Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ethical Meat Eating

Last night I randomly caught a tweet linking to chilling statistics on PETA, and then another kind friend sent me the link to Penn & Teller's Bullshit episode on PETA which I finished watching this morning.

My thoughts, however, started last night with the chilling statistic which is that PETA kills most of the animals it 'rescues'. I actually understand why shelters often have to put down animals, but what this says about PETA and their so-called ethics is that they are hypocrites, a fact that Penn & Teller amply showed. And fundamentally when an extremist group is also deeply hypocritical in its practices that mean its followers are seriously going to be misguided. Rapid animal liberationists frothing at the mouth are screwing up something that I seriously and devoutly believe in: the humane and ethical treatment of animals.

Fundamentally, and I might be at odds with Creationists here, I believe we, too, are animals. In fact it seems so self-evident I have a hard time understanding how anyone can deny it, but faith is faith. I have faith that I am an animal. I might be a highly evolved intelligent animal but I'm an ape, nonetheless. As an ape I'm adapted to eat an omnivore's diet which includes meat. I'm not even going into the science here. I find that science, like politics and faith, can be skewed to the POV of the observer, which is something that physics can explain for us.

Ok so I accept that great apes like the Homo sapiens eat meat. It's good for us. Our bodies are hardwired to it. I can also totally dig that some of us choose not to. That's fine. I have a friend who is a vegan and while I totally don't get her foodie choices it's not mine to make for her. Generally speaking it's only hypocrisy that gets me going with my friends who are vegetarians and vegans as in "I don't eat meat because it's cruel to animals but oops I seem to be wearing leather shoes". As for leather it's a by-product of meat and I'm of the school that if you're going to kill and eat a thing you better find good uses for the rest of it. Waste is both insulting and wasteful.

Back to PETA: they reveal terrible cruelties and inequities in the way that we treat animals; particularly in slaughterhouses were there is simply no excuse for it except for expediency and cheapness. It's really so simple I don't even know why it needs to be argued but animals are living creatures capable of emotion and some thought (check out your dog or cat as you read this and tell me you don't see what I mean) and thus they should be saved from as much pain, humiliation, and callous brutality as possible. However PETA's extremism puts off most reasonable middle-ground people and puts animal rights into the category of crackpots and even with PETA terrorists. The effect of this perception by ordinary people that might actually have an influence on factory farming practices is to make most people avoid even thinking about the consequences of cheap meat or how their cow was treated in their MacDonald's burger.

I've mentioned hypocrisy here a few times. What do I do to walk the walk? I eat less meat, and I eat kosher or certified humane when possible, or better yet I eat locally raised by a farmer I know. I know this is not possible for everyone, but we need to start demanding reform in agribusiness - just not the way bloody-handed PETA does.

For the record my thoughts and beliefs on ethical meat eating were shaped and tested by raising my own meat for seven years on a farm where I also butchered and dressed.

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