Animals are not “meats”

The author with Hari, a young steer at PreetiRang Sanctuary, February 2016. Photo by Ziggy Tomcich.

There’s a butcher shop not far from where I live that has angered me every time I’ve walked by it. Not just because they sell the dismembered bodies of animals; such establishments, sadly, can be found everywhere. And not just because they claim that raising animals for food can be a “humane” practice; this myth, sadly, is being peddled in an increasing number of places, as more businesses cash in on trading the lie of “happy” meat, eggs, or milk for extra dollars.

No, what made me especially angry when I walked by this particular business today was a sign in the window advertising their “humanely raised meats”. Nearby was another sign showing an example of one of these “meats” —prior to being killed, dismembered, and packaged for sale — standing in a field.

Animals are not “meats”. Our fellow animals are living, feeling beings who experience joy and suffering, form attachments to their friends and family members, and want to live just as much as we do. They have individual personalities, as any caretaker at a vegan sanctuary (like PreetiRang, pictured above) can tell you. All animals commonly raised or hunted for food—and fishing is merely underwater hunting — are sentient (self-aware) individuals.

Labeling animals with a word referring to the dead, decaying flesh stripped from their bones reduces them to a product whose sole purpose is to serve humans. The animals themselves may not know or care what words we use to describe them, as they do not speak our human languages. But word choices affect our outlook and our actions. Animals very much care when those actions include dehorning, debeaking, and castration without anesthesia, forced pregnancy, separation from their children, and being herded into a slaughterhouse at a young age, all of which are routine occurrences on so-called “humane” farms.

Calling animals “meats” instead of referring to them by their species or their names (like Hari, pictured above) makes it easy to dismiss all of those actions, as they’re being done to a thing, not a person. Some farmers do make personal connections with the animals they later intend to kill, but often find doing so emotionally difficult. So they justify the killing with flowery or ridiculous language, like saying that the animal lived a great life with only “one bad day” — the day they got a knife to the throat or a bullet in the head.

Keep in mind that I’m not talking about starving people who are eating whatever they can to survive. The people selling these “humanely raised meats” are marketing them to consumers who have no practical obstacles to eating an entirely plant-based diet. “Humane meats” command premium prices as they alleviate the guilt associated with factory farming, but so-called “free-range” farming results in nearly as much suffering and just as much death, while requiring even more land use, so it’s hardly sustainable.

The truth is that there is no way to feed seven billion humans with the bodies, eggs, and milk of animals who have fully adequate space to roam, graze, and stretch their wings, to stay with their families, and to live out their natural lifespans. We can feed seven billion people with plants. Suggestions that eliminating animal agriculture would somehow be an environmental catastrophe are lies perpetuated by the animal industry. Animal agriculture is the catastrophe, not only to the environment, but to each of the feeling, thinking, suffering individuals who was bred for the sole purpose of serving humans.

It’s not about “cruelty”. It’s about reality and necessity. We humans do not need to continue this endless slaughter of our fellow animals. Stop looking for excuses to continue exploiting them. Please go vegan, for their sake.