The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it's animals are treated.
(Disclaimer: If you don't like the writing, then thanks for stopping in but if this post makes you uncomfortable, please read to the end)
I am standing in the Costco meat aisle looking down at a value sized package of chicken breasts, a big 'Lilly Dale' sticker stamped on the clear plastic wrapper. I pick up the chicken and put it in my basket. For the first time in my life, this simple action that I have done a hundred times before is causing me an undeniable sense of guilt. I walk away and spend the rest of my time grocery shopping trying to analyze the unrest I feel in the pit of my stomach.
I don't even know how or when it happened, but somehow many months ago I managed to sign myself up to receive emails from a website called "Mercy for Animals." (Well there's my first mistake right?) Mercy for Animals is an animal rights activist group 'dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies.'
Among other things, Mercy For Animals hires undercover investigators to work in factory farms all over North America and document what they see in regards to animal's living conditions, treatment, medical care, slaughter, etc. In the end, the finished product is essentially a video timeline of a factory farm animal's life that looks something like this.
BORN --- TORTURED --- BRUTALLY MURDERED --- THE END.
An example video is posted below.
Be forewarned as it is very disturbing.
The various videos show chickens with gaping, puss filled wounds, sitting in cages they can't move in, sick or injured cows having chains wrapped around their necks and the weight of their bodies picked up by tractors, workers displaying sadistic type practices of stabbing and kicking animals or hitting them with metal pipes to get them to cooperate. It is absolutely horrendous to watch, which is why I haven't actually watched any of the videos so far. At most, I just scan the descriptions and maybe slide my cursor along the video timeline for 10 seconds, just enough to see a tiny sized snippet of what's in the video. And then I stop because my anxiety level was pretty much maxed out the moment I opened the email.
Since becoming aware that there are significant morality issues regarding factory farm industry and the products I buy, my guilt level has been slowly on the rise. Despite this, I wasn't quite ready to make any real change to my lifestyle. That is, until a few weeks ago when I received an email from Humane Society International wanting me to sign a petition to end the 'Yulin Dog Meat Festival.' The image shown was that of numerous dogs, all jammed into a cage, waiting to be slaughtered for the traditional Chinese festival where over 200,000 kg's of dog meat is consumed each year. Looking at the picture, my heart ached and I was angry at the cruel people that were capable of doing this. I asked myself what kind of person could take part in this? And then a puzzling question entered my mind... Why does the thought of dogs being mistreated and slaughtered for food bother me so much more than the thought of cows or chickens or any other farm animal?
Cats and dogs are domestic animals, the more they are socialized, the more they portray emotions that we can relate to. They display emotions we recognize such as happiness, excitement, nervousness, depression among many others. Because we see these human-like characteristics in our four legged companions, we yield so much more compassion for them when we see them experiencing pain or being mistreated. We get angry, rally together and make efforts to spare them from cruel injustice! Yet if I asked you whether a cow felt fear or pain differently than a dog, what would your response be?
The thought has stuck with me, itching at me, making me uncomfortable in my own skin until I couldn't ignore it any longer. This reasoning therefore, is why I have decided to no longer buy meat, eggs or milk unless I know it was ethically and humanely raised.
There is a well known saying that says "You can't have your cake and eat it too." This phrase is probably one of the most confusing phrases out there. In it's literal translation I have NO idea how it came to be. Under what circumstances would you have cake that you couldn't eat? Not long ago, I had a dream in which I was at a party where a slice of Coffee Cake had fallen on the ground. My dilemma in the dream was whether or not eating the floor cake was socially unacceptable enough to warrant me not eating it...
In its philosophical translation, I take the phrase to mean that you can't have everything you want, or at least you can't have everything you want without facing the consequences. With each action you take, regardless of whether or not there is a gain, there was a sacrifice made to achieve it. Accountants call this an 'opportunity cost.' In relation to the topic at hand, buying generic meat at the local grocery store means I have convenient, easy access to affordable meat. But it also means I am sacrificing my values on animal welfare. The simple truth is that I cannot condemn the cruelty and mistreatment of the animals featured in the videos and then continue to actively support the companies that are responsible for it.
