Is there such a thing as humane slaughter?

Humane (adj.) – Marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals.

Slaughter (verb) – To kill animals for food (butcher); To kill in a bloody or violent manner;  To kill in large numbers.

The words humane slaughter seem oxymoronic to me. One can either be compassionate and considerate, or one can kill animals violently and in large numbers.

painting of pigs

I recently read an article in OnEarth.org about Russ Kremer, a man they call the Pope of Pork. He’s being held in such high regard for the wonderful ways he treats his pigs–before he kills them. I realize that there are people who treat animals much worse than he does, but I have a few problems with his approach:

As a boy Kremer worked on his dad’s farm and helped nurse pigs back to health. There’s no victory in saving an animal only to send it to slaughter later. The only gain is financial.

As an adult, Kremer operated his own factory farm, where pigs were warehoused in dark, confined buildings. They were sick, pumped full of antibiotics, and lived above their own waste run-off.  Kremer eventually sold all the pigs he owned, but not until after he got injured by a boar and contracted a nasty virus. The virus was the same antibiotic-resistant version that his pigs had. It wasn’t the pigs’ welfare or the meat-eating population that got Kremer to quit. It was his own brush with death and his own sense of self-preservation.

He didn’t quit farming though. He started raising free-range, organic pigs. The new model nets him $50 more per pig. Again, money is at the root of his choices, not the humane treatment of animals.

I dislike the “new” way of farming because it lulls people into thinking they’re doing the right thing. The “new” method is really just going back to the old, pre-factory farm way. That makes it marginally better than a factory farm, but it still involves extensive use of land, feed, and water. Free-range pigs still produce the same amount of waste that their crated cousins expel. They all still get slaughtered. And when they become sausage, their flesh will clog your arteries just the same.

Neither free range or factory farm is an option from a pig’s point of view. It’s like moving from a prison cell to a mansion. The mansion sounds better but if you’re going to be executed in a few months, what difference do your living conditions make? I bet your biggest concern would be avoiding death.

Throughout the article, Kremer’s pigs are compared to dogs. They’re described as “piglets the size of obese beagles,” and “puppy-like.” But if you talked about how your dog was “bred for well-marbled, tasty meat” people would have you committed! And if indeed you did slaughter your dogs, you’d be arrested. Kremer seems well-meaning, but he’s a businessman. He’s marketing faux-compassion–and it sells. There’s a complete disconnect between the way he “lovingly” raises his animals and the fact that he kills them for money. It’s not euthanasia. He’s not alleviating the suffering of a dying animal, he’s killing healthy animals in the prime of their lives.

Kremer’s business model assumes animals are property, that they don’t have the right to live, and that they are meant for our consumption. No slaughter is good slaughter. Animals deserve to live their own lives; they are not ours to profit from or consume. We don’t need meat to be healthy. Pigs don’t need to die in vain. The only humane choice is to be vegan.

9 thoughts on “Is there such a thing as humane slaughter?

  1. You said it girl! Still, I don’t see the world going vegan anytime soon, which means that farming is going to exist for a long time. So I guess my attitude is baby steps. If we can at least make farms a little more humane while they exist I think it’s better than nothing. I also think that any steps we take toward improving the lives of farm animals may have an impact on the way people think about those animals. If we treat animals with a little more respect, maybe the respect people have for animals will grow until people no longer eat animals. I don’t know, maybe it won’t – I’m just blabbering off the top of my head here:)

    • I like the way you think and I like that it’s different than the way I do! I never thought of the angle that if people start thinking about respecting animals they might eventually not want to eat them 🙂 Blabber away! It’s all food for thought!

      What I don’t like about “humanely raised meat” is that people might think that they’re doing enough. I’m not sure it’s scalable either. Is there enough land to convert factory farms to Old MacDonald’s farm? That said, you’re totally right: The world isn’t going vegan anytime soon. It’s better for the animals who aren’t crated and abused, true. I just don’t think they’re ours for the eating. Love our chats! Thanks!

      • Thank you Jean and Celeste for caring and sharing. I do agree with baby steps.

        If I may join you girls in this conversation, in my opinion there are two discouraging outcomes;
        1. This can help ease people’s conscience and therefore continue eating meat.
        2. People concerned about their own health will be duped into thinking they are getting healthier meat and so they won’t give it up.

        I know this to be true because in talking with people over the years, when I put in a plug for vegan lifestyle, those who buy “free-range” or from an organic farm or so-called “humane slaughter”, are quick to say they don’t buy their meat at the supermarket, thus thinking that it’s fine.

        It is not fine; not fine for the animals, not fine for our health and not fine for our planet.

        I know you two both have a heart of gold because you DO care and we all hope for people to consider a healthier lifestyle, and to be a voice for animals who are treated with utter contempt and disregard of their lives–that the animals’ lives are of no importance.

        • Thanks for your comments. I appreciate that you shared examples of how people think about “humanely raised” meat. I do feel like people are being misled and placated. It’s easier to think you’re doing right for the animals by supporting farms that offer better conditions, but like you said, it’s still not good for the animals (who get killed anyway), our health, or the planet.

  2. Great piece Jean! I totally agree.
    As you’ve demonstrated, the term ‘humane slaughter’ is an oxymoron.
    Great blog! I found out about you via your mum 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment, Ally. So glad you found my blog. My mom should be my marketing team! She’s a great supporter of everything I do. I’m glad you liked the post. I’m going to go check out your blog now!

  3. Right on, Jean! Humane slaughter is a contradiction of terms. While it is better that an animal is treated well until they are slaughtered, the act of slaughter cannot be humane. If someone genuinely cares about animals, they won’t ever slaughter them.

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