There are at least two compelling reasons to refuse to eat the meat of animals produced in the factory farm system: 1) the meat is dangerous and unhealthy and 2) to avoid complicity in the cruelty to the animals that is an inherent part of that system.
I’ve blogged frequently about both of those reasons and I’m not going to plow that ground again now. It seems to me that public awareness of the disease-breeding torture chambers known as Confined Animal Feeding Operations is increasing, and that more and more people are choosing to avoid their products.
One way to avoid posioning one’s body with the flesh of the animals harvested by the industrial food system is to become a vegetarian. Many folks have taken this route and are healthier and happier as a result. As I have often said, I’m convinced that if Americans had to witness the way the animals they eat are raised and slaughtered, or better yet, if they had to raise and slaughter them themselves, then a substantial majority of Americans would become vegetarians immediately. Very few Americans want to associate the meat on their plate with a living, breathing animal, and fewer still would be willing to bloody their own hands to put it there. Of course the industrial food complex is well aware of this, and it knows that because consumers are unwilling to look behind the curtain to see the animals before they’re processed into food, it has a blank check to fatten and tend the animals in the way that will maximize their profits, regardless of what that means to the animal or the person who will eat it. This disconnection between meat-eaters and the animals they eat has, more than anything else, caused the disgusting situation that exists today. I’m convinced that if they knew how the system functions, the vast majority of Americans would give up meat, rather than eat what it produces.
But is there an alternative? Must one either accept what the animal-food industry dishes out, or become a vegetarian?
In wrestling with this issue, I’ve settled on a middle ground that is satisfactory to me. I’ve become a farmitarian.
“Farmitarian” is a word I borrowed from something Lucas Land wrote on his blog a long time ago (I think). I can’t remember how he used it, but by that term I mean someone who only eats the meat of animals he or she personally raised and slaughtered.
I hate killing animals. I mean I really, really hate it. I genuinely believe that taking the life of another creature wounds the soul. Those who consider killing an animal to be fun, or to be “sport,” are missing some of their humanity, in my opinion. But, sadly, taking the lives of young males is just an unavoidable part of animal husbandry.
On our farm, I take very seriously our obligation of stewardship and good husbandry. I believe the animals on our farm have been entrusted to our care, and I behave accordingly. If I kill them, I eat them. I choose not to eat the flesh of animals I didn’t kill. Therefore, I know the real cost of getting a piece of meat onto my plate. I not only know an animal died to put it there, I knew the animal through its whole life, and looked it in the eye before killing it. Does that bother you? It should.
I’d prefer a world in which we don’t eat the flesh of animals. But until that day comes, we raise our animals humanely. I know what they’ve eaten. I know they haven’t been pumped full of antibiotics to stimulate growth. I know they have been allowed to live as they were intended to live. When I eat meat, I can do so knowing the meat is healthy, and the animal was raised humanely.
Obviously everyone can’t be a farmitarian. For those who can’t, but who aren’t willing to become vegetarians, consider eating less meat, and consider getting the meat you do eat from a farmer who employs sustainable and humane pratices. Visit the farm, preferably when the animals are being killed and processed. Ideally, buy from someone you know personally, who serves the same meat that is being sold to you to his or her own family.
Localharvest.org is a good place to find local farmers who don’t divorce farming from ethics.