The most interesting part of this experience thus far is people's reactions. What I've noticed is that people simply do not want to know how their food is raised or killed. Some people are quite outspoken about it and openly question 'why on earth I would want to watch that!' or as one person put it 'you should go on the internet less.' Though it does not surprise me, it does trouble me that people believe that the best attack strategy is to purposely avoid educating ourselves. Is the answer to all of this really to pretend it's not going on? Though this mentality is troubling, it is not surprising.
Let's all go back to University for a moment, does anyone remember that whack job Freud from Psych 101? One of Freud's theory's was called The Pleasure Principle.
Wikipedia defines the pleasure principle as such:
The instinctual seeking of pleasure and avoiding of pain in order to satisfy biological and psychological needs.
Let's face it, people HATE this kind of stuff, it makes them feel uncomfortable. Funny videos of 'golden retriever puppies swimming for the first time' along with the results to 'Who's Your Facebook Soulmate?' will flood our news feeds all day long even though they are INCREDIBLY irrelevant to what actually matters in the world. Why? Because these things make us happy, we get pleasure from them but most importantly, these things don't make us question our moral fiber. The idea that we support the abuse and misuse of animals does not align with the perception we have of ourselves. But because it's much easier and cheaper to buy animal products that are not ethically raised, we try our hardest to shield ourselves from reality. We are like a bunch of two year old's playing hide and seek, standing in the middle of the room covering our eyes. The unfortunate truth about it though, is that ignorance truly is bliss, and we we can actively ignore issues like this until the end of time, but "facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." - Aldous Huxley
To clarify, I really quite enjoy meat and I am not planning on going vegan or vegetarian. I am simply only purchasing meat that is either hunted or is from suppliers that I have researched and who provide their livestock with a high quality life where they are able to live naturally without pain, discomfort and proper access to veterinary care.
This is the way I've decided to facilitate change, but there are other ways too. Here's a few:
1.) Reduce - Participate in a weekly tradition like Meatless Monday or occasionally buy items like Tofu, Almond Milk, Soy Cheese that do not contain animal products.
2.) Communicate - Speak with local restaurants and grocery stores and let them know of your preferences, often these businesses are happy to include products if they know it is likely to bring more customers into their store!
3.) Be informed. Did you know that 'Free-Range' is not a standardized term? Depending on a company's definition, buying those $5 eggs at the grocery store might not be such a great deal after all.
4.) Do Your Research - Call and ask companies what their animal welfare policies are and communicate to them that you are looking to purchase products from companies with humane and sustainable standards.
6.) Check out Sunworks Farms - Local Alberta farm that values 'the principals of organic and holistic agriculture, as well as the importance of ethical/humane handling of all creatures, including farm animals.'
7.) Have local, humane food delivered to your doorstep - Spud.ca is a website that boasts front door delivery of sustainable, organic, GMO free, humanely raised groceries. If you don't want to have to drive around looking for hard to access suppliers, they are a great option.
Click on the images below to visit the Sunworks / Spud.ca Websites!
This isn't about finger pointing, I made my decision a mere few weeks ago and have no right to place judgement on anyone else. But it is about being informed. Once I knew the reality, I had to ask myself 'What am I okay with?' 'What will I accept and what will I not accept?' And I made a purposeful choice to change those things that I will not accept. In the end, we can only control our own actions. Our actions can either be a part of the solution or a part of the problem. Each one of us has to make that choice. I've made mine.
The powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse
- Walt Whitman
Hi, I'm Lindsay! I am the self proclaimed soul-mate to my hubby Ryan and wannabe philanthropist. I have a passion for writing, street bikes, & rescue dogs. This blog is a random compilation of my daily (formally diagnosed) ADHD thoughts and activities as I try to make the world a better place.