Close all Slaughterhouses?

I have nothing against anyone who wishes to be vegan. Although I’m not myself vegan, I think it laudable that some people have chosen to live in this way. For all of us, cutting down the amount of meat we eat is a good thing, probably for ourselves and certainly for the planet. The same is true for diary products, though I think to a lesser extent.

But I can’t agree that we should stop all animal farming and would hate to see the end this would mean to seeing animals grazing in fields, many of which would be unsuitable for growing crops. Grazing animals have an important role in keeping soil healthy, cutting down the need for chemical fertilisers and contributing to biodiversity.

Back in the day successful farmers cared for the animals they farmed and it was in everyone’s interest to treat them well. I’d certainly call for the end to highly intensive farming that now produces meat more cheaply but with great cruelty, and we try to avoid buying meat produced through animal cruelty. But I think it wrong to suggest that all farming of animals is cruel.

Much of the campaigning in the posters and speeches at events such as this is I think misleading, playing on emotional responses to pictures of cute animals. Much also seems to me to fail to understand the basics of the natural world, where many species do prey on other species; what we do in farming animals is a more organised and arguably less cruel extension of this. Foxes may look cuddly in photographs and videos of them playing, but put them among the chickens and you get a bloodbath, nature indeed red in tooth and claw (but of course we shouldn’t make a sport out of hunting foxes.)

The premise of many protesters is that there is no such thing as humane slaughter, and this protest calls for the closure of all slaughterhouses. It unfortunately isn’t had to find examples of cruel practices and to make horrific videos showing them. It’s certainly good that such cruelty is exposed and that the laws that exist against such practices are used with full force to outlaw them – and where necessary that such laws are strengthened. We certainly should try to develop more humane ways to kill animals for food, which I think has been the aim of our previous legislation in the area, but I’d sure this could be improved.

I think all species are inherently “speciesist” and we should not feel any guilt about thinking there is something special about humanity. To suggest that cows or pigs or sheep are “just like us” is simply wrong; in many important ways they are simply not, though of course there is much we share.

Of course some of the claims made are simply wrong. Dairy cows have been extensively bred to produce many times the amount of milk their calves require. We can drink it or use it to make butter and cheese without “stealing it from the calves.” We take honey from the bees (something I’ve certainly done myself) but have to give them sugar to keep the colonies healthy so they will produce more honey for us in following years and so on. As I wrote back in June, “keeping animals and killing them for food or milking them can be done in a decent and humane way and one that has an important contribution to our environment.” Like everything in nature it needs balance.

More pictures at Close all Slaughterhouses.


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