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October 17, 2013 5:43 PM   Subscribe

This Is What Humane Slaughter Looks Like. Is It Good Enough?

On Eating Roadkill, The Most Ethical Meat
posted by the man of twists and turns (99 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is it good enough? No it is not. Certainly not for the non-human animal at the sharp end of the bolt, nor for the man or woman at the blunt end. There is nothing good to say about factory farming or mass slaughter of non-human animals.

Employment? These men and women are paid a pittance, their work is extremely dangerous, and they are injured frequently, with no health insurance. The farms and slaughterhouses lay waste to the land around them. The sheer quantities of meat, and the speed with which the meat is subtracted from the skeleton of the animal and added to your third cheeseburger for the day means that there is a very high chance of contamination. It is full of chemicals and steroids and antibiotics, and nobody knows what this is doing to us (though there are some pretty dangerous-sounding, and likely, guesses). The animals aren't even fed actual food: it is a mixture of grains, which they can't digest, and chemicals added to the grains to help them digest it, as well as various medicinal additives to stop them from becoming too sick (though it's okay if they are a little bit sick, which they all will be).

Roadkill is more ethical, sure, but still, why the fuck were you driving at that speed in the middle of the night? Why is there even a road there? Why aren't there alternative crossings for the creatures, where they will be safer?
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:53 PM on October 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


Previously related: Ag Gag, especially this link ("The Way of All Flesh" by T. Conover as published in Harpers, May 2013)
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:04 PM on October 17, 2013


turbid dahlia, most of your concerns seem like a derail from the central moral issue, which is that it's legal to torture and kill non-human animals with the sentience of a cat, dog or indeed a small child.

It's a bit like hearing about a brutal homicide and worrying about the environmental impact of the industrial solvents used to clean up the blood, or the discrimination the killer will face in the job market when he is released from prison.

(I don't want to look at the first link if there are photos...can someone give a brief description?)
posted by dontjumplarry at 6:07 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


“I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we've got to do it right. We've got to give those animals a decent life and we've got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.”

For those who haven't seen it, I would highly recommend Temple Grandin.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:08 PM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's not a perfect solution, but we go in with several friends each year on a cow from a local farmer or 4H project. This year we're buying from my friend's parents neighbor who raises about 30 head a year. Pasture raised, no hormones, etc etc. We can actually go an see how the cow is raised. It's extra effort, but in the long run it doesn't cost any more than regular store-bought beef because we pay a flat rate per pound, doesn't matter which cut of beef it is. I realize that's not an option to most in America, but I'm glad we're able to pursue it.

We can't control or oversee the slaughter process, but we know how the cow was raised - and at the end of the day yes we all know we're eating an animal that was killed at our expense. We're ok with that.

An aside... out in Montana there actually ARE some alternative crossings for elk, deer, etc. so they can move across roads without having to CROSS the roads. Of course I guess that makes it a better deal for hunters, but... well crap. At least for the most part in those cases the hunters actually eat what they kill.
posted by matty at 6:09 PM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


“Slaughter can be less cruel,” she says. “But not humane.” I like this statement out of context, although I hate PETA with a fiery passion.

I refuse to eat roadkill, ethical or not.

One of my earliest memories is of being taken to a relative's beef cattle farm. I was conflicted then and I'm conflicted now, and I look forward to seeing how this discussion plays out.
posted by quiet earth at 6:13 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


most of your concerns seem like a derail from the central moral issue, which is that it's legal to torture and kill non-human animals with the sentience of a cat, dog or indeed a small child.

Emphasis mine. Legal and moral don't necessarily overlap.
posted by mochapickle at 6:14 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


(I don't want to look at the first link if there are photos...can someone give a brief description?)

Text mirror
posted by triggerfinger at 6:16 PM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


turbid dahlia: "Is it good enough? No it is not. Certainly not for the non-human animal at the sharp end of the bolt, nor for the man or woman at the blunt end. There is nothing good to say about factory farming or mass slaughter of non-human animals."

So, uh - by "factory farming," do you mean the incredibly "uncompromising" grass-fed, as-humane-as-seems-possible facility at Prather that this article is chiefly profiling? Or factory farms in general, which it also talks about? Or all farms of any kind which kill any animals? I mean, are you talking about either of these articles, or are you just talking about how you feel about meat?
posted by koeselitz at 6:18 PM on October 17, 2013 [27 favorites]


I don't want to look at the first link if there are photos...can someone give a brief description?

There are photos, but they're not gratuitous. Just a few shots from the slaughterhouse, specific details without a lot of gore. Still sends a pretty strong message.
posted by mathowie at 6:21 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


And people wonder why I'm a vegetarian.
posted by freakazoid at 6:24 PM on October 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Everything that lives will die eventually. Cattle in the wild usually die violently, at the teeth and claws of predators. The deaths are usually slow and painful. (Especially if it's African Hunting Dogs; they disembowel the prey animal while it's still alive.) The sick and old rarely live long enough to die of age or disease; those things slow them down and the predators get them.

Whether the deaths of cattle in slaughterhouses are instantaneous or not, they're unquestionably faster and less painful than the deaths of wild cattle killed by predators.

In most slaughterhouses the animals do not suffer any pain. The animal is herded into a box where it's standing on metal, and then someone reaches out and touches it in the forehead with a cattle prod. The electric charge that runs through its brain knocks it unconscious and it never wakes up. (It actually dies by having its throat cut; that's necessary because it's the only way to get most of the blood out of the carcass.)

Cattle raised by humans are treated well in their lifetimes. They're protected from predators. They're fed well. And when the end comes it's fast and usually painless.

And... if there's any goal to life, surely it's to reproduce and spread your numbers. There are far more domesticated cattle than there are or ever could be in the wild. For the species, it's a great deal.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:25 PM on October 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


I wrestled with the question of the ethics of my steak dinner exactly how Michael Pollan did: I read Singer at the dinner table while eating a steak and argued with him in the margins. I understand why some people have a problem with eating animals for food, but I do not. I take the stance of Posner when it comes to this topic, and still buy beef and poultry. I do, however, make a concerted effort to buy as humanely-treated food as possible, including buying part of a cow with family and friends. I have stopped eating at fast food restaurants as well. I understand the emotional response to animal suffering, but I do not see how the animals at Prather Farm in the article are mistreated or suffer.
posted by awesomelyglorious at 6:30 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle: "In most slaughterhouses the animals do not suffer any pain. The animal is herded into a box where it's standing on metal, and then someone reaches out and touches it in the forehead with a cattle prod. The electric charge that runs through its brain knocks it unconscious and it never wakes up. (It actually dies by having its throat cut; that's necessary because it's the only way to get most of the blood out of the carcass.)"

According to the actual article we're supposed to be talking about, this is not true; stunning with a cattle prod is seen as a bad practice to be avoided, and to be used only when necessary because of other problems with the slaughter. Typically they're stunned with a bolt to the head, and then killed through the cutting of the throat:

"Some of the nation’s largest beef servers and suppliers— McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Cargill, Tyson— pass the points of her audit: at least 95 percent of animals stunned on the first shot (usually with a captive-bolt gun that shoots a steel bolt into the head). No more than 1 percent falling. No more than 3 percent mooing. No more than 25 percent being hit with an electric prod."

It really is an interesting and well-written article, and well worth reading.
posted by koeselitz at 6:31 PM on October 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


And... if there's any goal to life, surely it's to reproduce and spread your numbers. There are far more domesticated cattle than there are or ever could be in the wild. For the species, it's a great deal.

Sorry, but this is my point of contention, or at least confusion. These are captive-bred animals that can only live in captivity, ever. I don't think that's necessarily a strong point in terms of the ultimate survival and success of the "species". (FWIW, I'd love to see a return of the wild auroch, massiveness and horns and aggression and all, but I get the feeling they'd be wiped out by hunters within a decade.)

Apologies for the minor derail.
posted by quiet earth at 6:31 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Frankly, I don't care how it looks. "Looks humane" and "is humane" are different things.

There is an argument (I first encountered it in Simone de Beauvoir's writing) that all death is inhumane. That there is no such thing as an easy or good death. If that's so, giving an animal a nice, comfortable life and a swift dispatch is probably a better ethical choice than a parasite-and-disease-ridden life out in nature, red in tooth and claw, where your predators frankly don't care how you've lived or how they will kill you.
posted by erlking at 6:33 PM on October 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is it necessary, though, to compare cattle farming with packs of wild wolves attacking deer (for example)?
posted by quiet earth at 6:37 PM on October 17, 2013


The farms and slaughterhouses lay waste to the land around them. The sheer quantities of meat, and the speed with which the meat is subtracted from the skeleton of the animal and added to your third cheeseburger for the day means that there is a very high chance of contamination. It is full of chemicals and steroids and antibiotics, and nobody knows what this is doing to us (though there are some pretty dangerous-sounding, and likely, guesses). The animals aren't even fed actual food: it is a mixture of grains, which they can't digest, and chemicals added to the grains to help them digest it, as well as various medicinal additives to stop them from becoming too sick (though it's okay if they are a little bit sick, which they all will be).

