Archive for the ‘Veganism’ Category

The Myth of “Humane” Meat

This is a guest post by Claire Holzner, originally published at The Vegetarian and Vegan Association (VAVA) blog at


We know that factory farms are terrible places. Animals are crammed by the thousands into sheds, bred and manipulated in unnatural ways, and usually killed before they are fully-grown adults. These huge farms also produce immense amounts of pollution, all for the sake of meat and dairy products which are often contaminated –- so we compassionate consumers try not to buy from such places, right? You want a better alternative, so you buy local or “humanely raised” meat at a co-op or farmers’ market. You make this effort because you care about your health, the environment, and probably also about animals. You prefer that animals have decent living conditions and a swift, painless death. If you take your concern for animals to its logical conclusion, you would not eat them at all.

Killing animals for food is not necessary. When you buy “humane” animal products you are still paying for animals to be killed needlessly as there is no nutrient in meat, dairy products, or eggs that we can’t get from plant foods, and in cleaner forms. (Vegans do need to get vitamin B12 via supplements or fortified foods, but so do many meat-eaters. B12 is not an animal product.) Foods made from animals’ bodies contain many non-essential and unhealthy substances, such as growth hormones (some added, some naturally present), cholesterol, and saturated fat, which are not found in foods made from plants.

Labels like “humane certified,” “cage-free,” “grass-fed,” and “free range” imply large differences from factory farming practices which do not exist. The animals raised in these alternative ways might have more space or be able to go outdoors, but in fact there are more similarities to factory farming than differences. Procedures like tail-docking, de-beaking, and other mutilations without anesthetic; total denial of natural behaviors; and brutal transport conditions are routine even on “humane” farms, but would be considered immoral if done to dogs or cats. And all farm animals, including dairy cows and egg-laying hens, are slaughtered while they are still young animals.

When we buy from “humane” farms we are still relying on farmers and meat producers to define for us what they are doing to the animals, but until we visit the farms and slaughterhouses we really have no idea. The labels and certifications are not rigorously enforced or backed by institutions that truly value animal welfare. Those who sell “humane” animal products profit from our concerns about factory farming practices and thus are not reliable sources of information about how the animals lived and died.

“Humane slaughter” is an oxymoron. There is no “humane” (compassionate, merciful, or kind) way to kill a creature who does not want to die. All animals fear death. “Humane” meat does not come from animals that lived a full life and died of natural causes or were euthanized. All of those animals were killed well before the time of their natural death.

Could you kill a pig, chicken, cow, or turkey, by yourself? If not, why pay someone to do it for you? How humane is a farmer who has treated an animal relatively well and even allowed the animal to develop a trusting relationship, yet sends him or her off to be slaughtered? What a betrayal of trust. Let the animals live and find something else to eat for dinner.

For most people eating animals is the most egregious form of violence they ever commit. Most people don’t rob, rape, or murder people. We want to think of ourselves as kind, compassionate, and fair — yet in our society most people, every day, unthinkingly cause animals to be killed and mistreated to obtain their flesh and milk and eggs. This unnecessary violence underlies our lives and its effects seep into our psyches and our behavior. If we eat animals, we are always trying to justify, consciously or unconsciously, our harshness and cruelty. When we end the daily violence of confining, commodifying, and killing animals, our society will be much less competitive, unfair, and harsh. Seventy percent of the grain and legumes grown world-wide is fed to farm animals, who very inefficiently convert the nutrients into animal “products.” Water use is highly inefficient as well in this conversion. Fully fifty percent of the water used world-wide for all purposes is used for animal agriculture. When we stop breeding farm animals more food will be available for hungry people and there will be less conflict for scarce water and fuel resources. We already have the tools and knowledge needed to create a more peaceful, fair, and loving society; we just need to use them.

Don’t look for a better way to do a bad thing: instead, look beyond the two common options of factory farm products and “humane” animal products. Taking animals’ interests seriously means opting out of animal agriculture. If you haven’t yet, try going vegan for a week or two. We are fortunate to have access to such an abundance of plant-based foods that eating a healthy vegan diet is surprisingly easy and involves no sense of deprivation. So many books, websites, recipes online, vegan products, and caring people are available to help us get the violence out of our diets and to help us create a kinder, more conscious society.

