In the words of George Orwell, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”
We value some animals more than others. There are no two ways about it. We cage and consume farm animals, while treating pets like members of the family. Something needs to be done about this hypocrisy.
If you were to keep a dog or cat in the same conditions as the animals in factory farms, you would be arrested. But for pigs, who have been shown to be even more intelligent than dogs, it is perfectly fine to keep them in tiny cages for weeks at a time. (See my articles on farrowing crates and sow stalls).
It’s so easy to distance yourself from the horrors of intensive commercial farming when all you see is meat sitting on a shelf. If everyone was confronted with the reality, we wouldn’t eat nearly so much pork, beef and chicken.
The problem is that we are conditioned to think of certain animals as food, while empathising and projecting human characteristics onto others. Cow = beef. Dog = friend. Farmers warn against treating livestock too much like pets because then it will be harder when it comes time to slaughter.
Now I’m not suggesting that we start treating all farm animals like companions, but we need to treat them with some respect and acknowledge that they suffer in intensive farming operations. Not just that, but actually do something about it. Maybe one day when we’re able to grow meat cheaply in a lab we’ll be able to stop eating beef, pork and chicken, but for now if we want to satisfy our carnivorous urges the most ethical option is to buy free range.
Next time you’re buying meat, just pause for a second and consider that an animal died so that you could eat. You can afford to pay that couple of dollars extra to get free range. You’re paying for a life. That shouldn’t be cheap.