Apparently the mods didn't like my first response to this comment, but this entire paragraph is an unbelievably large load of FUD. Slaughterhouses are specific-built facilities to lower contamination. Animals and meat "full of chemicals and steroids and antibiotics"? Should we let sick animals die slow painful deaths from disease instead? Grain isn't food!? Come on.

All human activity, all of it, will result in the deaths of animals. Literally billions of animals, and that's not counting insects. All food you eat, including all grains, vegetables, beans, nuts, etc. results in the death of literally millions of animals. Is the death of a cow via stun gun and bleed out that much worse than the rabbit that is run over by a plow preparing a field for organic soy? How about the nesting birds who get run over? I mean, we can end factory farming, sure, but I don't think you'll enjoy the end result of billions of people starving each year either.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 6:39 PM on October 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


quiet earth: "FWIW, I'd love to see a return of the wild auroch"

"Aurochs" is singular. The plural is also "aurochs", or, if you're German or a stickler, "aurochsen".
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:40 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Aurochs" is singular. The plural is also "aurochs", or, if you're German or a stickler, "aurochsen".

My, how did that get past me? I stand corrected.
posted by quiet earth at 6:42 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


All food you eat, including all grains, vegetables, beans, nuts, etc. results in the death of literally millions of animals. Is the death of a cow via stun gun and bleed out that much worse than the rabbit that is run over by a plow preparing a field for organic soy?

For me personally, it's about what I consider myself morally responsible for. Accidental but inevitable bunny death isn't quite the same as intentionally killing a cow when I am not currently required to eat the meat for survival. Along those lines, I might eat road kill if offered, but I'm not gonna go out of my way to seek it out.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:46 PM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mister Fabulous: "Animals and meat "full of chemicals and steroids and antibiotics"?"

While both steroids and antibiotics can be a reason for worry, I'm curious what other things the writer puts in the nebulous and scary-sounding category of "chemicals". It's trivially true that meat if full of "chemicals", of course, much like everything else in the world, but still.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:46 PM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


...the central moral issue, which is that it's legal to torture and kill non-human animals with the sentience of a cat, dog or indeed a small child.

Emphasis mine. Legal and moral don't necessarily overlap.

Legality is always a moral issue. Deciding whether I should eat meat is an ethical issue I face as an individual. Deciding whether everyone should be coercively prevented from eating meat is an ethical issue I face as a citizen in a democracy, whether or not I personally eat meat.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:54 PM on October 17, 2013


Should we let sick animals die slow painful deaths from disease instead?

No, we should not use 80% of the entire nation's antibiotic supply to indiscriminately pump animals full of antibiotics to maximize per square foot yield in confined slaughterhouses which act as perfect selection breeding grounds for antibiotic resistant bacteria thereby endangering the entire human race* from slow miserable deaths but thanks for playing anyway

* and make it a crime to try and document this
posted by lalochezia at 6:55 PM on October 17, 2013 [26 favorites]


Yes, living a life in captivity and then being slaughtered, frequently without pain, is not better than a miserable life in the wild.

However, even given that you have to ask if it is ethical to:

Create an animal where there otherwise would not be an animal, thereby creating the potential for suffering where there otherwise would be no such potential? This is also an issue with human reproduction, IMO.

Impregnate an animal?

Separate an animal from its relatives?

Keep a social animal from normal social interactions?

Etc.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:59 PM on October 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


No, we should not use 80% of the entire nation's antibiotic supply to indiscriminately pump animals full of antibiotics to maximize per square foot yield in confined slaughterhouses which act as perfect selection breeding grounds for antibiotic resistant bacteria thereby endangering the entire human race* from slow miserable deaths but thanks for playing anyway

And? There's 89 million cattle in the US. The average cow weighs nearly 1600 pounds, we have nearly 40 million cows. There's 2 million bulls that are bigger. Steers are filled out to 1300 pounds before slaughter. They make up a huge percent of the biomass in the US, and unlike pigs or chickens that are killed within a few months of their birth, we keep cattle alive for a lot longer.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 7:10 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would argue that a life in the wild is not necessarily miserable for prey animals, that elk and deer in the wild do not suffer throughout their lives just because of the occasional threat of death from predators or weather or lack of food or inadequate habitat.

Human beings need comfortable lives, but is that natural or normal for a wild prey animal? Without predators around to keep them alert and on the move, deer and elk can over-graze and destroy their own habitats. It's really not as straightforward as you might think. Implying that prey animals should have comfortable lives in the wild is vastly oversimplifying to me. Wild animals are wild animals. Captive livestock is captive livestock. Both have different requirements in order to live natural lives, no matter what our views are on how brutal that wild lifestyle might be.

Yes, nature is brutal and red in tooth and claw, but wild animals were bred for that over generations. Captive beef or milk cows were not, and I don't think it's a fair comparison. Apples and oranges.
posted by quiet earth at 7:10 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wish this thread about an article describing a small, certified organic, free-range, grass-fed beef ranch which has its own in-house slaughterhouse in order to be able to supervise every stage of the animal's death and preparation for market were not being dominated by a discussion of factory farms.

Create an animal where there otherwise would not be an animal, thereby creating the potential for suffering where there otherwise would be no such potential? This is also an issue with human reproduction, IMO.

The potential for suffering and the potential for joy. The cattle discussed in this article spend the bulk of their lives lolling about California pastures in the shadow of Mt. Shasta, sniffing the buttercups and heading for the barn if it gets too chilly. I dunno what cow heaven looks like, but that's gotta be close.

If merely the fact that something could suffer means it should not exist, nuke the whole planet from orbit. Everything that feels suffers, to some degree. Nature built it in seemingly in order to teach us not to do stuff. But there is a counterweight on the scale; question to my mind is whether it balances and which side it tips to.
posted by Diablevert at 7:14 PM on October 17, 2013 [31 favorites]



No, we should not use 80% of the entire nation's antibiotic supply to indiscriminately pump animals full of antibiotics to maximize per square foot yield in confined slaughterhouses which act as perfect selection breeding grounds for antibiotic resistant bacteria thereby endangering the entire human race* from slow miserable deaths but thanks for playing anyway

And? There's 89 million cattle in the US. The average cow weighs nearly 1600 pounds, we have nearly 40 million cows. There's 2 million bulls that are bigger. Steers are filled out to 1300 pounds before slaughter. They make up a huge percent of the biomass in the US, and unlike pigs or chickens that are killed within a few months of their birth, we keep cattle alive for a lot longer.


These fascinating mass-related facts mean we should doom ourselves to the resurgence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, the scourge of mankind for millennia, because of the need to produce cheap 270lbs/person meat for agribiz profits and the American Way?
posted by lalochezia at 7:30 PM on October 17, 2013


This was an interesting article; thank you for posting it, man of twists and turns!
posted by Greg Nog at 7:33 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


the speed with which the meat is subtracted from the skeleton of the animal and added to your third cheeseburger for the day

Oh come on. This kind of looking down your nose snark does nothing to assist your argument. This goes on the shelf right next to a lot of the "hurr durr amerikka" i see on here.

It is full of chemicals and steroids and antibiotics, and nobody knows what this is doing to us

...Except this meat isn't, and this has nothing to do with this article or this discussion. The rest of the comments about feed and everything also don't apply.

Did you even read the article? I mean, good job top posting and starting everything off with a nice derail about the evils of the meat industry. But sorry, that wasn't the prompt or the point. C-, please see the professor after class.

I wish this thread about an article describing a small, certified organic, free-range, grass-fed beef ranch which has its own in-house slaughterhouse in order to be able to supervise every stage of the animal's death and preparation for market were not being dominated by a discussion of factory farms.

Me too, but it seems that no one wants to have that discussion. And depressingly, this seems to happen to way too many of these discussions nowadays.
posted by emptythought at 7:40 PM on October 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


I wish this thread about an article describing a small, certified organic, free-range, grass-fed beef ranch which has its own in-house slaughterhouse in order to be able to supervise every stage of the animal's death and preparation for market were not being dominated by a discussion of factory farms.

Yes, regulate for 'animal welfare'. There's no need to (even) be humane, whatever that means. Humanity can be fickle.
posted by de at 7:42 PM on October 17, 2013


Did you even read the article?

Did you?

I read an article that included some discussion of industry wide practices including production for major fast food chains and another one that contrasted the benefits of eating roadkill as compared to food produced by the meat industry as a whole. Discussion beyond a single farm is clearly on topic here.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:48 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


These fascinating mass-related facts mean we should doom ourselves to the resurgence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, the scourge of mankind for millennia, because of the need to produce cheap 270lbs/person meat for agribiz profits and the American Way?

It's to point out that the 80% number, that you mentioned, is purely a scare tactic. It's manipulating a single statistic without any context.

