Questions about Meat Production: Some History and News About Humane Farming and Slaughter
In another forum in which I participate, a lively discussion occurred concerning vegetarianism vs. meat consumption and the ethical, moral, and health implications involved. My contribution which follows dealt only with the historical and ethical issues:
Because humans are the most advanced and intelligent life form on this planet it has become our singular responsibility to exercise dominion over other life forms. Of especial importance is our relationship with those other mammals whose husbandry we have undertaken for the benefit of humans and domesticated animals alike . I speak here of the symbiotic relationship between man and beast that has evolved over millenia. It has been suggested that the ancestors of modern cattle gradually became used to a closer relationship to humans which allowed for the slaughter of some of their numbers while the main population thrived under humankind's protection thus perpetuating the species.
The ideal solution of course would be that we personally kill what we plan to eat. As much as we might applaud Ted Nugent we cannot all be like him. Thus there must be intermediaries between us, as consumers (the eaters), and our provender (the eaten). It is upon these middlemen, the farmers and meat packers, that our attention must be focused if we are to achieve respectful treatment of animals while assuring our food supplies.
Within the last 10 years we have seen a huge growth in the "organic" and "natural" foods industry. At first this was primarily focused on the fruit and vegetable segments but is now changing the way meat and poultry are slaughtered and marketed. There have been significant changes in seafood where farmed fish, i.e salmon, tilapia, catfish, have become mainstream commodities. Once exotic meats such as bison, venison, ostrich can be easily found today in our larger food stores. Poultry, beef, and pork are touted as "free range", "hormone and anti-biotic free"etc.
An interesting offshoot of the above mentioned trends is the emergence of small farms dedicated to the preservation of "heritage" breeds; that is those animals that were once common here (in the U.S.) because of their particular suitability to our geography and climate. These breeds have been largely supplanted by ones more suited to factory farming. These small scale farmers are particularly concerned with respectful treatment of their animals and their humane slaughter.
I recently heard of a farm here in Connecticut that adheres to the above principles. I urge you to visit their web site: http://www.footstepsfarm.com/index.html
I also recommend Stephen Budiansky's "The Covenant of the Wild-Why Animals Chose Domestication"
Whole Foods Markets standards for meat and poultry.