Sunday, April 8, 2018

Mercy & science say 'subvert the dominant paradigm'

“Each and every one of these animals is an individual who suffers pain, who has a family, who has a story.”  Since my last post, I’ve continued to think about that quote from Mercy for Animals, Nathan Runkle’s book.  How many people ever consider whether animals of any sort, including those heading for slaughter, have their own families, their own stories?
Because of course they do.

By human standards, a chicken’s story may be brief, even barren. Yet they have lived, however long, and with luck, experienced pleasure.  We have to hope their lives included pleasure because so many of them end their days in a industrial farm setting like the factory farm for egg-laying chickens that Runkle describes here.

“ . . . the overwhelming stench of ammonia . . . The shed . . . is crammed with egg-laying chickens. Overhead, hens are crowded inside cages, each the size of a file-cabinet drawer,  . . . confining 7 to 10 adult birds.  [They] are unable to fully spread their wings, let alone walk, perch, roost, dust bathe or experience the most basic freedom of movement.  The wire cage floors are slanted, meaning the birds can never stand upright . . . the eggs they lay will immediately roll away from them. . . [to be] carefully cleaned to remove blood and feces and then placed in happily decorated cartons proudly declaring “Farm Fresh Eggs.” . . . The endless row of cages are stacked like stairs, allowing the birds’ feces to fall into the manure pit in which we now stand.”  --pp. xii, xiii, Mercy for Animals: One Man’s Quest to Inspire Compassion and Improve the Lives of Farm Animals.

So, what to do?  Quit chicken? Then what?  Return to beef-eating?  Not so fast: Citing our “collective love affair with beef, dating back more than 10,000 years,” Richard Conniff  reluctantly admits it’s “time to break it off.”  

Conniff’s stats about the effects of cattle-raising on climate are startling, making it much easier to understand French scientists’ proposal to put a carbon tax on beef to help meet European Union climate change targets.  That won’t happen, but here are some of the reasons for it:

·       one think tank attributes 14.5 % of global emissions to livestock – “more than the emissions from powering all the world’s road vehicles, trains, ships and airplanes combined.”

·         livestock consume the yield from a quarter of all cropland worldwide.

·        with grazing added, the business of making meat occupies about three-quarters of the agricultural land on the planet.

·         ruminant digestion causes cattle to belch and otherwise emit huge quantities of methane. 

Beef cattle shed
It begins to seem as if all food roads lead to . . . “clean meat ” – real meat grown from animal cells, with no need to raise and slaughter entire creatures.  Biotechnology could be used to make this happen, producing “the meat so many humans crave without taking such an enormous toll on the planet, since growing meat is much more efficient than raising animals to later turn into that same meat.”   

That concept is introduced in the foreword to Paul Shapiro’s Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World.  “Judged by the amount of suffering it causes, industrial farming of animals is arguably one of the worst crimes in history,” the writer says.
Case closed – for now.


If you subscribe to this blog and want to comment, please click here:  


  1. I've looked at the book "Clean Meat" and am excited to think this might be a common product in our not-too-distant future.

  2. I agree with you, Anon, and I'd be glad to try it when readily available -- all delight over Field Roast veggie products to the contrary!