Your statement of "we should doom ourselves to the resurgence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens" is also a scare tactic, unless you can go ahead and show evidence that it is happening.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 7:49 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


de, I don't understand how your comment relates to the bit of mine that you quoted, so I don't know how to respond to it.

Discussion beyond a single farm is clearly on topic here.

Sure. But the whole point of the first article was to talk about what "good as it gets" actually looks like, and ask whether squishy city folk could live with that. It was particularly focused on humane slaughter techniques, killing being the one brutality even the crunchiest of ranchers can not avoid, and it brought up McDonalds and that to point out that even leading animal welfare advocate Temple Grandin thinks most of the industry is meeting these humane guidelines --- in fact doing better on them that the smaller operation the author toured, it would seem. The question it asked was: If we could get the rest of the industry to look like this, would it be enough?

And instead the thread gets shat on out the gate with a big derail not about how animals are killed in even the best of circumstances, but rather on how animals are raised on farms that I think most people would agree are pretty far from ideal. It's like reading an article about the potential downsides of marijuana legalization and having the first comment about how black tar heroin propogates flesh-eating diseases. Well it very well may and that sucks, but that wasn't really the point of the article.
posted by Diablevert at 8:02 PM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


But the whole point of the first article was to talk about what "good as it gets" actually looks like, and ask whether squishy city folk could live with that.

And the out the gate comment you are complaining about did answer to that.

It was particularly focused on humane slaughter techniques, killing being the one brutality even the crunchiest of ranchers can not avoid, and it brought up McDonalds and that to point out that even leading animal welfare advocate Temple Grandin thinks most of the industry is meeting these humane guidelines

And some people disagree with her conclusion apparently and want to talk about that aspect of the article. They should not be browbeaten for it by lame condescending letter grades for their on topic contributions and having their contributions called shit by people who should be complaining over on the grey.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:11 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


A gluten-free non-vegetarian, Shreve Stockton, in response to many of the questions raised for her by choosing to eat meat, describes how she came to create Star Brand Beef. (previously)
posted by Anitanola at 8:19 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


And the out the gate comment you are complaining about did answer to that.

No, it did not. No one's saying that a massive factory farm, supplied by feedlots, sustained by antibiotics and cheap corn, was a as good as it gets. The article pointed to a small family run operation, which raises its own cattle in open pasture on organic feed, with a slaughterhouse crew of four dudes who kill about 20 cows a day, and suggested that that was as good as it gets.

You can certainly argue that an operation like Prather's could never supply the McDonalds of the world, and therefore asking whether best of the best is morally acceptable is pointless. But nevertheless, that was the question the article was examining. It deliberately chose as its focus the Prather operation in order to eschew the standard arguments about factory farm conditions and consider the bottom line ethics of killing cows for beef. To me that made it a more interesting article.
posted by Diablevert at 8:28 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Drinky Die, Diavlevert it'd be better for the thread to drop the meta-conversation about what should and shouldn't be here and try returning to the subject at hand, thanks.]
posted by mathowie at 8:39 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, it did not.

Yes, it did.

Is it good enough? No it is not. Certainly not for the non-human animal at the sharp end of the bolt, nor for the man or woman at the blunt end.

The answer the commentator offered was that as good as it gets is not enough. The commentator then discussed the factory farming that was also discussed in the article and the road kill in the additional link, all of which was on topic. Way more on topic than the desire of some to turn this into a Metatalk thread for some reason. The links presented discuss three potential sources of meat. The as good as it gets small farms, the factory farms, and accidentally killed meat. Discussion of the pros and cons of any of these sources is entirely on topic. The only derail here is our current conversation, so it's probably best for us to drop it at this point.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:40 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I usually post photos of the relevant animals if I talk about them on mefi; I don't care to in this instance. I took one of my goats to the slaughterhouse just two months ago. She wasn't intended for meat; her mother's a beloved pet. I bred the mother to a fiber buck with a pedigree and a show career. I wanted a pet who would give soft fleece (pygora fiber is lovely.) This baby goat was born in May, and she was much adored. We were careful, didn't tease or rough-house. She was raised by her mama and two aunties. When she reached maturity however, she became dominant and aggressive - persistently so. It was a temperament issue, deeper than a behavior that could be modified with training. My goats have one primary job, and that's to be pets, and enjoy interacting with people. The others excel at this. Ursula, despite my intentions and despite training, was unsafe. I have scars, and they're about face-height for many of the little kids who walk or ride past our house.

I had caused this creature to be born, wanting her to enjoy happiness and long life. But keeping her was incompatible with safety. Re-homing her was not an option - unfriendly goats are much more likely to end up neglected, chained up alone in a shed.

I took her to our local slaughterhouse* because it has a stellar reputation and a facility that was rebuilt in 2007, in accordance with Dr. Grandin's designs. I could have buried her under the apple tree I suppose, like I would with a dog or cat. But that would have seemed really wasteful, and somehow ungrateful. I was able to transact with a local family business, in my own economically-depressed area. I brought home 22+ pounds of meat, labeled and vacuum-packed, from an animal who I know for a fact lived as well as I could provide (antibiotic and steroid-free, actually. All that ever went into her was hay, grazed vegetation, pellet food, treats, goat mineral supplement, wormer every couple months, and annual vaccinations - technically chemicals I suppose, but at least the wormer was apple-flavored.) That's 22 lbs of meat we won't be buying elsewhere. (And oh my goodness it's delicious. Beefier than beef in flavor, but half the fat of chicken, a third the saturated fat of chicken.)

Once I thought my way through the winding path of it, I'm totally okay with it. I know she was frightened getting dropped off - there were pigs and sheep, it was an unfamiliar place, goats do not embrace novelty. But she was balking-at-the-lead frightened, not bawling and pissing frightened. And she wasn't there long. I would prefer to have it done like the poultry, which I do here at home myself. But I don't know how to do it and I don't have plans for anything but birds right now. But I've been thinking about it, just for the sake of that amount of time between drop-off and stun. Before I saw this post today, usonian can attest that I asked him "if I compressed your carotid artery, would you pass out? And could I then cut the artery below the, uh, tourniquet, as a sort of humane slaughter?"** (I used my Ask this week already.)

So yeah. I'm okay with it, and I'm interested in doing it again, except it's easier with an animal who is a hostile dangerous bastard. So that is a complication.

*The page states "All animals arriving at the processing plant are transported in fully equipped livestock trailers with ample feed and water." I can categorically attest that this is not true, because at least one animal was transported in the back of a Honda Element without being offered so much as a stick of gum.

**He's an incredibly patient - and trusting - man.
posted by Lou Stuells at 8:50 PM on October 17, 2013 [25 favorites]



It's to point out that the 80% number, that you mentioned, is purely a scare tactic. It's manipulating a single statistic without any context.


The context of the 80% is this: We are endangering many generations of human health by vastly overusing antibiotics in animals in order to make a bigger profit on a luxury good.


Your statement of "we should doom ourselves to the resurgence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens" is also a scare tactic, unless you can go ahead and show evidence that it is happening.


It's not a "scare tactic". We should be concerned - concernred enough to act when diseases that are becoming untreatable, diseases that killed millions recently.

Here's your evidence. Care to rebut? Or are we just going for "you're making the argiment in a tone I don't like so I can ignore it".

Peer reviewed articles in pharmacology and/or epidemiology journals:

High-Density Livestock Operations, Crop Field Application of Manure, and Risk of Community-Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infection in Pennsylvania


Extended-spectrum cephalosporin-resistant gram-negative organisms in livestock: An emerging problem for human health?
posted by lalochezia at 8:55 PM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


turbid dahlia, most of your concerns seem like a derail from the central moral issue, which is that it's legal to torture and kill non-human animals with the sentience of a cat, dog or indeed a small child.

Oh, that is absolutely the central issue, I wouldn't argue against that for a moment. But I've argued for it in the past and people spazz out. So these days I just start with an appeal based on the fact that the majority of humans tend to think of other humans as supremely important, while NHAs are less, or not at all, important.

"Bad for cows" doesn't get a lot of traction. "Bad for people", though, gets a bit more sympathy. And if the end result is that cows aren't tortured by the millions merely so we can temporarily sate the infinite appetites floating beneath our disgustingly fat bellies, then that's just as good for the cows.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:00 PM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


So, uh - by "factory farming," do you mean the incredibly "uncompromising" grass-fed, as-humane-as-seems-possible facility at Prather that this article is chiefly profiling? Or factory farms in general, which it also talks about? Or all farms of any kind which kill any animals? I mean, are you talking about either of these articles, or are you just talking about how you feel about meat?

Either. All. Both. Why, which one are you talking about?
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:03 PM on October 17, 2013


I read Temple Grandin's book a long time ago. In fact I remember checking it out from my middle school library, so it must have been around 1998.

At the time it had a big impact on me. I decided eating meat was OK as long as the animal was treated humanely, which was a true decision since I was surrounded by vegetarians at the time.

