Dear Mary & Frank,
Thank you very much for getting back to me so promptly. I appreciate your politeness and honest opinions.
In your letter, you questioned how I can condone meat-eating, yet possess a knowledge of the abuse suffered by countless animals in the meat industry as well as a deep love and respect for all creatures. I realize my opinions may seem contradictory, so I will happily explain my reasoning here.
To me, discontinuing society's meat, egg, and dairy industries is neither realistic nor necessary. It is encouraging to “dream big”, but we must realize that slaughterhouses, butcher shops, delicatessens, farms, ranches, packaging plants, trucking businesses—these prosperous contributors to not only our food market, but our national economy in general, indispensable sources of employment & income to hundreds of thousands of citizens—are not simply going to disappear any time soon. Even if you and other animal rights advocates managed to convince the majority of the nation to stop eating meat, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream—in other words, persuaded the millions of this country to adopt a less-than-nutritious diet of fruit, veggies, carbohydrates & soy (which I'd hail as truly miraculous) it would still require enormous effort to end all the jobs and companies dependent on the manufacture and sale of meat and dairy products. Can you imagine how many businesses would suffer from this action? I'll admit it is easier to imagine suffering businesses than suffering animals, but what about the owners and workers whose livelihoods depend on these giant corporations? Just think of all the restaurant chains, supermarkets, factories, farms, advertisers… I’d say getting Americans off meat & dairy would be about as unproblematic as cutting off the nation’s petroleum supply. Attempting to halt these monster food industries is about as practical as trying to end the sale & use of telephones or computers. It is far too idealistic a goal.
Like I have said before, I fully understand how much inhumane treatment occurs today, and I find it sickening too. I can’t say that browsing the appalling stories and photos posted on your site doesn’t bring me to tears. Personally, it is sometimes difficult for me to imagine the miserable life likely suffered by the chicken, cow, or fish that I am consuming whenever I dine on meat. This is why I only eat the "healthy & happy" eggs laid by my own pet hens, and why I look forward to the fall and winter months when my family and I can dine largely on venison and wild poultry from the deer and other game that my father and brother bring in during the hunting season. When I eat deer or wild turkey meat, I think about the animal I am eating—sometimes I even thank that creature for the sustenance it has given me. I know that the animal has lived a full and natural life, even if a short one, and I feel a connection between that animal's life and my own life. It is a wholesome, heartening feeling. But even when I eat chicken or pork or beef purchased from the supermarket, I like to acknowledge, in my mind, the animal which has been sacrificed for my meal. I like to thank that animal for giving me nourishment, for fueling my body—I like to tell that dead animal that, even though it may have lived a miserable life, it has made a contribution to mine, and I am grateful. And sometimes, I even tell that animal that I will try to repay its kindness by striving to improve the lives mistreated creatures. Though I’d like to believe it, I don’t know if cows and pigs and chickens possess spirits that live on after their bodies decompose, but I do know that when I speak to the animals I eat, I am sending out my loving, positive energy into the Universe for all to benefit from, and that gives me satisfaction.
No doubt there are many despicable businesses out there. But I think there are many reputable farms, slaughterhouses and markets than you at all-creatures.org fail to give credit to. Last year, I took a course that focused for nearly the whole semester on factory farms and animal rights issues, and during that time I learned of many rising businesses from which I’d be proud to get my meat & dairy products. For instance, my college roommate’s father owns and runs a duck hatchery. The ducks raised at the hatchery are eventually sold for their meat, but they are free-range animals and raised with much love and care. It is quite apparent that the ducks are happy and healthy animals, even if they are raised for slaughter. This summer, when my family and I were vacationing out west, we drove by countless sprawling cattle ranches. The cows on these ranches had miles of open space over which to roam—acres and acres of grass and shade and streams and sunlight, as far as the eye could see. I remember gazing along these beautiful pastures and thinking to myself, “I wouldn’t mind the life of one of these cows myself!” It made me happy to see such places where livestock were given freedom and space to grow and live out full lives before their slaughter.
There are farms and companies out there who are working to improve things for animals. They are few & far-between, but I think they are gaining & will continue to gain respect and prominence. They are playing an important role in ending senseless animal cruelty, and as consumers, we can play our part by supporting them. My family and I buy organic products whenever possible, and have decided to stop giving our money to “fast food” joints, which are probably most guilty of mistreating animals. As informed citizens, we can send the message that factories and industries will not get our business until they incorporate safe, humane methods and practices; we can focus our attention and our dollars on respectable farms and markets where we know the food is organic, nutritious, safe, and chemical-free, where we know the meat comes from happy, healthy animals. In my opinion, we can’t ask for more than that.
I am optimistic enough to hope that conditions will slowly improve from animals raised for our commercial industries. As humans, we eventually recognize and try to change the error in our ways. We can unite our innovations and ideas & make compromises in order to work toward a goal of more humane practices, but this is going to happen in small, easy steps. Drastic measures, radical attempts, simply won’t do the trick.
Thanks again for taking the time to hear what I have to say and respond to me so considerately. Best of health & happiness to you and your loved ones this new year.