What if I eat only humanely raised animals?

Do you think there is a humane way to kill someone who does not want to die?

People who claim to consume only “humane” animal flesh and secretions are deluding themselves in several ways.

First, whether you purchase animal flesh and secretions at a grocery store, or at a restaurant, or if you dine at a friend’s home, there is no possible way to know how each animal was treated during their lives. You want to believe that because the label or menu says “Humane Certified” or “Free Range” or “Cage Free” or “Grass Fed” that these animals lived a happy, pain-free life, rather than living in the abuse and filth of factory farms.

But all of these labels are meaningless. The agency responsible for defining food labeling terms in the United States is the U.S.D.A. They list on their Web site the following solitary criterion for the term “free-range”: “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” That’s it. There is no requirement regarding how long birds must have access to the outside, nor anything that specifies any other minimal standards of care for the animals.

It is perfectly consistent with the U.S.D.A.’s definition of “free-range” for a poultry operation to provide a small door in a huge shed that houses tens of thousands of chickens, and then to open that door for a few minutes a day, giving the chickens “access” to the outdoors. And the “range” to which these “free-range” chickens are given access need not be a natural “range” for a chicken (let alone tens of thousands of chickens) in any normal sense of the word. The operation could give the chickens a few minutes of daily access to a gravel patch and still receive the U.S.D.A.’s certification for “free-range,” which allows the operation to dupe gullible consumers out of more money. Further, the “free-range” definition applies only to chickens raised for their meat. There is no definition of “free-range” that applies to eggs produced in the U.S.. That’s right. There’s no legal definition of “free-range” eggs whatsoever; nor is there even a common set of “free-range” standards established by the egg industry itself, making the term completely meaningless when applied to eggs.

Second, there is no humane way to slaughter someone who does not want to die. “Humane slaughter” is the ultimate oxymoron. “Humane” means “having or showing compassion or benevolence.” “Slaughter” means to “kill (people or animals) in a cruel or violent way, typically in large numbers.” The term “humane” can never describe the word “slaughter.” While some methods of killing an animal may be less cruel than others, they all involve an act of violence against an innocent and defenseless animal who had, in most cases, lived only a fraction of his natural lifespan. He valued his life, and likely watched in terror as those before him were brutally killed.

If you have compassion for animals, and if you believe that they have the right to be treated well and to live free from unnecessary suffering, then you need to know that there is no system of forcibly impregnating, confining, mutilating, and slaughtering them that meets the definition of “humane.” Don’t allow your conscience to be salved by meaningless marketing slogans. All systems of exploitation harm the interests of the exploited. Regardless of the marketing pixie dust that surrounds the idea of happy farm animals, they are a myth based on the morally indefensible premise that humans can use non-human animals as commodities, objects, or machines, instead of recognizing them as sentient fellow earthlings. In any conflict between the interests of the oppressed and the interests of the oppressor, the oppressed loses.

Can you see how all claims of “compassionate” and “humane” exploitation and oppression of non-human animals are meaningless?

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