Let Them Eat Salad–and Steak

My recent post about Angus beef was based on the assumption that it is OK to whack animals and eat them. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would argue that I am the moral equivalent of a producer of “crush” videos because I eat meat. I agree that meat producers like Tyson Fresh Meats, which raise their animals in inhumane cages or feedlots, packing their food with hormones and antibiotics, are run by greedy fiends. However, it is possible to raise and slaughter animals humanely.

Meat animals—kine, swine, poultry, sheep, and so forth—are part of the food chain. They are the natural prey of feline and canine predators. It is no more inhumane to kill a steer and eat it than it would be to let it roam around wild to be killed and eaten by a pack of wolves or a cougar. It is cruel to raise animals in cramped cages or pens where they cannot move, are forced to stand in pools of excrement, and are force-fed hormones and antibiotics. However, it would be similarly cruel to allow them to breed indiscriminately in the wild so that they overload their habitat and die of disease and starvation.

Vegans seem to think that if we stop raising animals for the table cows and pigs and sheep will live in sunny pastures, cared for by loving vegetarians and attentive veterinarians. That is a pipe dream. In the absence of a demand for meat there would be no suitable habitat for grazing animals because ranchers would have no financial incentive or means to establish pastures. Pigs would become foraging marauders that would need to be kept out of cities and towns with substantial fences extending at least a half meter into the ground. Outside of protected areas, they would be dangerous. Sheep would probably fare better and create fewer problems, but they would still be subject to sickness and food shortages because no one would care for them.

Our domesticated meat animals are far different from their feral progenitors. If farmers stopped raising them, the species would die out or struggle to survive in the wild. Is that preferable to humanely raising them for their milk, eggs, meat and leather?

The objective should be to stamp out factory farming, not stop the consumption of animal products. Write your legislator today: not to make it illegal to eat animals, but to ban raising them in ways that are abusive to the animals, destructive of the environment, and unhealthy for the consumer. Oh, and pass me another grass-fed hamburger.


John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
©2010 John B. Payne, Attorney

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