But over time, thinking about her viewpoint more and more, I started to distrust her. Grandin is not a neuroscientist or an ethicist. She is, basically, an expert in farming. She claims she has a special empathy with and understanding of animals due to her own neurological condition, but she doesn't have a lot of evidence to back up that assertion.

I don't eat mammals anymore.
posted by miyabo at 9:04 PM on October 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


turbid dahlia: "Either. All. Both. Why, which one are you talking about?"

I was kind of hoping to talk about the article.
posted by koeselitz at 9:04 PM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Roadkill is more ethical, sure, but still, why the fuck were you driving at that speed in the middle of the night?

Spoken like someone who's never lived anywhere near where deer do. Continue your contempt for the people that supply all the materials that are necessary for you to live your urban lifestyle while waxing rhapsodic about your moral superiority.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:05 PM on October 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


I mean - turbid dahlia: so I guess you think that attempting to create standards for this kind of thing is ridiculous and pointless, because it's just putting a nice face on something barbaric - is that what you mean? I tend to think that it's good that people are working to make sure these processes are more humane, but I guess it is possible that they're missing the point.
posted by koeselitz at 9:07 PM on October 17, 2013


turbid dahlia: "Roadkill is more ethical, sure, but still, why the fuck were you driving at that speed in the middle of the night?"

tylerkaraszewski: "Spoken like someone who's never lived anywhere near where deer do. Continue your contempt for the people that supply all the materials that are necessary for you to live your urban lifestyle while waxing rhapsodic about your moral superiority."

I grew up in such a place, and still live there most of the time. I've never hit a deer, but I've been in a car when we did. Also, as far as I can tell, areas with deer are not more productive of essential materials than areas without deer. Our biggest industry was hunting, in fact, and that was really just a form of tourism.

I guess what I mean is: it's not worth getting too angry over. Maybe just say this - if you've never been in that situation, you may be surprised to find that it's often much harder to avoid hitting a deer than you think. It's not really turbid dahlia's fault for not knowing that.
posted by koeselitz at 9:12 PM on October 17, 2013


Third cheeseburger of the day, disgustingly fat bellies--maybe you could dial it back a little bit, there? That's some pretty nasty (and offensive) language with which to paint lots of people. Anyhow, I had a fat belly when I was a vegetarian, too--sorry you find my body so repulsive.

For ages, most of our meat came from a local farm. They raised their cattle on site, so you'd go to buy your meat, and there'd be a bunch of cows hanging out, munching on grass, and looking relatively content with their lot in life. And, yes, then they were slaughtered so that I could consume them. As it goes, I feel pretty ok about that. When it's my turn to die, I would rather be taken somewhere to be stunned and then slaughtered. It beats, to me, hanging around waiting for age or whatever to take its course.

We moved a year ago and I have yet to find a similar farm in my new location. I'm still looking, but in the meantime I'm buying the relatively minimal (we buy a 150lb bundle for our family of three, and it covers all of our meat needs except bacon for about a year) amount of meat that we eat at the supermarket, and getting the humanely raised stuff when I can.

The antibiotics issue is one that I'd really like to see discussed further. As it stands, it seems that there are two extremes: the one with all the antibiotics, and the one in which no antibiotics are permitted, ever. Obviously I think that the former is more problematic than the latter, but I can't quite bring myself to buy organic meat--I'd like to know that if an animal gets sick, it'll get treated with antibiotics or whatever, not just slaughtered and written off as a loss.

Really, the antibiotics thing seems to encapsulate a lot of the meat debate. There seem to be two Really Vocal sides--one where cheap meat is a god-given right and any attempts to interfere with that are an outrage, and one where meat is an outrage, full stop. I suspect that many people, as well as what's actually the best practice, are somewhere between the two ends of the spectrum, but extremists of any sort always seem to have the loudest voices.
posted by MeghanC at 9:23 PM on October 17, 2013 [16 favorites]


MeghanC: "I'd like to know that if an animal gets sick, it'll get treated with antibiotics or whatever, not just slaughtered and written off as a loss. "

Under Washington State Department of Agriculture Organic regulations (those are the ones I work under so those are the ones I know), a Certified Organic animal that cannot be treated using Organic-approved methods is required to be treated using non-Organic therapies. So there is that.
posted by stet at 10:16 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Create an animal where there otherwise would not be an animal, thereby creating the potential for suffering where there otherwise would be no such potential? This is also an issue with human reproduction

Presumably, beyond a certain threshold, the average quality of life for humans goes down with global population. However, the total amount of human happiness might continue to rise even as average happiness goes down. Given how much of human happiness comes from friendship and imagination, even a life lived boxed up in a cramped, shared storage container on a diet of nutrient paste could well have significantly more pleasure than pain, particularly if the inhabitants were aware of no alternatives. If so, it would be ethically obligatory to maximize total happiness by cranking out as many billion babies as a fully exploited biosphere can just barely support.

Welcome to utilitarian hellworld.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:28 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Tangentially, I'm a vegetarian because of a slaughterhouse — my mother got taken to one as a school field trip in Ohio at 16, and stopped eating meat because of it.
posted by klangklangston at 10:43 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the death of a cow via stun gun and bleed out that much worse than the rabbit that is run over by a plow preparing a field for organic soy?

It's not just "the death," it's also the conditions the cow is kept in for her whole life.
posted by John Cohen at 11:05 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Comment deleted. Actually, people are allowed to discuss the posted links in this thread; that is what we do on this web site.]
posted by taz at 11:21 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


So this captive bolt thing is pretty much the industrial version of what Anton Chigurh uses in No Country for Old Men, right?
posted by pracowity at 11:53 PM on October 17, 2013


If you'd like a longer treatise on the ethics of well-treated livestock, I suggest Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
posted by heathkit at 12:14 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Captive bolt + throat cutting is pretty good, seems to me. If I lived in a capital punishment jurisdiction I would prefer it to hanging, or the guillotine, or the electric chair. Here in New Zealand we have some pretty reliable electric stunning technology which is used for halal slaughter, which is also reliable for cattle.

I don't find the linked article shocking in the slightest and what it describes as good practice is genuinely good.

If you are going to slaughter at all, stunning followed by quick exsanguination is the right way. If you have ethical objections to eating animals, then the whole question is moot, although there is a utilitarian gain in minimising suffering.

The ethics of road kill for me depends on where you live. In my country, possums and rabbits and hares and hedgehogs and deer and goats -- all mammals but bats and seals, in fact -- are introduced pests that disrupt pre-settlement ecosystems. Killing them is a good thing and I have acquaintances who will swerve to hit a possum. In their own habitat, it strikes me that road kill as a phenomenon is a bad thing, and to eat it is like being a vegan who wears leather because the animal was dead anyway.

turbid dahlia's objections seem more valid in the context of massive agricultural subsidies that make feeding grain to cattle a viable business and beef a commodity product priced unnaturally low. I feel absolutely fine about eating local grass fed free range cattle and paying an appropriate price for a non-staple food.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:40 AM on October 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


[Comment removed; Obviously, people have strong feelings, but we need to be able to have this conversation without proposing murdering children and handicapped people. Thanks.]
posted by taz at 3:12 AM on October 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


@ justsomebody "Deciding whether I should eat meat is an ethical issue I face as an individual."
Agreed. The consideration of this is far more involved than one might suppose. There are coercive emotional appeals that might influence one to stop eating meat but I don't think that evidences sufficient consideration of one's motivation to justify calling it an ethical decision. It has more in common with joining a cult than with genuine philosophical work. Also, I doubt anyone would prefer to completely ignore the dangerous practices of feedlots and other alarming aspects of factory farming so that also is an insufficient argument for not eating meat as long as there are organic, grass-finished, humanely slaughtered options available. It also needs to be said that relative privilege plays a large part in being able to even consider this question. If I have leisure and means to choose good ethically produced meat over commercially mass-produced and thereby atrocious meat, then I might just be exercising my privilege to feel good about myself while not making a very deeply thought out ethical decision at all. Were I in circumstances of poverty or extreme hunger or medical necessity, for example, I might find I am not nearly as ethical as I had supposed myself to be and am, in fact, quite willing to eat whatever I can get and vegan principles be damned. I am still thinking this through. What would an ethical choice be for me about eating or not eating meat. The process has increased my empathy with animals and prompted much more research than I've ever done before into the origin of my food and what can be done to be more ethical in my food choices. I do eat far less meat and much more thoughtfully than formerly.

I liked these articles, and those throughout the thread. Via the karma of the internet, "The Moo Man" just appeared in my Netflix instant recommendations and I watched it tonight. He is a small dairy farmer and has the kind of fondness for his herd that I recognize from encounters with the dairy farmer at our local farmers market. I loved their dairy products and once greeted one of the partners by asking after the health of her cows--and her husband--and when I quickly apologized that I seemed to have that quite backwards, she laughed and said, no, he would be the first to agree that's the right order!
posted by Anitanola at 4:09 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Captive bolt + throat cutting is pretty good, seems to me. If I lived in a capital punishment jurisdiction I would prefer it to hanging, or the guillotine, or the electric chair.

