It seems to me that Americans are waking up at a faster and faster rate. The idea that the vegan diet is just for Berkeley hippies is a very old idea indeed; as you’ve probably heard, even Al Gore has finally gone vegan. More and more people from all walks of life understand the issues behind veganism, and more and more people are beginning to care.
I particularly respect the people who are willing to go way out of their way to not only get “grass-fed, humanely slaughtered” meat, but actually seek out a local supplier so that they can verify that the animals are living a happy life on a grassy pasture, rather than just trusting the sticker on the cellophane wrap in their trendy grocery store up the street. To me, these people are caring enough to really go the extra mile to make sure they are spending their money the way they want, rather than just trusting the stickers on the cellophane wrap so they can feel good about their choices. They care enough to do what they think is right.
Over the past couple of years, an increasing number of people have told me that, while they are not vegan, they are very serious about finding a local supplier of beef or other meat that they can verify comes from happy and healthy conditions. I think this is such a huge, huge step in the right direction … almost every vegan knows that the animals in factory farms don’t just die an horrific death in the slaughterhouses, they live horrific lives of brutality, neglect and disease in the factory farms for years leading up to their slaughter. It’s absolutely unconscionable.
But I think what people may be forgetting to consider when they seek out these more humane suppliers of meat is what, exactly, constitutes “humane slaughtering?” My friend Carlos told me that an acquaintance mentioned that he only buys “humanely slaughtered” meat. Carlos respectfully asked him, “How does one humanely slaughter meat? Is it possible to humanely take life? If I wanted to humanely slaughter you, for example, what would that look like?”
Carlos’ questions are very thought-provoking, and I expect many people who buy this meat haven’t thought about these questions. Even if you can put an animal “to sleep” in such a way that it never feels pain or fear, is it “humane” to rob the animal of it’s life? In fact – is it humane to rob an animal of its life just so that we can have steak or turkey for dinner, when we have so many other options for dinner that don’t involve taking a life?
Think about what we do to preserve our own lives … how hard we would fight for our lives or the lives of our loved ones … how we might risk our own life to save another’s life. Whether we consciously think about it or not, we cherish our life and revere life above all (or almost all) else.
So perhaps it’s time to consciously think about it. If we cherish our own lives, isn’t it fair to assume cows, pigs and chickens and all animals cherish their lives too? If we cherish not only human life, but also our pets’ lives, why wouldn’t we cherish all life?
While I understand the desire to eat meat, maintain traditions that involve meat, and fit in with society by eating meat, is it really worth taking life to do so? The question at hand is not whether to inhumanely or humanely slaughter meat … the question is whether it’s humane to take life or not.