On a New Level of Absurdity in the Slaughter Business

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On a New Level of Absurdity in the Slaughter Business

By Mary Martin on AnimalPerson.net
June 2009

Mary Martin, PhD, deconstructs the language, ethics and economics of our relationship with nonhuman animals.

[Response to article titled Humane Slaughterhouses]

Bea sent me a link to an article in Gourmet called "Humane Slaughterhouses," by Rebecca Marx, that is absurd. And the absurdity is in the reality that the author and the featured person who kills sentient nonhumans for a living, think they're onto something. And they were, before they stopped their train of thought prior to it reaching its most important station.

Let's deconstruct:

The heading is: "Okay, so your steak comes from a cow that lived a happy life--but how did that life end?" It's a cow who--who--lived an allegedly happy life. And I guess this is where the pro-death penalty people might have an argument. They believe you can take a life that doesn't want to be taken in a humane way, and I don't agree. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The voice of Temple Grandin is of course the foundation. And when that happens, you know what direction you're headed: the justification of taking the lives of sentient nonhumans to please the palates of humans.

The second paragraph needs to be looked at sentence by sentence. "While plenty of people pay attention to the question of what it means to raise an animal humanely, far fewer stop to consider the notion—and the ostensible paradox—of humane slaughter." It's not an ostensible paradox; it's an actual paradox. But of course the success of the author in manipulating the reader depends on the reader's belief that the paradox is indeed "ostensible."
Interestingly, the campaigns of happy meaters are acknowledged for perhaps being somewhat of a scam with the next sentence. "Words like 'pastured,' 'grass-fed,' and 'free-range' are now synonymous with quality meat; they carry a potent if symbolic meaning that has eased many a consumer’s conscience and driven many a marketing campaign." Potent if symbolic? In other words, it's a scam.

Finally, "But the idea of how an animal meets its ultimate fate is usually ignored—until, of course, we see YouTube videos of sick cows being hauled to their deaths on bulldozers." The animal is an "it," but I wouldn't expect anything more in this type of article. And though being hauled to their death on a bulldozer is terrible, any other form of slaughter at the hands of another, on that other's timeline and terms, is nevertheless slaughter. It is murder. But by presenting that example to the reader, the author positions herself to then present an alternative that is worlds better by comparison. And perhaps that "better" will distract the reader from the undeniable fact of the unjust slaughter.

The featured slaughterer is Bev Eggleston of EcoFriendly Foods, who says, “My perspective of what is humane is broader than how you harvest a cow. It’s how we treat humans, too. . . . To treat animals fairly, he needs to treat his workers fairly." Wait . . . harvest?

Here's where the train of thinking falls short of the station: "Because of his plant’s small size (it employs 15 laborers), his unwavering conviction that 'the animal needs to be respected,' and his concern for his workers’ welfare, Eggleston’s operation is an expensive and relatively inefficient one." Seriously, folks, if you are going to respect someone, you're not going to hold them captive and kill them. What kind of definition of respect includes: I don't need to kill you but I'm going to because it will make me money?
The chef's perspective is represented by Dan Barber, who serves Eggleston's meat. "For him, the importance of humane slaughter manifests itself in the quality of the meat." The needs of the cow aren't even mentioned. That sounds a lot more honest to me.
At last we come to Grandin's thoughts: "Ultimately, for Grandin, 'humane' is a loaded word. 'I’d rather say low-stress, painless slaughter,' she says—ideally as stressful as a vaccination shot. The biggest obstacle, she feels, is quantity. 'Quality and quantity are two opposing goals,' Grandin says. 'But there’s a sensible balance.'" Where to begin . . . All you need to know is one word: slaughter. The rest is just noise trying to distract you from what's really going on.

For all of the verbiage that is supposed to convey legitimate care, and care that is above and beyond the norm, one thing will always be true: these people are in the business of killing sentient nonhumans for profit. They have no moral justification for taking the lives of the nonhumans other than that certain humans like the taste of their flesh but don't want to do the killing themselves.

It's absurd that this has to be said, but respecting the needs of cows is the same thing as respecting the needs of dogs. It involves not killing them. Not eating them. And there's no way around that. Even death by vaccination shot doesn't change that.

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