Ok, following this argument, what are the cows guilty of?
posted by sutt at 4:57 AM on October 18, 2013


I read Miyabo's comment above with a sigh of relief. I have never been able to put my finger on why I don't like Temple Grandin, but maybe it's because there's something weird about becoming the world authority on slaughter, and having everyone believe you and adopt your practices because...why? Because you laid down with some cows? And these practices just happen to improve the productivity of slaughterhouses and the quality of the meat? And now she's moved on to the importance of messaging?

Ugh. But, I leave that aside.

Yeah, if there's a continuum between living happily then not being slaughtered, and living under torture and being killed horribly, I guess the article describes a less-bad point on that continuum. But what the article portrays isn't so much the problems with ethical slaughter, as it is the problem with trying to be an ethical meat-eater, and the worry involved with that, and the need to somehow assuage the lurking guilt that someone experienced pain and distress because you wanted a hot dog.

I mean, the ethics of slaughter aren't really part of the question the article asks; the writer assumes that question has already been answered. Squeeze box, bolt to the head or occasional 9 mm, administered by a person who's actually a person rather than a terrifying monster, then the nastiness happening while you're unconscious; there's a process, and it's better than not having that process. But even in the perfect-slaughter scenario the writer outlines, there are constant failures, needs for shocks, consciousness of your herd-mates being killed in front of you somewhere just out of sight, the fear that comes with the stench of blood in the air. You voice concern, and the writer turns that into "vocalization," something a machine might do.

And the article keeps a very narrow focus, on this humane grass-to-death lifeline, while offering hints at the better record a massive slaughter operation has. But that makes you notice there's a large penumbra around the article, because we know that the USDA has had to crack down on many, many slaughter operations because the need for productivity always conflicts with the desire for humaneness, and quite often wins. There is something about this process that constantly wants to slide back into savagery, and it requires vigilant policing.

And if our focus leaves the cows for a moment, and accidentally alights on poultry, the question of slaughter bursts into Bosch-like horror, because unlike the cows, you don't have to knock a chicken out before killing her.

So it's important to keep your eyes on the one cow, raised humanely, slaughtered humanely. Which is why it is hard to be an ethical meat-eater, and why, when I read comments from people here who go out of their way to find good farms, happy cattle, I am amazed at the amount of work they have had to put into a successful menu, and I have to be respectful of that work. I'm a vegetarian in large part because I can't devote that much mental work to figuring out if the meat is moral. I don't think the ethical question has been answered, I think taking the efficiency practices of inhumane industry and applying them to small business would tend to detract from the humaneness available, and so I have to stay out of it. It's hard enough twisting into moral knots while trying to figure out what eggs to buy at the store. I miss knowing people with chickens; that was a lot easier.

(The complications don't stop with farm animals. I get into discussions with people and they'll say, "But what about hunting, what about deer overpopulation?" and I end up having to run away and hide, because, hell, I don't know, why am I the moral arbiter of the universe, and before we got here, didn't the deer population take care of itself, and isn't it okay to say, "Do whatever you want, I guess, but I find the whole thing so horrible I don't want to talk about it?" Except of course I appear to want to talk about it. Maybe sermonize rather than converse.)
posted by mittens at 5:18 AM on October 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks, TMOTT. As someone who raises pigs and poultry on a very small scale, I'm interested in the issues they raise.

Years ago, long before I started farming, I got a late-night visit from a friend who had hit a deer minutes before. (In fairness, the deer hit *him,* according to the adjuster; the damage was enough to make an otherwise-calm mechanic swear when he laid eyes on the car.) My friend told me that we were going to deal with the carcase, and we did: We hung it up in the woods, and he bled it, decapitated it, and gutted it as I held the flashlight. It was a cold night, and we wrapped the carcase in a clean tarp, put it in my trunk, and drove home to his parents' house, where the family gathered 'round the surgical steel table in the kitchen to carve out the salvageable meat. It was delicious. That particular deer did not go to waste.

Now when I drive the highway in high deer season, I count the dead does by the side of the road. One year, I counted a dozen on a 25-mile stretch. More work for the road crews, wasted meat, more danger for scavenger birds, decay, blood, viscera for a commute. I am all for salvaging roadkilled deer. Once the deer is dead, it looks nothing like your idea of Bambi, and the carcase must be *dealt with.* Why not use it if possible?

I'm glad to hear that Prather's herd gets a good life. That's important for an animal, to have the ability to be its animal self, whether that's grazing, or rooting, or scratching, or running around, or being on pasture. This is what I take issue with: "Humane slaughter at the level strenuously striven for at Prather ultimately doesn’t reflect what’s important to cows." Yes, yes it does, in that there's an effort to reduce stress and suffering, even if it's a situation that's alien to everything that has gone before in that animal's life. There is a difference between hitting an animal and using pressuring (moving your body in the animal's vicinity to help direct it where you want it to go). There is a difference, for the animal, between near-immediate cessation of brain function and being chased and savaged by a predator. These animals are going to die no matter what, and some deaths are faster and less painful than others; Prather's operation is a vote to move meat production toward that goal. What consumers think of that is secondary, although significant in terms of supporting and encouraging better/more humane/less stress- and fear-inducing practices.

I won't deny the marketing (and moral) power behind the ideas of pasture-raised, humanely slaughtered, antibiotic-free, etc. livestock That's important, and a small protest against the more traditional systems of bringing meat to market. And as for me, that's what I can live with, because I live next to what I raise. I keep an eye on them. I play with them. I talk to them, and I make my kids bring them food and water and treats, and I'm out there in the mud and rain and cold. Where I live, I'm surrounded by big farmers with chicken houses, where tens of thousands of birds live in conditions that I find problematic (and yet there I am on a rushed evening, getting chicken nuggets at the drive-through because the kids are going to be hungry at this evening's meeting otherwise). It's a very, very imperfect solution, but most of the time, I'm going to make choices that favor less-stressful treatment of animals.

One last story: A few years ago, a neighbor's cat was hit by a car. It was not going to live. My husband and I let the neighbor know. She didn't have the money for an emergency night-time visit to the vet...and it would have been futile. The cat was not going to live. She begged my husband to shoot it and end its suffering. I held the flashlight. He held the gun. The next day, we dug a grave behind the neighbor's house so she could bury her poor pet. "Humane" does not mean the same thing as nice, or inoffensive, or easy.

I raise my pigs and my birds in their animal nature; I steward their lives and deaths; and in all senses I live with their daily joys and their inevitable ends. Bambi and Wilbur are going to live and die. It's my job to help all of that happen well.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:52 AM on October 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


It looks like the conversation is drifting two paths - and the article only addresses one of those paths. Namely:

a) A discussion about the morality of eating meat at all ever, and

b) a discussion which accepts as a given that eating meat can indeed be morally okay, and has moved on to "once we've accepted that premise, what is the most humane way of procuring that meat".

This is an article about discussion B. Discussion A is waaaaaay too personal for a lot of us, and maybe should be a separate one from this one.

Personally, I don't eat meat very much; at least not often enough to go the route of seeking out a specific farmer, meeting the cow that will be raised for me, and overseeing its humane treatment. The few times I buy meat, I do try to go for the most ethically-raised-and-treated meat I can find in the shop where I happen to be; I may not have a perfect record. However, I offset that by not turning up my nose at weird cuts - tripe, livers, pigs' feet, oxtail, skirt steak, blood sausage, haggis, etc. I also am more likely to go for sausage or ground meat than I am a specific cut of steak.

Because to my mind, the more people you can feed from a single animal, the less animals ultimately get killed, and the animal that did get killed will not have any bit of its body just tossed out (an act which feels disrespectful). And to make that happen, someone's gotta eat the tripe and the cheeks and the weird bits.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:02 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


My grandparents generation were wrong about civil rights, my parents generation, gay rights. Is my generation wrong about animal rights?
posted by Freen at 6:24 AM on October 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


. Is the death of a cow via stun gun and bleed out that much worse than the rabbit that is run over by a plow preparing a field for organic soy? How about the nesting birds who get run over?

What do you think livestock eat?

One of the more interesting arguments for eating meat is that animals can make food out of things that humans find inedible. If you rely on getting your food from one of those areas, eating and raising animals for meat seems rather justified.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:25 AM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is my generation wrong about animal rights?

