Are the factory farms we buy our meat from treating animals humanely? Animal mistreatment is illegal and we can make a difference to put a stop to it. According to Ethical Farms “Some of the largest US factory farms refuse to uphold humane USDA and OSHA standards, having unsanitary, unhealthy conditions and animal rights violations. In 1958, the US government composed the Humane Slaughter Act that is not enforced” (Ethical Farms, 2010). There are 7 statutes in effect that comprise the Humane Slaughter Act. Included in these sections are Congress’ statement that livestock must be slaughtered in a humane manner to prevent needless suffering, research methods on humane methods of slaughter, the non-applicability of these statutes to religious or ritual slaughter, and the investigation into the care of non-ambulatory livestock. There are farms that follow the Humane Slaughter Act in raising their livestock that we can purchase our food from, like Humane Farms for example. By aligning our consumerism with Restaurants and grocery store chains that purchase from humane farms we can make an impact.
Also, supporting an Animal Rights group like The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals(ASPCA) or The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals(PETA) can make a big difference. You can support them either monetarily or by volunteering your time in your local area. In Chapter 17 of the Omnivore’s Dilemma (The Ethics of Eating Animals), Pollan (2006), says that “Eating meat has become morally problematic, at least for people who take the trouble to think about it. Vegetarianism is more popular than it has ever been, and animal rights is rapidly finding its way into the cultural mainstream”(p. 306). The selections offered at most markets and grocery stores have expanded quite a bit in the last decade or two in order to accommodate the consumerism of a vegetarian making it much easier to choose this kind of diet. Also many fast food and quality restaurants have added vegetarian dishes to their menu.
“The general consensus has always been that humans were indeed omnivores and, whatever spiritual or moral dilemmas the killing and eating of animals posed, our various cultural traditions resolved them for us well enough. For the most part our culture has been telling us for millennia that animals were both good to eat and good to think”(p. 306). I myself have never had an aversion to eating meat. I grew up in the country and we fished for food. I visited a pig farm in school and saw a pig being born; I didn’t see anything inhumane. Until I read this book I honestly did not give eating meat a second thought. When Pollan goes back and forth to himself about how he feels right when he first killed the pig, he was very proud of his accomplishment, to how he felt when he saw the picture with the spilled blood, which was so disgusting he could not look at it. He is very graphic in his writing and gave me a clear picture of something I had never thought about.
There is an unusual amount of cultural uncertainty on the subject of animals in today’s society and that may be why people tend to look the other way. Many times while researching this topic I myself read things that I think I really would rather not know. Am I willing to change my shopping and eating habits in order to help make a difference? Right now the answer is Yes! Many of us seem eager to extend the circle of our moral consideration to other species, yet in our factory farms we’re inflicting more suffering on more animals than at any time in history. Pollan also says that “In recent years medical researchers have raised questions about the good to eat part, while philosophers like Singer and organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have given us new reasons to doubt meat is good to think—that is, good for our souls or our moral self-regard” (Pollan, 2006).
In an article called, Mistreatment of turkeys at Willmar hatchery is alleged by Humane Society, Polta describes how the Humane Society found evidence of abuse and cruelty through an investigation and demanded that changes be made. “Nov. 24–WILLMAR — An undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States has documented what the organization alleges is routine abuse and cruelty involving newly hatched turkey chicks at Willmar Poultry Co.” The article states that “Among the allegations contained in the Humane Society of the United States report: – Sick, deformed, injured and dying birds, as well as “leftovers” not needed for buyers’ orders, are routinely disposed of by being thrown alive into a grinder. – Sick and injured birds are left in boxes or on the floor all day until being killed. – Chicks are routinely de-beaked without first being given a painkiller. – Chicks routinely have their back toes clipped off without a painkiller.
The report alleges that baby turkeys get trapped and injured in conveyor belts as they’re processed for shipment to farms. It also alleges that boxes filled with poults are sometimes stacked too high or unevenly and crash to the floor, scattering and injuring the turkey chicks inside” (Polta, 2010). This source is more evidence of the kind of abuse happening in factory farms and also shows that getting outside government agencies involved to help uncover the issues and pressure them to resolve the issues is one way to help. Abuses such as this case can not and should not be tolerated throughout the livestock and factory farm industries. National and World Organizations can go a long way to oversee and create changes within the industry. In the article, VanderSpek stated that the “National Turkey Federation guidelines also comply with World Organization for Animal Health standards”(Polta, 2010).
