Let’s talk about some important buzzwords that you hear around the animal products industry: “humane,” “cruelty-free,” “cage-free,” “free-range,” and “organic” and really take a moment to look at what these terms actually mean. James Laveck and Jenny Stein from the incredible site HumaneMyth.org put it quite simply, stating that “such labels create a false and misleading impression in the minds of the public, who would be both horrified and disgusted were they to actually see everything that happens to the animals whose lives are exploited and cut short in order to create these products.”
Common farming exemptions known as CFE’s make legal any method of raising farm animals so long as it’s commonly practiced within the industry. Farmers, meaning corporations, have the power to define cruelty. If the industry adopts a practice like hacking off unwanted appendages with no painkillers, for example, it automatically becomes legal.
Let’s talk about the “happy cows” that our dairy comes from. All forms of dairy farming involve a person inserting his or her arm into the cows rectum in order to position the uterus, and then forcing an instrument into her vagina. The restraining apparatus used is commonly called a rape rack. Cows are forced year after year to go through an endless cycle of pregnancies, only to have their calves immediately taken away from them. After just 4 to 6 years, dairy cattle are considered spent, and are slaughtered for pet food and fertilizer. Free of this exploitation and slaughter, cows can live 25 years or more. All male calves are of no use to the dairy industry. They are sent to veal producing operations or directly to auctions where they are sold and slaughtered when they are just a few days old.
What about “cage-free” eggs? Well, laying hens are killed when their production declines, typically within two years–if allowed to live free of exploitation and slaughter, chickens can live 10 years or more. hens used for egg production come from hatcheries where male chicks are killed immediately after hatching. Each year, hundreds of millions are suffocated or ground-up alive to produce fertilizer or feed. Even small poultry farms rely on industrial hatcheries.
And what about the “free-range” label? In the poignant words of Jonathan Safran Foer,
“Applied to meats, eggs, dairy, and every now and then even fish, the free-range label is bullshit. It should provide no more peace of mind than all natural, fresh, or magical. I could keep a flock of hens under my sink and call them free range.”
If we’re buying these products because we think that the animals are well treated, we are greatly mistaken. No matter how free-range, organic, and grass-fed, cattle have their horns cut off, and their testicles cut out of their scrotums. And many are branded with sizzling hot iron. Pigs on organic farms often have their tails chopped off and their ears notched. Chickens on organic farms usually have part of their sensitive beaks cut off, causing acute pain and often death. None of these animals are given any painkillers. Animals who don’t die on the farm are shipped to the same slaughterhouse used by the factory farms. They are hung upside down and their throats are cut, often while they are still conscious, and struggling to escape. Some are still conscious when they are forced into scalding hot water, or when their bodies are hacked apart.
Harold Brown, a former beef farmer, says,
“I can tell you as a former farmer, in my experience, there is no such thing as humane animal products, humane farming practices, humane transport, or humane slaughter.”
But isn’t all this a necessary evil? And shouldn’t we support any efforts to try to make it a little less evil? The doctrine of necessary evil is the concept that “acts or behaviors formerly considered to be immoral become virtuous when done with the intent of displacing one form of abuse with a kinder, gentler form of the same abuse.” Does being confined for years in a small wire cage hold more suffering than being crowded together with thousands of others in a dark filthy shed? Is one form of abject misery really better than another form of abject misery?
In his landmark novel 1984 George Orwell states “doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” Picture one southern bell saying to another “oh, well I only use free-range slaves, and they pick organic cotton!”
In his article invasion of the movements snatchers James Laveck says,
“There is a reason why human rights groups do not develop or endorse ‘humane’ methods of torturing and executing political prisoners, and why children’s rights advocates do not collaborate with the international pornography industry to develop standards and special labeling for films that make ‘compassionate’ use of runaway teens. To do such things is to introduce moral ambiguity into situations where the boundaries between right and wrong must never be allowed to flare. To be the agent of such blurring is to become complicit oneself in the violence and abuse.”
The simplest most logical way to really look at the validity of these terms is to put yourself in the place of the recipients. imagine me saying to you,
- “I’m gonna rape you up the ass, but don’t worry, I’ll put on Barry Manilow and use organic lube.”
- “I’m gonna’ knock you up and steal your baby.”
- “I’m going to take your male children and I’m either going to put them in a crate where they can’t move and kill them when they are only a couple days old, or I’m just going to put them directly into a grinder. But don’t worry, while I do it, I’ll tell them that they’re special.”
- “I’m going to artificially breed you and bring you into this world for the sole purpose of killing you while you’re a child, and profiting from your death.”
- “Even though I’m going to kill you a decade or two before your life expectancy, I’ll be sure to do so humanely, and cruelty-free.”
- “We’re a cubicle-free workplace, but we’re still going to rip out your fingernails so that you don’t try to territorially defend yourself against your neighbors.”
Now if putting yourself in the place of a farm animal is too much of a stretch for you, imagine saying these things to your beloved pet: “I’m going to murder you, potentially slowly, potentially while you’re conscious, but don’t worry I’ll think good thoughts while I’m doing it.” It’s usually when we reframe these practices that their true absurdity becomes apparent.
I hope this has helped shed some light on the illusion that humane labels create. In the end, there is no humane way to take a life.
OPEN YOUR EYES to see what animals really go through
A Dairy Cow’s Experience
A Turkey’s Experience
A Pig’s Experience
Cow Escapes Slaughterhouse
Why this cattle rancher went vegan
Is Eating Meat a Personal Choice?
The Great Egg Conspiracy
The Morality Behind Being Vegan