I don't believe in a personal god; I don't think rights are something handed down by one. The universe is amoral and indifferent to suffering and beauty alike. I think rights are something which humans create for each other by mutual agreement, and that a being which can neither consent nor reject that contract stands outside it, and that that's perfectly fine. There's nothing wrong with an animal obeying its nature, whether that's a cat eating a mouse, me eating a cow, or a bear eating me. People are the only ones who may to decide to grant personhood to the non-consenting. They may certainly choose to do so, and I have no objection to their making that choice on pure speciesism lines (I.e., any being with human DNA gets human rights even if temporarily or permanently unable to understand and respect the rights of others).
posted by Diablevert at 6:45 AM on October 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd love to see a return of the wild auroch

I'll bet they're delicious!
posted by snottydick at 6:59 AM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I guess I applaud anyone who is like, "I really like meat, and don't have moral qualms eating it if it has a good life and is killed correctly, so I'm going to do my best to create a place where that happens."
But, for me, and this is just me, I started getting nauseous reading about how those humanely killed cows were killed. They had nice cow lives, they had as good a death as you can get, and - for me - that's still not enough. I don't need to eat that to live, and that cow doesn't need to die (or, I suppose, be born in the first place) for me to exist. To me, the whole thing with eating meat strikes me as a particularly unnecessary consumption (the caveat being that, again, this is me: someone who doesn't need to eat meat; I do know people who cannot survive without it due to medical considerations).
I am lucky enough to have a place in the world that allows me to consider my rights (as opposed to, say, just surviving, or being fodder for predators). I don't think I have the right to eat animals.
This is, as I said, just what works for me.
posted by qnarf at 7:29 AM on October 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


It looks like the conversation is drifting two paths - and the article only addresses one of those paths. Namely:

a) A discussion about the morality of eating meat at all ever, and

b) a discussion which accepts as a given that eating meat can indeed be morally okay, and has moved on to "once we've accepted that premise, what is the most humane way of procuring that meat".

This is an article about discussion B. Discussion A is waaaaaay too personal for a lot of us, and maybe should be a separate one from this one.


The article is about someone looking at the best available slaughter and asking if that is good enough and pointing out that factory farms are not actually that much worse. Some people are going to answer that even the best is not good enough and it is, yes, on topic. The author only concludes he is okay with eating the small farm burger in the last friggin line, it is the opposite of starting from that assumption.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:44 AM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's always interesting to read threads like this; I know it's only a small number of mefites participating, but to a degree, the views expressed in these threads reflect the general currency of views toward farming animals.

I don't usually participate, but the fundamental problem with farms like the one profiled and consumers of these farms is that they all genuinely seem convinced that the idea of "humane animal farming" or "humane slaughter" can exist. I've long felt "humane slaughter" is greenwashing of a different ilk; it does farmed animals and insects a great disservice in the long run because it continues to underscore the idea that the commoditization of animals is a totally humane practice.
posted by mayurasana at 9:49 AM on October 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Namely:

a) A discussion about the morality of eating meat at all ever, and

b) a discussion which accepts as a given that eating meat can indeed be morally okay, and has moved on to "once we've accepted that premise, what is the most humane way of procuring that meat".

This is an article about discussion B. Discussion A is waaaaaay too personal for a lot of us, and maybe should be a separate one from this one.


I don't know, the article does ask if humane slaughter is good enough, without clarifying "For what?" No. is a perfectly valid answer, even if the reason behind that there's never a way of eating meat that's good enough. I'm just not sure where you can go in a discussion after that. Most of people have been pretty careful in commenting about how, as a personal choice, they do _____. I don't really think I'm in a position to argue the personal ethics involved with other people.

Now personally, you and I are an the exact same page. If we're going to eat meat (and this is absolutely a choice for a lot of us, but not for all), then yes we have a moral obligation to make sure the thing we're eating is killed as painlessly as possible, and that as little goes to waste as possible (which btw is something that factory farming actually excels at, selling every bit of the animal that you can is just good business).

The question is how do we go about doing this? My solution (hunting, buying half animals from a guy I know, whose farm I've visited) as someone feeding a family, is going to be different than someone feeding just themselves. Which is why I think that having all those certification programs listed to the right of the article is so great. If I didn't need that much meat, or know a guy, or whatever I would still want that assurance. Some are worth more than others, but having that information is a BIG step forward for consumers. One that will hopefully lead to the better treatment of animals all the way around. We've still got a long way to go getting human treatment legally codified, but this is a small step in the right direction.

it does farmed animals and insects a great disservice

Completely sincere here when I ask: what farmed insects?
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:02 AM on October 18, 2013


Qnarf, I noticed that you use the same manner of argument that I do (couching it as a personal decision, allowing for others to reach their own conclusions), and I'm starting to wonder if that's enough, for me. Because we're not talking solely about our personal effect on specific animals. At the volume of meat our human population eats, even if we were to convert all that industrial production to "humane" production (and I use that term loosely), it would still be a significant contributor to environmental damage and climate change. But this is an example of where one needs to make a convincing argument that an individual should take an action on their own that will not see results until millions of others take the same action...
posted by sutt at 10:03 AM on October 18, 2013


Completely sincere here when I ask: what farmed insects?

Cochineal, silkworms, honeybees, female lac insects.
posted by mayurasana at 10:19 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Humane treatment and slaughter is a different issue from environmental damage, though. You could envision an industrial process that converts all that waste into something useful, rather than lakes of poison, but that would still leave behind the question of whether it's right to kill an animal, or more pertinently to the article, whether there's a way to kill an animal that is more right than another. It's easy to look at the scale of an industrial process and see horror--there is something about that kind of vastness and complexity that is simultaneously riveting and disturbing--but the damage caused by that scale adds a technological issue to the moral one. Which feeds back into the subject of the post: How many complaints about meat can be ameliorated, before it becomes okay to eat it without guilt? If you can farm cows on an industrial scale to feed millions, without being cruel, and without a negative environmental impact, would that make it okay again?
posted by mittens at 10:23 AM on October 18, 2013


Cochineal, silkworms, honeybees, female lac insects.

Thank you.
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:37 AM on October 18, 2013


Ok, following this argument, what are the cows guilty of?

Being delicious.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:23 PM on October 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you can farm cows on an industrial scale to feed millions, without being cruel, and without a negative environmental impact

Allowing for hypotheticals, where you could farm animals at that scale with zero environmental impact, I personally would not fall on the side of it being ok, as I think even the "humane" slaughter discussed is inherently cruel.

However, unless you can somehow sequester or transform the methane output of billions of farmed animals, I'm not sure how you could ever feed meat to millions, "humanely" or otherwise, without a significant environmental impact.
posted by sutt at 1:11 PM on October 18, 2013


Bosch very reasonably brings up poultry slaughter. This is a prospect even if we only want to raise chickens for eggs, because 50% of hatch is male. But for most domestic species of bird, one male per several females is a proper ratio. Not just for efficiency and turning feed into eggs at the most productive rate, but to prevent overmating injuries to the hens, and to minimize fighting amongst males. So as long as we have poultry we will have extra males, and among small home flocks they go to the larder. Among larger operations I don't know if they are discarded as chicks or what.

My dear friend has chickens. She's also been a paramedic for 15+ years. She's really practical about things you need to be really practical for, and she shows up at horrible scenes and looks Death in the face, and sometimes Death blinks first. She's the best sort of sweet: the kind that counts most because you know this person will never sugarcoat anything. She's the person I asked to level with me about slaughtering my birds. Bleeding out, she tells me, is pretty much like standing up too fast and fainting. The cut is a cut. If you've ever cut yourself with a sharp knife, you know. You hear so many stories about someone looking down and wondering where's all the blood coming from, because they didn't feel the injury they sustained. My birds I do at home so they don't have a scary ride or new place to frighten them. I don't let the other birds see. They hang out in their familiar bird pen until it's time, then it's 30 seconds for me to carry them to the work area and it's done.

I can be personally hands-on responsible for what I eat - I am glad to have answered that question for myself, and I am content with the answer. The birds I raise are rare breeds - different viewpoints will attach different values to the relevance of their bloodlines being singled out as something worthy to preserve or not, but personally I value them. My selection for culling is based on which birds I can combine to produce a generation that is superior to the last. By necessity I must remove other birds from my flock. I'm also limited by the size of the population I care to manage - they have a nice natural pond to enjoy, I want to maintain a small enough group that they don't overpollute it. I could accommodate more birds if I had them set up in pens with kiddie pools, which would be adequate to keep them healthy. But having a pond and not letting the ducks on it? Honestly, truly, that seems more cruel than the slaughter.
posted by Lou Stuells at 1:55 PM on October 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


Eating road kill: I've done that, a fawn I hit with my truck. The back-straps were delicious, but the little guy didn't have much else to offer. I don't see killing animals with my vehicle as a reliable way to get meat. I wouldn't examine road-carcasses to see whether they were already rotten--and therefore appropriate for dinner--but, for safety reasons, I would drag one off the road. I understand that Alaska has a sensible policy in this regard. Good meat is good meat, so why waste it?

