires inputs in the form of chicken feed, so it’s not quite representative of how efficient an actual sustainable farm would be.

    What disturbs me even more, however, is how ignorant most locavores actually are in terms of the variety of farming methods out there. Methods of sustainable agricultural which subsist without domesticated animals do exist, so to portray sustainable agriculture as a noble system requiring the “sacrifice” of animals is either disingenuous or ignorant.

    Of course, I’m skeptical whether or not foregoing industrial agricultural is possible. Mike Gibney has numerous criticisms of locavorism, although he does specifically target the viability of the methods of agriculture promoted by people like Pollan, and I’m certain he’s not the only one.

    Regardless, it would be nice to see justifications for eating meat that actually addresses the ethical issues at hand, rather than hiding behind a facade of sustainability.

  21. #21 Calli Arcale
    May 21, 2012

    It depends on your standards for ethics, I suppose.

    You mention that a plant-based diet kills wild animals, destroys habitat, uses pesticides etc, but in general an omnivorous diet has a greater impact because farmers have to grow plants in order to feed animals, and overall more agriculture is needed to support a diet that includes meat

    One factor is that you can eat animals that in turn eat things that people cannot. Grass-fed beef, for instance (as opposed to the rather more common corn-fed beef, which is a little silly since we could eat that corn directly ourselves).

    It is indeed correct that nearly all meat animals go to a slaughterhouse. That’s the point of a slaughterhouse, after all. And yes, abuses happen. This does not mean abuses *have* to happen for meat-eating to occur. There is considerable opportunity for improvement in abbatoir technology and philosophy, but first we have to overcome institutional resistance to change. Temple Grandin is a good person to look to for this sort of thing; she has designed improvements to slaughterhouses to make them more humane. I think for a wholesale improvement, we need regulation, we need informed consumers, and we need the large meatpackers to not be afraid of losing profit for the sake of the animals. They want to speed up the lines (which will increase the rate of errors and accidents, and increase pressure on workers, which will inevitably end as more pressure on the animals before they’re dead) and this will be bad for all in the end; it’s a common industrial mindset that “we know how to do it this way; we are afraid of anyone mucking with us because they’ll kill us by destroying our edge over the competition; we don’t want to make major changes that would mean shutting down a line for a while”. But change has to happen eventually, and some producers are starting to realize that.

  22. #22 SAB
    May 30, 2012

    I agree that the act of eating meat itself is morally neutral. I am not a vegetarian, but I don’t eat meat unless I know where it comes from (if I, or someone I know shoots and prepares it.) I believe that if you can kill an animal, it justifies you eating it. It’s survival of the fittest, right?

  23. #23 palebluedot
    UK
    June 2, 2012

    “But change has to happen eventually, and some producers are starting to realize that.”

    Hello again. Very sadly, you may have to eat your words…

    http://www.change.org/petitions/the-u-s-department-of-agriculture-don-t-let-chicken-packing-plants-operate-their-conveyor-belts-twice-as-fast

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