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Humane Farming FAQs

From Ed Coffin on Vegan Examiner
February 2010

What do we mean when we use the word “humane”?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word humane as “marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals.” Animal industry standards such as artificial insemination and slaughter are neither compassionate nor considerate of the animals’ interests.

Aren’t “humane” and “organic” animal products better than factory-farmed animal products?

No. Of course less suffering is always preferred to more suffering, but there are industry standards related to animal agriculture that take place at every level of farming including “small-scale,” “local,” “organic,” “humane,” and “family farms.” For example, all mammals, including cows, must be impregnated to produce milk. They are normally inseminated artificially and once they give birth, they must be inseminated again to keep them in a constant cycle of lactation. Male calves are of no financial interest to dairy farmers, so they are quickly sold to produce veal and cheap leather products. In many cases, “family farms” are even worse. Animals are always at the mercy of their owners. Also, all animal farming displaces wild animals.

What about “cage-free” eggs?

Most “cage-free” hens are never allowed outside and instead live confined inside barns with thousands of other hens. Pecking order issues make this more stressful for the birds than a caged operation. “Cage-free” hens have their beaks burned off, a very painful mutilation. Male chicks are not profitable for the egg industry and like male calves; they are quickly discarded, usually killed.

Don’t farmers care about their animals?

The most inevitable part of animal agriculture is the slaughter. No matter how “humanely” animals may be raised, they’re all slaughtered simply to satisfy human desire and generate profits. Claims such as “free-range” and “cage-free” imply that animals are running free, yet this is rarely the case, and all animals raised for food live shortened lives. For example, although chickens have a natural lifespan of five to ten years depending on breed, on “organic” or “cage-free” farms, they are slaughtered at around 14 weeks. The truth is that it’s simple not necessary for us to use animals this way.

So, is there no way to consume animal products ethically?

There really is not. No matter how “small-scale” you take animal agriculture, there are still aspects of the process that you will find unfavorable. It might be justifiable to “treat animals better” if it were necessary to use animals, but humans simply do not need to consume animal products to thrive.

Does that mean we all have to become vegans?

The exploitation of animals is inconsistent with the way most people feel about treating non-human animals with dignity and respect. Most people disagree with harming animals unnecessarily. Ultimately, becoming a vegan is truly the only way to eliminate the unnecessary exploitation of animals. Some vegans give up meat first, some vegans give up dairy first, but they all eventually come to realize that all animal products are easily avoidable and unnecessary. No animal products are really “better” or “worse” than any other; they all involve unnecessary exploitation of animals.

Don’t we need animal products to be healthy?

The ADA clearly states, “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, child-hood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”