I have read essays on why it's not really economic to raise beef meat. Pigs, for example, are a better deal. This has to do with the land you need to raise the feed for the meat animal, and such. Also, large birds as meat animals....not just chickens. Anyhow, I can make an argument against raising beef cattle, but it's based on economy, not ethics. Ethical vegetarians have their argument all laid out, cut and dried, and I don't see any way to refute it. If it's wrong to kill, then it's wrong to kill for meat. Fine. It's not up to me to parse their beliefs, nor to point out any inconsistencies I might see in them. I don't care, is how that works, anymore than I care whether a person is a Baptist of a Buddhist.

If you are going to eat them, you ought to first kill them. There's no getting around that. Once I made a deal with a friend, where we raised 100 chicks to adulthood, fed them chicken feed, let them run around in a pen and scratch the ground for gizzard fodder and insects; all this to make them better than coop-raised critters. After about six months, he and I killed them all--in one day, plucked and butchered them, wrapped them up for our freezers. This cost us a few dollars for some chicken feed, plus our time. The chicks we bought for 25 cents each. This was not my first experience at slaughtering for meat. I had killed and dressed pigs and deer (never a cow), and a few other kinds of birds and mammals. But killing 100 chickens that day was a fairly depressing thing, and I decided to not do that any more. I'm pretty sure I'm not suited to work in a slaughterhouse.

I agree with the general idea that you can raise meat animals under humane conditions, and that you can do the best you can to kill them without making a traumatic experience out of it: well, discounting the trauma of dying, or the effect it has on the killer.

I can think of arguments that make me favor the life of the wild animal over that of the domesticated beef animal. But I can't think of any arguments that make one life better than the other. This (quality of life) issue is subjective. Of apples and oranges, which is better? I don't see how those arguments have anything to do with the ethics of the slaughterhouse.
posted by mule98J at 3:14 PM on October 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you are going to eat them, you ought to first kill them.

Yeah, that's why I'm a vegetarian. I have pretty severe facial scarring from that time I tried to eat a live chicken. Never again.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:21 PM on October 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why Do We Sexualize Chicken?
[Carol J.] Adams then argues that this is a way to distract us from the fact that we are eating the flesh of an animal that has been killed for us.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:10 PM on October 18, 2013


this is a way to distract us from the fact that we are eating the flesh of an animal that has been killed for us.

Or, it's a recognition that a chicken is small with only a few well-defined parts to eat, which happen to match up in name to human body parts, and so a little sense of (possibly misogynistic) humor maps the meaning of one part to another; this doesn't really happen with beef and pork the same way, probably because there are so many more cuts available, all with different names and no particular human-body-mapping available (except the laughter over rump roast).

I don't like theories like hers, because they ascribe motive where no motive exists. That is, nobody needs to be distracted from the fact they are eating the flesh of an animal that has been killed for them, because very few people care. The people who do need some sort of comfort about the killing, don't look for it by making misogynist jokes at a chicken's expense; instead they do, well, all the stuff that has been talked about in the thread, looking for ways to make their meal more humane.
posted by mittens at 7:34 PM on October 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


turbid dahlia: Why is there even a road there? Why aren't there alternative crossings for the creatures, where they will be safer?
It may amaze you to learn that the food in your grocery stores does not grow in their shelving areas. In fact, those roads are somewhat useful for getting the food to you.

And if you have any good ideas on how to get deer to obey the crossings we'd happily put up for them, you'd be saving many human lives every year.
the young rope-rider: Yes, living a life in captivity and then being slaughtered, frequently without pain, is not better than a miserable life in the wild.
Based on what? The Star Trek Values of "Freedom!"? When the bird cage in the Central Park Zoo was damaged a few years back, a significant portion of the birds that flew away... came back over the next few days.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:16 AM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


The original article was on humane slaughter, is it humane enough?
So I think this will fit in OK
A couple people have wondered about Temple Grandin and how is she qualified to design humane slaughterhouses? "Dr. Grandin received her Ph.D in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1989." And is " a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University."

These things along with her perfect memory of structures/the physics of them qualify her to design slaughterhouses. If they must be designed she is the one to do it. As a fellow autistic I was able to identify with how autism often involves sensory over-load. Our everyday life involves hypersensitivity to any sight, sound, smell, and touch [*that's why I do not like touches from anyone-too overwhelming etc.]. So, when she says that she can see/sense things from a cow's POV, at least in a sensory way, I believe her.


Just know that her complete focus and willingness to at least walk through and inspect in detail the chutes that animals walk through, was a great idea. Before she came along, I can honestly say that it seemed like the cattle handlers had absolutely no concern about the animal besides slaughtering it.
Besides her sensory perceptions, there is her mind that can have a whole blueprint, every detail, for animal handling buildings and equipment in her mind--in her mind only. When she gets home she goes over it with a fine toothed comb.


I certainly do not agree with all of what she says about both autism and dogs, but she is impressive at what she does in her original professional career.

I watched all of her videos on humane slaughter and her logic and her ability to see and sense ~what they see, what frightens them (because those things frightens her too), jibes with my view of how my animals see the world [I was a licensed veterinary technician for 20 years]. I think she approached all of these problems with utmost attention to detail and spent long hours studying both books and real life situations. I think she is indeed qualified to work in her original chosen field. Why not look at her biography?
posted by RuvaBlue at 1:04 AM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


if the end result is that cows aren't tortured by the millions merely so we can temporarily sate the infinite appetites floating beneath our disgustingly fat bellies, then that's just as good for the cows.

Are you really incapable of engaging in this discussion without throwing in little asides and digs at both the people involved in it and society in general? Because it really makes it hard to digest what you're saying without just wanting to throw it in the trash.

I don't even disagree with you that much on your core point and a lot of what you said. But I can't abide by this "disgusting fat bellies", "3rd cheeseburger of the day" garbage. It's actually even worse than the whole "sheeple" thing.

This is an article about discussion B. Discussion A is waaaaaay too personal for a lot of us, and maybe should be a separate one from this one.

I would almost say that A would be a discussion like one of those "Israel vs Palestine discuss" kind of things where the absolute lack of bounds on it makes it a fruitless, irritating, rage quit inducing discussion.

Without an actual focus of a specific situation, those "this big systemic problem" kind of discussions just bring out stupid axe grinding posturing bullshit and snarky digs like what have already popped up in here.

And yet any time discussion b tries to happen on a lot of topics it turns in to discussion a because a lot of people Want to fight about it.
posted by emptythought at 3:59 AM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's fighting to say that one's answer to question B feeds directly back in to question A. And introducing question A doesn't really have to cause a fight, because the moral question being asked isn't: "What should you do?" but "What should I do?" And that's a far more interesting question, and you get to hear lots of personal stories about how people have grappled with the issue, and those stories help you think about the issue, so one isn't just, y'know, waiting in line for one's chance to bark an opinion into the microphone. Articles like the one in the FPP are really, really valuable for helping focus our discussion in a non-rage-inducing way, even if we disagree with the author.
posted by mittens at 7:03 AM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


the young rope-rider: Yes, living a life in captivity and then being slaughtered, frequently without pain, is not better than a miserable life in the wild.
IAmBroom: Based on what? The Star Trek Values of "Freedom!"?

Maybe based on the idea that even humane captivity, which seeks to accommodate an animal's instincts, is still based on distilling that vast repertoire of instincts into a few things which can be accommodated (assuming we have those right), leaving a significant portion of the animal's psychological needs unmet?
posted by mittens at 7:29 AM on October 19, 2013



Maybe based on the idea that even humane captivity, which seeks to accommodate an animal's instincts, is still based on distilling that vast repertoire of instincts into a few things which can be accommodated (assuming we have those right), leaving a significant portion of the animal's psychological needs unmet?


So, do you have indoor-outdoor cats? The animals under discussion are those whose psyches have been deliberately and unscientifically molded to make them susceptible to human control for thousands of years. Cows and dogs and pigs, unlike aurochs and wolves and boars, are human inventions.

Many modern factory farming methods cause psychological distress, as can be witnessed from the behavior of the animals. But why should is be presumed that a cow in a pasture is distressed merely because the field has a fence around it? Or a pig in a wallow or a dog in a yard? Or for that matter, a human in an office? In our species' experience, many individuals are glad to exchange a degree of freedom of movement in return for a hot meals and warms beds; that's why most of us lock ourselves in a room/car for over half our waking hours. Many of us are bored as hell for many of those hours, but we still make that choice. The cow doesn't chose whether the field has a fence, true. But it doesn't seem at all obvious to me that freedom to roam, in the mind of a cow, would be more greatly valued than greatly reduced chance of starving to death, being eaten by wolves, or dying of disease.
posted by Diablevert at 11:45 AM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


But it doesn't seem at all obvious to me that freedom to roam, in the mind of a cow, would be more greatly valued than greatly reduced chance of starving to death, being eaten by wolves, or dying of disease.

I don't want to go too far with the freedom argument, because it's one of those things I mull over rather than have a really strong position on (see the other sliding-scale notions upthread), but I think this particular sentence is flawed, because for it to work, you have to assume the cow has an idea of the future. If the cow does want to roam, then a fence is a present, known inconvenience, in the way that future disease or predation are not. It's certainly better for the cow's physical well-being to be protected from predators, but does the cow think so?

