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.