Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Morals and Meat: Our Convictions

Goats are cute. And you can eat them. And they deserve a happy life.

(Read Part One here.)

Zach and I believe that supporting industrial-scale animal products is wrong. 

This is a surprisingly difficult belief to hold, live out, and explain to others.

Most people would agree that puppy mills are cruel and inhumane and should be illegal.  If someone leaves a dog on a short chain in the cold, someone will probably call them on animal cruelty. A good chunk of the American population is horrified by the thought that people in other countries eat cats and dogs. But for most people, this concern for animals stops short when it reaches animals that are raised for food.

Granted, most of us know that America has a terrible industrial animal system. I’ve always known this, and ignored it. I tried a brief stint with vegetarianism when I was a young adult, which I soon gave up because I realized that I would have to go vegan and that just seemed like too much work. So I just shoved the knowledge to the back of my head because it wasn’t convenient. 

This changed a couple years ago as I started reading books about local food systems and being more thoughtful in the kinds of agriculture we support. After reading these books, talking to farmers who raise meat, and learning just a fraction of the problems with the US’s animal production, I finally got the motivation to begin weaning Zach and me off industrial meat. We have no intention of going vegan, but we wanted to find a better way to consume animal products, one that wouldn’t exploit animals or the environment (as much as possible).

Far from resisting, Zach has been beside me every step of the way, and taking the journey together has made it easier. It’s a slow process, and we have a long way to go. Having convictions about abstract animals in an abstract faraway warehouse is hard to do, as is weighing your personal conviction with consideration of others. (More on this in the next post.) 

I don’t morally object to killing animals or using them for humans’ needs— it’s the way we do it in the current system that concerns me. Most people know that the animals in concentrated animal feeding operations are crowded and may never see the sun, that their pens are too small, that they are sickly and fed a steady stream of antibiotics to keep them from dying long enough to slaughter. They are fed a diet that their bodies aren’t evolved to handle, and their waste manure is a huge environmental concern (which is ironic, since a properly-kept animal’s manure is essential for a thriving ecosystem). If you start researching what goes on, even in a well-managed industrial-scale farm, the problems are myriad. I believe animals deserve better. I believe the environment deserves better. You probably do, too. But why is it so hard for us to actually do something about it?

The answer is mainly one of convenience. Our entire food system is built on industrial animal products. Once you get off them, going out to eat is a nightmare. Cooking your own food may take a lot of practice. Small-scale, humanely-raised animal products can be difficult to find or time-consuming to buy. What happens when you’re at a friend’s house and they offer you a BLT? And what are people to think when you refuse a plate of scrambled eggs but they later see you chowing down on a hamburger?

I’ll try to address some of these issues— and share how we’re making the transition to smaller-scale humane animal products— in the next post. Like I said, we’re still figuring everything out, but it’s important enough to me to do something about.

If you have any questions, please speak your mind!


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