As soon as people hear I’m vegan, I often get some variation of these statements…
I only eat cage free eggs
I eat grass-fed beef
I eat organic chicken
I buy free range chickens
I choose wild caught salmon
The intention, I’m guessing, is that since I’m vegan I’m judging them for eating meat (I am) and they want to let me know their cage free omelet is so much more humane than a regular one (it’s not). Or somehow their cheeseburger isn’t devastating the environment because it’s grass-fed (it is).
But let’s get something out of the way immediately. No killing is humane, nor will it ever be. Whether it’s a cage free chicken, an antibiotic free cow or a pig raised under some slightly less than horrible conditions, killing is always violent and never, ever a pleasant situation for the one being killed.
I mean really, should humane and killing even go together? I’m pretty sure no animal wants to be killed, any more than you or I want to be killed. But I suppose there’s a suicidal cow or chicken out there that isn’t right for this world.
While I will always vote for better treatment of animals being slaughtered and appreciate all that animals rights organizations like PETA, MFA and The Humane Society achieve in making it slightly less terrible, it’s still ridiculous to think there is any possible way to kill an animal in a humane way. Sorry, I just can’t imagine losing that argument.
The labels Cage Free! Free Range! No Hormones! adoringly plastered on your egg carton or written across that package of raw whole chicken shouldn’t make you feel any better about eating animals. Those animals still suffered a horrible existence prior to arriving in your grocery cart or the restaurant kitchen.
No amount of labels can get around that.
The idea that grass-fed beef is better for the environment is also another fallacy that isn’t supported by the facts. Check out the excellent Cowspiracy documentary for a distillation of the facts as well as a most entertaining movie.
If you eat out you support factory farming…
People that want me to believe they eat the most pristine meat and dairy all of the time forget that they, if they’re merely average, probably eat out a handful of times or more during the week. How likely is it that when they eat out they’re only frequenting places that have the highest standards in regards to their meat, eggs and dairy? Very unlikely.
Sure, some restaurants are starting to change, including Chipotle and perhaps some additional reputable restaurants, but for the most part, if you’re eating out, you’re eating the very worst of meat and dairy full of antibiotics, growth hormones and plenty of extreme animal suffering.
It’s all in the name of profits, of which many restaurants are, rightfully so, very focused on making. Margins are notoriously thin. This equates to using the lowest priced product possible in order to generate the highest possible margins.
Bottom line is you have very little control over the quality of ingredients anytime your outsource the preparation of your food. Obviously, you’re not shopping for the food or cooking it yourself. You’re relying on that restaurant to decide on the quality and to inform you. But as it turns out, there are plenty of restaurants that aren’t exactly being truthful about the source and quality of their products.
The fallacy of farm to table…
Laurie Reiley, Tampa Bay Times food critic and professional take-down artist, just published an amazing article calling out several Florida restaurants for fibbing a little, er, a lot, when it comes to quality and sourcing of their food. Restaurants menus and advertisements in Florida and everywhere are casually salted with terms like “sustainably raised, humane, natural, non-GMO, fair trade and organic. ”
The problem is, many of these terms are merely taken as fact and seldom questioned. Unless you’re Laurie Reiley.
The results of months of investigative work on restaurants, including reviewing hundreds of invoices, dozens of phone calls, interviews and meetings with farmers and purveyors produced one foreboding statement from her…
“If you eat food, you are being lied to every day.”
She found wild-caught Florida shrimp that is actually farm-raised in India. Items listed on menus as organic and local were actually conventional and brought in from hundreds of miles away. Fish advertised as Dover sole was very often not Dover sole at all.
No matter if the restaurant calls themselves farm to table or a new slick advertising phrase to come, the bottom line is you can’t claim to avoid the practices of factory farming and still eat out a lot. You’re eating food that you really know very little about not only where it came from but actually what it is.
What about the food at my local grocery store?
So let’s say you don’t eat at restaurants, because you care about your health, and you want to buy all your own high quality ingredients at your local organic grocer. Still, understand that buying, aside from the organic label, which has rigorous requirements, every other label has varying degrees of, well, requirements. Or non-requirement.
Cage-free – uncaged, but no outdoor access
Free-range, free-roaming, pasture-raised and certified organic – all are cage free, and allowed outdoor access.
Many other labels abound that may or may not have anything to do with animal welfare, such as vegetarian-fed, natural, farm fresh, fertile, Omega 3 enriched and pasteurized, etc. These labels require little, if any, proof from the food manufacturer that they’ve done anything different than simply pasting a meaningless colorful label on yet another package of misery.
Ok, so now what do I do?
The only way to truly know you’re causing the least amount of harm to animals and voting against factory farming is to go vegan. Take all the misery off your plate, including meat, eggs and dairy. Going vegan is casting a vote for more plants and less animal suffering.
It’s a vote against the giant CAFO’s that blight our landscape. It’s a vote against the insanely cruel dairy industry . It’s a vote against the inconceivable idea that there is such a thing as humane killing.