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Is "Humane" Farming OK?
I’ve been bouncing back and forth between veggie and omnivore for several years now. I spend a lot of time on animal rights sites, and I’ve noticed that many of the arguments against consuming meat are based on current factory farming methods. It’s almost as though if animals were raised on storybook farms and then slaughtered, it would be okay. Wouldn’t it be worse to slaughter an animal that had more personalized care and was treated better? I think there should be a clear line—either it’s wrong for someone to eat animals or not, and whether the raising and slaughtering are done “humanely” or horribly shouldn’t matter. Maybe I’ve missed something in my investigation that you could point out to me. I would appreciate any information or advice you could share.
Your observation is certainly valid, and it is understandable that the mixed messages you’ve encountered are confusing. There is a great deal of focus by animal rights and vegan groups on the horrendous conditions of today’s factory farms. Although on the surface it may seem that their perspectives are duplicitous—that is, if farm animals were treated more humanely, slaughtering them would be acceptable or at least more tolerable—there are legitimate reasons for this approach.
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As much as vegans and animal activists welcome the day when the consumption and exploitation of animals are abolished, the reality is that such a change is not going to happen overnight. Most of us would be thrilled to just witness steps in that direction during our lifetimes, and fortunately, through the efforts of committed activists, we have. In order to totally eradicate the slaughter of animals for food, the majority of the world’s population would need to become vegan or at least vegetarian. The likelihood of this happening anytime soon, however, is slim. Therefore, the role of animal activists and vegans is twofold: first, we must work toward reforming current animal production practices through direct action and legislative change, and second, we must educate the public at large about animal sentience. Through awareness, people’s attitudes will gradually ameliorate, so that eventually only abolition will be acceptable. But until the prevailing belief is one that values, respects, and appreciates all forms of life, revisionist approaches are absolutely necessary. Although far from ideal, these strategies at least help mitigate some of the horrors that farm animals currently endure.
For vegans and animal activists, the issue at hand is not one of priorities. The objective of all sincere animal advocates is abolition, preferably sooner rather than later. To succeed, however, this goal must be tempered by realism and what is truly attainable at this point in time. Perseverance, revisionism, and legislation through education will bring lasting change based on social transformation rather than temporary political upheaval through force or coercion. Such an approach is not based on hypocrisy; rather, it is founded on practical wisdom that will survive the ages and inspire a revolution of the hearts and minds of modern cultures. Once that happens, eating meat and consuming other animal products will become untenable, and all forms of animal farming and slaughter, “humane” or otherwise, will be eliminated.
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