It may seem easier to eat “humane meat”
than choose vegetarian, but in fact it’s not.
For example, in The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2007), Michael Pollan endorses eating animals from Polyface farm, where “animals can be animals,” living, according to Pollan, true to their nature. But what is Polyface really like? Rabbits on the farm are kept in small suspended-wire cages. Chickens are crowded into mobile wire cages, confined without the ability to nest or the space to establish a pecking order. Pigs and cattle are shipped year-round in open trucks to conventional slaughterhouses. Seventy-two hours before their slaughter, birds are crated with seven other birds. After three days without food, they are grabbed by the feet, up-ended in metal cones, and without any stunning, have their throats slit.
This is the system Pollan proclaims praiseworthy. In the end, Polyface’s view is the same as Tyson’s - these individuals are, ultimately, just meat to be sold for a profit. It’s logically and emotionally impossible for there to be any real respect, any true, fundamental concern for the interests of these individuals when these living, breathing, feeling animals exist only to be butchered and consumed. If we insist that we must consume actual animal flesh instead of a vegetarian option, it’s na´ve, at best, to believe any system will really take good care of the animals we pay them to slaughter. If you say an individual is just meat, they’ll be treated as such. . . . .
Consuming or promoting “humane” meat is not a different diet, nor an ethical example, nor an effective advocacy technique. It’s just a variation on the view of animals as meat. Calling any flesh-food “humane” - a word that references the very best of our nature - bastardizes the very idea.
- From pp. 97-99 of The Animal Activist’s Handbook: Maximizing Our Positive Impact in Today’s World, by Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich, Lantern Books, 2009