Amazon Review of Will Tuttle’s World Peace Diet book

The following review was written by Kelle of the World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle.  Originally posted on

World Peace Diet bookThe World Peace Diet is a must read for any environmentalist, social activist, animal rights activist, and spiritual seeker. Dr. Tuttle masterfully presents a compelling premise that all of our environmental and social problems, including global warming and war, are rooted in a cultural mentality of reductionism, anthropocentrism, exclusivism, predation, desensitization, disconnectedness, and domination. According to Dr. Tuttle, our culture started developing this mentality around 10,000 years ago as humans began herding animals for food, clothing, and other human needs, and then this mentality spread to treating humans and the environment in similar exploitative ways. While it is impossible to irrevocably “prove” that herding animals “caused” war, violence against women, slavery, inequality, poverty, and other social issues, what is clearly undeniable after reading this book are the contemporary connections between animal agriculture and environmental issues, between eating animal foods and human health issues, and between animal agriculture and the tremendous suffering experienced by animals. Yet most people deny these connections. Dr.Tuttle explains the reasons for this denial: People inherit their animal-based diets from their parents along with the cultural mentality that diminishes their natural compassion for animals. Their diets and this uncompassionate mentality are reinforced as they grow up by teachers, doctors, religious organizations, peers, and the media. With the suppression of compassion, people see animals as things to be used to benefit humans rather than as beings with as much of an intrinsic right as humans to live for themselves in the way that nature designed them to live. With the suppression of compassion people see the environment as a resource to be used for human benefit rather than as the intricate web of living beings and non-living materials that support life on this planet. With the suppression of compassion people see other people as things that can be manipulated to serve selfish interests rather than as beings with lives and interests as valid as one’s own. This book beautifully shows how it is this loss of compassion and the subsequent blindness to the interconnections of all beings and the earth that underlie all the world’s problems. Dr. Tuttle calls for a vegan revolution to address these problems. This revolution goes far beyond refraining from using non-human animals for food, clothing, medicines, entertainment, etc. It is truly an evolution of consciousness, an expansion of humanity’s love and concern to include all beings and the earth. I have not read any other book that so powerfully shows the connection between all of our problems and the beautiful simplicity of the solution.

This is not just another animal rights book telling people to quit eating and wearing animals. It goes to the heart of humanity’s destructive and elitist relationship with the rest of the world and guides people to recognize our real relationship of interconnectedness and to live from that realization. Dr. Tuttle respects the difficulty that people will have with going against their acculturation by becoming vegan, and directs vegans to lovingly support them as they transition rather than to aggressively attack them for not being vegan. Throughout the book he paints a vision of a joyful and harmonious vegan world based on love and connection rather than exploitation and disconnection. People are asked to give up using animals, but by doing so, they will help co-create a more harmonious and joyful world for themselves and other creatures.

World Peace Diet and Vegan Food Production

We are currently studying Will Tuttle’s book World Peace Diet: Eating For Spiritual Health And Social Harmony.  He sees eating and food as the ultimate spiritual practice/act as we literally become our food, we embody our food (i.e. “we are what we eat” on all levels).  He makes the case that the historical development of herding, breeding, and killing animals for food is the fundamental disconnect between ourselves and the rest of the natural world.  The commodification and killing of animals has laid the foundation of the dominant world culture (Western Industrial Civilization) that views animals, nature, and humans as resources to be used and exploited for power and financial gain.  He theorizes that we have to deny/bury our authentic selves (more loving and compassionate) in order to continue with this business of commodifying and killing/consuming animals (apx. 75 million animals a day are killed for food) to feed most of us everyday.  The fundamental single thing that we can do for ourselves, the planet, and the animals is, of course, giving up meat/dairy consumption and switching to a vegan diet.  Tuttle’s thesis is provocative and has gotten us thinking about veganism on a deeper level.  Here’s a video to a talk he gave at Villanova that gives a good overview of his philosophy:

After reading this book (and others by vegan writers) it got us thinking about what about veganic food?  Where are vegans getting their food?  For the most part they are getting it mostly from large scale commercial farms that most likely use animal products and manure on their farms and may also be engaged in animal agriculture.   To “complete the cycle” of veganism there really needs to be veganic farms that produce “humane” food i.e. food production that does not involve animal exploitation. We feel we are a very small part of this movement here on our veganic homestead.