I submitted this as an op-ed piece to the Philadelphia Inquirer, after reading a recent published article about happy meat, called the Humane Factor. I'll let you know if it gets published.
"As a nutrition student, I understand how deeply rooted and engrained our eating practices become over time. Yet recently, I have also noticed that many people are making a conscious shift towards humane animal products. After speaking with various individuals who purchase these products, the general consensus seems to be that the humane label takes back some of the guilt involved in consuming food derived from animals.
According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, humane is defined as marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals. Most of us would agree that killing another being for any purpose other than survival, regardless of how it was treated during life, is hardly considered compassionate or sympathetic. When we hear humane as it relates to animal products, we tend to forget that in the end these animals are still being slaughtered for nothing more than a savory taste.
Astounding scientific evidence shows that a plant-based diet is not only adequate for all humans, but is significantly superior when it comes to our health. Many of us are also unaware of the practices used in order to bring these foods from the animal to our plates. Milk, for example, only comes from pregnant cows and to keep it flowing we must artificially inseminate them so they stay in a constant cycle of lactation. A pregnant cow must give birth and the fate of the baby is decided by it's gender. Females become dairy cows and males are sent to the veal factory. It is how dairy facilities are forced to operate to stay profitable, no matter how humane their efforts may be.
Another commonly held belief among individuals consuming these humane products is that humans were meant to eat meat. How do we come to such a conclusion without completely ignoring the fact that humans, like all other beings, are constantly evolving both physically and mentally? To assume we were meant to eat meat is no different from assuming that we were meant to be at war, enslave each other, or live without medicine all based on things we have done in the past.
Something else to keep in mind when we purchase these products is that words such as free-range, humane, and sustainable are barely, if at all, regulated. Free-range could mean that one thousand chickens have access to an outside space of 12 square feet. We would also be kidding ourselves if we were to believe that we had enough space, labor, and resources to feed an entire US population of over 300,000,000 people with free-range, humane farming practices. The demand is too high.
If we could avoid mistreating animals and running family-owned farms out of business, don't you think we would have. In my opinion, humans in general want to do the best they can for themselves while creating the least amount of harm on others. Yet, with a growing demand for animal products supported by billion dollar organizations with government affiliations, it's no wonder we are stuck in this meat-eating paradigm. It's no wonder we are taught not to think twice about the animals we consume, but for those who do, we've tactfully created a market for them as well. Humane animal products are clearly not a means to an end, but sadly, we now live under the perception that we can have our meat and eat it too without any clear objective but to satisfy our taste buds."