Maybe this puts the cow into the position of a toddler, who wishes to roam free, and who thinks running into the highway is a grand idea; the greater good, then, would be that little limitation of freedom, and we would just have to be cautious about how many limitations we put on that freedom, because efficiency and freedom are always at odds. (And yeah, that assumes the cow actually wishes to roam absolutely free with no human hindrances; maybe the cow couldn't care less. Although I'm not sure how much I believe the cow-as-human-invention idea, that there is a permanent behavioral change there; how has it been tested? Is there a thin veneer of civilized cow, under which lurks the savage beast? I think of what happens to domestic pigs released into the wild, and I wonder.)
posted by mittens at 12:24 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


For those who are interested in Dr. Grandin's work on humane slaughter: "Animal Welfare and Humane Slaughter." This paper involves much more than her subjective impressions of how animals perceive their surroundings.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:39 PM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's fighting to say that one's answer to question B feeds directly back in to question A. And introducing question A doesn't really have to cause a fight, because the moral question being asked isn't: "What should you do?" but "What should I do?" And that's a far more interesting question, and you get to hear lots of personal stories about how people have grappled with the issue, and those stories help you think about the issue, so one isn't just, y'know, waiting in line for one's chance to bark an opinion into the microphone.

Can you not see how that's happening here though? not for every single person, but more than one commenter really just saw it as a door finally being open enough to ram their foot in.

Turning this into a big "farming is evil basically as a concept because of XYZ" discussion. isn't really expanding it in to "what should i do?", it's soapboxing. A lot of the problem here isn't even personal stories, it's just straight up "this is bad and you should feel bad" which is the foot the thread started off on as well.

So, do you have indoor-outdoor cats? The animals under discussion are those whose psyches have been deliberately and unscientifically molded to make them susceptible to human control for thousands of years. Cows and dogs and pigs, unlike aurochs and wolves and boars, are human inventions.

The hilarious thing to me is that a lot of the people i've heard those types of arguments from in other facets of my life, if they aren't anti-pet in general(which i can respect), are all "no you can't let cats outdoors! they kill way too many birds and mice and they don't live as long and..."

The cognitive dissonance and irony hangs in the air like a stale bong hit in a walk in closet.
posted by emptythought at 2:05 PM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wish I could eat three cheeseburgers a day!
posted by spaltavian at 2:08 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


mittens: "If the cow does want to roam, then a fence is a present, known inconvenience, in the way that future disease or predation are not. It's certainly better for the cow's physical well-being to be protected from predators, but does the cow think so?... And yeah, that assumes the cow actually wishes to roam absolutely free with no human hindrances; maybe the cow couldn't care less."

I think we have to conclude the latter. Fences aren't an extraordinary impediment to roaming any more than ditches and rivers and cliffs and ravines are; a cow registers these things a little, and then moves in the other direction. If anything, the difference between these things is that, unlike most of them, a fence can't actually kill a cow; it just prevents them from moving in one direction. Unless the fenced area is remarkably small, I don't think that fences have a real impact on a cow's internal sense of well-being.

Then again, my views here are a bit more radical than that. I would go much farther and say that animals in general have no sense of "freedom" whatsoever. They have a sense of captivity; and if you hold an animal down, cage it, tie it up, or otherwise physically restrain it, it will notice. But indoor-only cats aren't noticeably less fulfilled than outdoor-only cats, and cows in pastures with fences don't seem happier than cows in pastures without fences. I think this is one realm in which we anthropomorphize animals more than others; because abstract "freedom" is such an important thing to us, we think of it as absolutely essential that animals have it, too. Aside from migratory species, which we generally don't eat or keep as pets anyhow, I don't think many animals we come in contact with frequently will be any less happy if confined to a couple dozen square miles instead of the entire world; and most of them are just fine in even smaller enclosed areas.
posted by koeselitz at 5:05 PM on October 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would go much farther and say that animals in general have no sense of "freedom" whatsoever. They have a sense of captivity; and if you hold an animal down, cage it, tie it up, or otherwise physically restrain it, it will notice.

I think of it in terms of animals having a sense of being threatened and a sense of feeling safe. IIRC, cows like to be in groups of at least four, and shift places among themselves, jockeying to be inside for safety purposes. My free-range chickens come in to roost at night as a group, and enter the coop of their own accord; when the hawks are circling during the day, the chickens tend to spend more time under sheltered overhangs (like vehicles). Piglets will run like hell, as I recently discovered -- but even the escapee ultimately broke for the place where she heard hogs grunting, and she was trying to get to them when she was caught. Safety is, at least in part, familiar territory, other animals of the species, the repeated confirmation that a reliable food source appears every day. And feeling safe makes an animal more likely and able to indulge in its particular habits, whether rooting or scratching or grazing. So for me, a discussion of fences in terms of freedom makes no sense. A fence as a way to help define territory, and keep them together, and exclude predators in order to make animals feel safer? That is more in line with what we think we know about livestock behavior. Likewise, restraints fall into the "threat" category. I've seen humane traps make cats and groundhogs bloody-toed. That's not a feeling of oppression; that's panic.

Related: pressure zones and flight zones, and the way that sheep (and cattle) respond in terms of their individual space, rather than out of some nebulous desire for freedom. There is a big difference between working with animals' tendencies (Grandin) and asserting brute dominance. Also, "No Fences" only ever worked for Garth Brooks. No limits = no livestock.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:51 PM on October 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


There are places where people run cattle with no fences; we did it ourselves in the US once upon a time, when it was possible, and when the difficulty of getting the cows to the feedlot made it necessary. People just (a) have to be there all the time, following them and herding them and living alongside them in moving camps, which is very work-intensive; and (b) have deal with a lot of them dying. Also, a typo in my last comment: it should have been "cows in pastures without fences aren't happier than cows in pastures with fences." I am actually fairly certain that cows in fenced pastures are happier.
posted by koeselitz at 6:49 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


If the cow does want to roam, then a fence is a present, known inconvenience, in the way that future disease or predation are not. It's certainly better for the cow's physical well-being to be protected from predators, but does the cow think so?

I'm pretty sure cows don't plan, or make decisions based on anything other than the situation in that moment. Asking "do you prefer more freedom or more safety?" would probably get you the answer "more food" if they're hungry; "more warmth" if they're cold; "milked" if it's milking time; "more space" if they're factory farmed; "stop the hurting" if they're in pain; etc. It's possible to make choices that make the cows consistently unhappy, and their lives measurably worse, and WAY to much beef is raised in those conditions (too much being any amount more than none). That is a failing on our part as humans that it wouldn't be in other predators, because we are aware enough, and able, to make the choices to change those conditions.

I'd say the same thing about wild game (except the milked part).

I doubt there's anything I can say that would convince some people in this conversation that it can be ethical to eat meat, and I've got some sympathy for that. There are things that I think can never be ethical either. The most I can hope for is the idea that not everyone who eats meat is pro-factory farming. Just like there are people who don't eat meat that still participate in factory farming and the slaughter of animals (think about what happens to most of the male chicks\calves that are produced when breeding the next generation of layers and milk cows).
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:39 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The most I can hope for is the idea that not everyone who eats meat is pro-factory farming.

This is a tough one. I don't know how it is in the rest of the country, but down here, pretty much every native you talk to is one to two generations removed from farming. We all either grew up on a farm, spent some time on one, or had family who did, and many of us have memories of what those small operations were like. So, when you say "pig farm," even though I know better, I think of the way our neighbors kept pigs: In a pen, fed slop made of leftovers (including cookies, which I remember being jealous of), plenty of mud to wallow in to keep the flies off (and oh god so many flies), and even though they were in no sense pets (they were actually kind of scary), it was very different from a modern industrial pig operation. Folks grew up with chickens as pets, you still see fields with cows not too far from shopping centers, that sort of thing. So we have this cultural memory of, maybe not a bucolic paradise, but at least a more old-fashioned, small-scale approach to food production.

So what do you do with the knowledge that somebody's eating a hotdog made, not of a happy but scary pig who ate cookies in a pen, but of some mathematical averaging of hundreds of pigs grown in squalor, terror and pain? You can't really tell anyone that, unless you want to be The Annoying Vegetarian Friend who interrupts Thanksgiving dinner to show everyone PETA videos. I think meat-eaters are rightly annoyed by attempts to gross them out and shame them, kind of like when someone calls me a hypocrite because bunnies get run over by grain harvesting equipment.

But, I'm an optimist. Even down here, I see lots of people questioning what they're eating, and trying to change the menu a little to reflect what they're thinking. Maybe it's just a trendy thing, the way we were all low fat a few years ago, but it certainly offers a way to have the conversation without being a pushy evangelist.
posted by mittens at 5:21 AM on October 21, 2013


On Meat-Eating
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:42 PM on October 25, 2013


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