The latest Time magazine featured an article defending the "Happy Meat" craze by Josh Ozersky, foodie, food historian, author of The Hamburger: A History and frequent contributor to a plethora of magazines, including the aforementioned. At least Ozersky acknowledges early in the article that his foes have a legitimate point. As he writes:
I get the point made by animal-rights activists. Their primary arguments (that eating other animals is unnecessary, that their lives are as valuable as ours, that eating meat has catastrophic effects on our environment) are, to be honest, unanswerable. I admit that. I just don't want to stop eating meat. In fact, I want to eat even more of it than I do, if that's possible.
But Ozersky (I also tip my hat to him for having the honesty to admit in this article that Tony Soprano is his hero) goes on to admit that he won't eat meat that "comes from mistreated animals." He encourages his readers to do likewise.
Vegans and vegetarians, he says, "miss the point. People aren't going to start eating carrots three times a day. It's just not going to happen. So if you're going to eat meat, you should try to eat meat from small farms, or from larger producers who have demonstrated to the world that they are committed to cruelty-free production." He praises the efforts of animal behaviorist Temple Grandin and the industries that have implemented her suggestions to reduce animal stress on the slaughter floor.
Then comes this:
I buy cage-free eggs at the supermarket. I cook meat at home made by producers I trust. I don't approach companies like Smithfield or Tyson to sponsor my meat events. I would support any politician, of either party, who stood up for expanding the USDA's role so that it included at least cursory inspections of all farms where animals are raised for food. And likewise with any state legislator who would enforce state anticruelty laws for livestock the same as they do for cute puppies. Since neither of these things will ever happen, I try to lend support to industry initiatives like the National Pork Board's Pork Quality Assurance-Plus program, Whole Foods' animal-welfare system, and even Burger King's landmark 2007 commitment (which they say is still in place) to buy at least some cage-free eggs and farrowing-free pork.
The article rings with a self-congratulatory "aren't I a liberal" tone from start to finish. Yet, like all "Happy Meat" myth-making, it starts to fall apart under closer scrutiny.
It is time to make one thing absolutely, emphatically, 100% clear: There is no such thing as "Happy Meat." Meat, as the title of the 1985 album by English rock band The Smiths indicates, is murder. Nothing more, nothing less.
You can get rid of gestation crates. You can stop beating animals mercilessly. You can quit docking the tails of piglets. You can let animals roam around outside in the sunlight, graze in open fields, enjoy the temporary illusion of freedom.
But in the end, the very thing that makes the cruel producers criminal is the same thing that makes the word "humane" in the "Happy Meat" movement a joke. It's called Death by Exsanguination. Death, literally, by bleeding to death.
Don't fool yourself into thinking that an animal that is rendered unconscious by carbon dioxide before being bled to death is somehow better off than an animal prepared rendered motionless by captive bolt, gunshot or electrical stunning.
The most brutal, the most ghastly, the most inhumane and horrific element of meat production is the murder of the animal.
That isn't to say that it's not awful to witness livestock getting beaten or mutilated or harmed while they're fully conscious. That isn't to say it isn't heartbreaking to see an animal in an extreme state of stress or anxiety. It is better to see a pig calm before being murdered than agitated and screaming.
But in it all - and at the end of it all - is death. Bloodletting. Murder. Butchery. Serial killing. Whatever you want to call it.
Omnivores such as Ozersky, who feel a sense of moral outrage at the mistreatment of animals, have one big blind spot. The severing of veins or arteries. Or the piercing of the heart. The draining of the blood. The actual taking of the life.
I believe these "carnists" (as Ozersky calls himself) feel guilty when they watch animals being beaten or harmed or mutilated videos shot by Mercy for Animals or PETA (or insert your group/individual here) because somewhere, in the inner recesses of their minds, they understand that this horrible, degrading, stressful treatment is occurring at the very end of the animal's life.
If you've read this Blog in the past, you'll notice I rarely (if ever) invoke the Nazis, only because their crimes were so uniquely heinous that I am loathe to compare anyone to them. Sadly, sloppy Nazi analogies abound. However, Adolf Hitler, in one of his more insightful moments, wrote about what he called "the big lie" in his long 1925 rant Mein Kampf. It is worth quoting here because his words are applicable today.
All this was inspired by the principle--which is quite true within itself--that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.
"Happy Meat" is one of the Big Lies of today. There is no happy meat because there is no happy death. No living, sentient being goes willingly to become food for someone else, especially someone who does not need meat to live a happy, healthy, high-quality life.
Let's make it perfectly clear. Meat is death. It is destruction. It's mass murder. The production of meat entails a level of suffering beyond human comprehension. The victims of meat production, whether they live in dark and cold gestation crates or run freely outside, ultimately face a fate unimaginable to people. The very fact that it is unimaginable is what enables us, as human beings, to engage in all forms of denial. As Mark Twain rightfully pointed out: "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt."
"Happy Meat" is a swindle. A con job. A multimillion dollar effort to bamboozle the public, to assuage mass guilt, to fool people into believing that the "product" wrapped in shrink wrap and styrofoam is delightful and will make our lives better.
Who among us, except for a tiny handful of lifelong vegetarians and vegans, didn't buy the lie at some point in their lives? We learned. The truth got through to us. Tear down Fortress Happy Meat and the truth will reach others. It won't necessarily end what Ozersky calls "carnism," but it will demolish an illusion based on lies, deceit and denial.