I have come across several people now who eschew eating meat… unless it’s come from farms that practice ‘humane methods’. It’s a growing trend in Europe, where producers are rapidly wising up to the fact that out-and-out despicable treatment of your livestock simply isn’t good for business.
Meat packaging that is labelled ‘humanely reared’ (or some other such glib phase) has been on the rise since 2003, and now it’s taking on a life of its own. So it didn’t come as much of a surprise to me today when Sharon sent me an article about Harry Street, an 'RSPCA assured' UK veal farmer who runs Harry Street Meats, a small family business. She knew it was basically a case of ‘light touch paper and retire’.
Harry Street (pictured above) rears beef, lamb, turkeys and veal - all ‘naturally grown’. The ‘meats‘ are reared on Harry’s farm so he controls exactly where they come from and how they've been produced - allowing the consumer to buy with confidence. He places the welfare of his animals is his top priority. “If our livestock are happy, we are happy - it's that simple” Harry says.
Even better, the farm is RSPCA and Red Tractor (the UK’s biggest farm/food standards accreditation scheme) assured. This means that the public can guarantee that the way the animals are reared, transported and slaughtered is in line with welfare standards. Harry declares he is “a passionate advocate for animal welfare in the UK”.
What a great chap, eh?
Harry is on the crest of the rising wave of benevolent farmers who make the welfare of their livestock their top priority, ensuring that they are well cared for, housed and given space.
(Of course, this is before they are carted off to be murdered and deprived of the lives they treasured.)
It’s a good wicket for Harry to be on, because people in the UK are becoming increasingly aware about animal suffering and as a nation of supposed animal lovers, want it to stop. If the trend continues, kindly farmers like Harry are on the up-and-up, and cruel bastards who mistreat their animals are eventually going to have to adapt or be forced out of business.
(Of course, slaughtering constitutes neither suffering nor mistreatment.)
It’s a good thing for Harry that the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals in involved, because being RSPCA ‘assured’ means that the consumer will know that Harry is really serious about making sure that his livestock has not been cruelly treated.
(Of course, killing an animal long before its natural lifespan is up is not cruel at all; so a society that is there to protect animals from cruelty doesn't have to prevent their deaths. That would be silly, wouldn't it?)
It’s wonderful that if Harry’s animals are happy, then he is too.
(Of course, they may not be happy when they’re being dragged away to be dismembered. One may wonder if Harry can still be happy then?)
Did you spot what complete, utter BULLSHIT this is?
Did you spot the irony of Harry claiming to be a passionate advocate for animal welfare, and yet be directly responsible for their killing?
Did you notice that Harry’s motivations may well be totally self-serving because more and more food stores will be wanting to sell the humanely treated meat he’s rearing?
Did you get fooled for one moment by the attempt made to salve the public’s conscience and have them feel O.K. about eating meat because, hey, the animals had a good life before we offed them, didn’t they?!
Did you feel sickened by the insidious double standards we are not only allowing, but choosing to find acceptable, because they allow us the comfortable self-deception that theriocide is O.K.?
Did you see the total hypocrisy of pretending that anyone really cares about the welfare of these animals, while they are still eating them?
Harry says: “My cows, like other animals farmed under the RSPCA Assured label, have a good life.”
'Good’ may mean free from abuse and availed of half-decent living space, but it has nothing to do with living a natural life, certainly not in respect of longevity. Even ‘decent farmers’ like Harry curtail animal lives as follows:
NB. This table shows the natural life spans that may be expected by these animals. This has been impacted by unnatural growth rates that have come about as a result of breeding practices that have shortened lives. (particularly in reference to turkeys and chickens, which can actually live up to 15 years. Sheep may also live to 20 years.)
Dairy cow (male) refers to males born on dairy farms where they have no value. If they were allowed to live, they would deprive us of their mother’s milk, and because of our apparent need for bovine growth hormones, they are brutally killed, buried alive or left to die. (I can send you photos on request.) Chickens (eggs – male) refers to males hatched on egg farms where they have no value. As soon as they are old enough for their sex to be identified, they are literally ground up alive. (Again, I can send you photos/videos on request.)
Averaged out, farm animals get to live out 9% of their natural lives.
If you think that the dairy cows, mothering sows and laying chickens are doing comparatively well, do bear in mind that almost their whole lives are spent as food factories for humans. Throughout their existence they are forced to give birth, and their offspring are taken from them. They suffer huge emotional distress (I can send you those photos) and physical hardship throughout, and their ultimate reward is that they are ruthlessly slaughtered, like every other farmed animal.
This sort of information isn’t too palatable for a consumer who is prone to empathising and not bordering on psychopathy (see previous blog). In the article, to make the reader feel better, Harry described just what a good life his veal calves lead:
“When my calves arrive on farm at less than three weeks old they can weigh just 50 kilograms and six months later as much as 300 kilograms. So giving them plenty of space to move around and grow is really important too. Just like a bunch of kids they need things to do like bales of straw to kick around. I play the radio for them too – they love listening to Chris Evans and Jeremy Vine! (UK DJs) And like growing kids they also need a healthy diet. My calves are fed a high protein milk diet for the first 10 weeks and then they are fed on special cakes, rich in iron and fibre, and straw to keep them healthy.”
Gosh, what a fabulous life they must have! Doesn’t it sound like fun, all that straw and all sorts of special treats?
Funny that he doesn’t say that the 300 kilograms they’ll weigh at six months is the last that they’ll weigh, because that’s when they’re slaughtered. I guess those special cakes really make up for the 97% of their lives that they never get to live out, and make them happy, so that Harry will be happy too!
But they will have had a good time listening to all of that music and witty banter from the radio I guess. After all, since the ban on veal crates was introduced to the UK in January 2007, calves up to eight weeks old may be kept in individual pens, where they can turn around and be in contact with other calves! After this, they are reared in groups of up to 80 calves, often in sheds with a wooden slatted floor. It must be just like a party.
Let’s not pretend about this.
‘Humane’ farming may be infinitely better than some of the barbaric methods being practiced elsewhere, but it’s still a nonsense. Why? Because its ultimate outcome is always slaughter, and humane slaughter is an oxymoron.
Even if we give Harry the benefit of the doubt and conclude that he may be well-intended, and not just a savvy individual who intends to be a wealthy farmer, if he really is a ‘passionate advocate for animal welfare’, why is he raising animals for slaughter in the first place? Wouldn’t he be running a farm animal sanctuary instead and using somewhat more meaningful methods to advocate that we care about them as much as he claims to?
It probably doesn’t pay so well…
So have a good look at the picture of Harry with the cow in the photo. Look at the gentle trusting creature, and then think about the betrayal that’s to come.
But Harry’s not the real villain, is he? He’s just someone who hasn’t yet reached the point where he allows himself to accept that he’s the one who’s exploiting the harmless creatures he claims to care about so much.
The real villains are those who make their dietary decisions based upon habit, tradition and convenience. It’s all those people out there who won’t stop eating meat that make somebody who does what Harry’s doing look like the good guy.
When the nation of supposed animal lovers wakes up and makes the connection that their foods are animals too, who are also worthy of being loved, only then will things will really start to change for the animals.
NB. If some of the phraseology in this blog confuses you, it may be because some of it is very English. Being 'on a good wicket' means you're onto a good thing; and 'light touch paper and retire' is what used to be written on the box as instructions for setting off fireworks in the UK.
And if you don't know what theriocide is, you're not keeping up with my blogs!