The Sanctification of Small Business and the Myth of Humane Meat
A few weeks ago we made a post regarding a new butcher shop that will be opening soon in Fountain Square. This shop’s page posts callous pictures of dead animal body parts then has the audacity to refer to them as ‘beautiful animals’ and speak about how ‘respectful’ it is to eat their bodies. The obvious hypocrisy and insulting nature of these claims was our gripe – but some people criticized our stance.
Overwhelmingly, those that commented on our post in support of this shop had two things to say:
1) The business in question is a small business, and we should encourage them even though their very business is contrary to our organization’s mission, and
2) That the animals slaughtered for sale at this shop are raised humanely and we should be grateful that someone cares enough about animals to give them a good life before slaughter.
To address point one, I will say simply this – no business is immune to criticism just by virtue of being a small business. It’s true that small businesses are the backbone of this community, and within the vegan community you’ll often find this is an attitude we generally support – most restaurants where vegan food is served are small and locally owned, and we often buy products from small stores that donate portions of their proceeds to animal rights causes. We love supporting small businesses, and we want ones who truly care about animals to thrive.
However, if a business is harming animals and adding insult to injury by pretending they are doing something positive or respectful toward the animals they pay to have slaughtered, simply the fact that they are a small business does not mean they can be held to lower ethical standards. Small businesses must still pay their employees a minimum wage, they must meet certain safety requirements, and if their business model is one that is found to be unethical and immoral, those opposed have every right to protest their business. No one is arguing that small businesses who cheat their employees out of paychecks should be given a break; neither will we avoid exposing the cruelty of the meat industry as a whole simply because this particular shop only has one location instead of twenty.
For point two, many people believe meat that comes from animals who were raised humanely is an ethical way to consume meat. But no matter the quality of life for animals raised for food, the end result is always the same – they are killed prematurely to satisfy a hunger for a taste that can be easily replicated in most cases without killing sentient creatures. Consider this – if someone were going to kill your pet to make sausage, but you knew that instead they could go to a supermarket and find varieties of plant-based sausage instead, would you be comfortable with them killing that animal simply because it had a ‘good life’ up until the moment it was killed for food? Or would you rather just eat something else? Pigs, like dogs, are intelligent and social creatures who can form bonds with humans – why would we want to betray that trust by treating them like pets their whole lives and then slaughtering them in adolescence? Is it not more kind to avoid killing them in the first place?
Furthermore, evidence from undercover investigations frequently exposes animal abuse perpetrated against ‘humanely slaughtered’ animals that is just as bad or worse as those atrocities committed on large-scale factory farms. The truth is that there is no amount of oversight that can ensure that animals are actually treated well – their packages may show the animals happy and free in a field, but in reality the pictures on the packaging are often misleading. Some ‘humane’ certifications, including American Humane, don’t actually require animals to ever be allowed outside – but this is not clear to those looking to assuage their conscience by buying something they think is kinder to animals.
Undercover investigations have shown that abuse of animals still occurs under the umbrella of humane meat. A Mercy For Animals investigation into a Foster Farms raising facility documented gross animal abuse that led to the firing of five workerss. At a slaughterhouse that these ‘humanely raised’ chickens were eventually sent to, they had to endure blows from slaughterhouse workers while riding down the line to their deaths. At a ‘humane’ hatchery, male chicks were suffocated to death in plastic bags, and females have their beaks chopped off. Does anyone truly believe that either of these practices should warrant a ‘humane’ award of any sort? (Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dena-jones/american-humane-certified-is-out-of-step-on-the-meaning-of-humane_b_7859634.html)
Those who promote the idea that animals need to be treated humanely open up a paradox from which they can’t escape. On one hand they say that animals are worthy of our moral consideration and that it is wrong to treat them badly, but their actions of slaughtering them conflicts with the idea that harming them unnecessarily is wrong.
The only true way to ensure that the animals you eat are being treated well is to not eat them in the first place.