The Humane Slaughter act states: “Sec. 1901. Findings and declaration of policy The Congress finds that the use of humane methods in the slaughter of livestock prevents needless suffering; results in safer and better working conditions for persons engaged in the slaughtering industry; brings about improvement of products and economies in slaughtering operations; and produces other benefits for producers, processors, and consumers which tend to expedite an orderly flow of livestock and livestock products in interstate and foreign commerce. It is therefore declared to be the policy of the United States that the slaughtering of livestock and the handling of livestock in connection with slaughter shall be carried out only by humane methods”(Humane Slaughter Act). These are the laws and guidelines set forth by congress and all livestock industries should abide by them. Those who do not follow the laws should be heavily penalized even as far as to shut them down until changes are made if the situation is bad enough.
One solution is that you can contact your Congressman and request that he/she take steps to implement USDA animal treatment standards. Evidence that this can make a difference is found in an article by We Care. Contrary to what PETA finds in our factory farms, in that article, I read that “every day on farms across America, pork producers demonstrate responsibility and concern for the animals in their care. Today, pigs are raised on farms designed to promote the health and well-being of animals and the safety of the food produced” (We Care). This is evidence that we can produce meat from animal factory type farms without being inhumane about it. Other livestock industries can follow this pig industry’s lead in their humane practices of raising livestock for human consumption.
You can also send a letter to the USDA and urge them to uphold the Humane Slaughter Act. In an article by Ethical Farms; “Recently, Burger King implemented Humane Animal Treatment standards from their Poultry Suppliers, and stopped purchasing from factories that had excessive instances of abuse. You can also purchase meats exclusively from Humane Farms” (Ethical Farms, 2010). Taking the time to educate yourself on the companies that purchase from humane farms is important. Where we purchase our food from everyday can make a big difference. Every day, animals endure mass torture, abuse and live mutilation without any conscience from the part of the producers, for the suffering that these animals endure.
When we mistreat animals, we generally also worsen conditions for people. Animal-centered diets have been associated with: heart attacks, strokes, various types of cancer, and other diseases. An article by PETA states that; “When PETA went public with the findings of an undercover investigation at a pig-breeding farm that supplies Hormel in Iowa, we called on the company to ban gestation crates—pens so small that the pregnant sows who are confined to them can’t turn around or even lie down comfortably—and then introduced a shareholder resolution to that effect. Less than two years later, the meat giant has announced that it will phase out gestation crates, which cause so much suffering, by 2017” (PETA, 2012).
Although they did uncover animal abuse, they were able to do something about it to make things better for the animals being abused. I think it is important that there are real consequences for the factory farms that are irresponsible and choose not to follow the laws that were made to protect all animals. I have to admit that I do not agree with the extremism that PETA takes to this cause. The ASPCA seems to be much more reasonable to me in their efforts to prevent animal abuse in any environment. They were the first humane society to be established in North America. The ASPCA actually has legal authority to investigate and make arrests for crimes against animals. I think either joining or donating to the ASPCA along with purchasing from humane farms would make a great impact on the market and further the cause to humanely treat the animals we eat!
Pollan, M. (2006). The omnivore’s dilemma: A natural history of four meals. New York: Penguin Books.
We Care Initiative. Caring for farm animals. Retrieved from: http://www.wecareanswers.com/gj5he/index.html?gclid=CN_Zvb7M864CFSWFQAodmmvmHg
Ethical Farms. (2010). Promoting cruelty free farming. Retrieved from: http://ethicalfarms.org/
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals(PETA, (2012). A Little Relief, Finally, for Hormel Pigs. Retrieved from: http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/archive/2012/02/02/progress-for-hormel-pigs.aspx
Polta, A (2010). Mistreatment of turkeys at Willmar hatchery is alleged by Humane Society. Retrieved from: http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.devry.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pwh&AN=2W6448392763&site=pov-live