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.
If you shop at Coles you may have seen this label stamped onto the more expensive bacon, but have you ever wondered what sow stalls actually are?
Sow stalls, also known as gestation crates, are metal cages that sows are held in during pregnancy. The stalls, normally measuring 200cm x 60cm are just long enough for the pigs to take a single step forward or backward, and they are so narrow that it is impossible for the pig to turn around. Sows can be forced to remain in these stalls for up to sixteen weeks!
Rather than individual feeding troughs, sows in stalls are often fed from one communal trough where the food gets mixed with the bodily fluids and waste from all the other sows.
Not only do they suffer psychological trauma, swollen limbs and lameness, the sows are sometimes starved in order to induce early births.
The argument that pork producers make for sow stalls is that without them sows that are housed together in pens will fight, injuring or killing each other. However a more ethical alternative is just to provide them with larger pens that allow freedom of movement. Sow stalls are nothing more than a cruel cost-saving measure of factory farms.
Fortunately the Australian pork industry has committed to phasing out sow stalls starting in 2017, but this isn’t actually a ban. Instead they will just reduce the amount of time that sows can be kept in the stalls. Still a positive step forward, but it is not enough. Sow stalls are already banned in the European Union and Canada, as well as several US states. Let’s hope Australia will be next to follow suit.
Pictured: A pig of superior intelligence, but inferior eye-sight
Pigs are social and intelligent animals. They play together, they have long-term memories and they can remember which people were nice to them and which people weren’t. It’s such a pity that many domestic pigs will go their whole lives without meeting any people in the former category. Shouldn’t it be the right of all animals to have a good life? Even if they’re just going to get eaten in the end. Factory farmed pigs suffer in cramped, unnatural conditions, and “bred free range” pigs suffer the same. Only free range pigs experience a life close to what they evolved to enjoy: open pastures, warm sun, and fresh air.
Pigs have been taught how to play video games. They have been taught to navigate mazes and solve puzzles. There are plenty of articles saying how pigs are more intelligent than dogs, or just as smart as chimpanzees. Some even go as far as to say they’re smarter than 3 year olds. We wouldn’t eat any of these would we? Well some people might but I’m sure we’d put them in prison or at least not want to be friends with them. The point is, most of us would agree that we shouldn’t eat smart things, and yet we’re still killing and eating thousands of highly intelligent animals every single day.
This isn’t going to suddenly change, and though it may seem unconventional for a blog of this type, I am of the opinion that we should not just stop eating pigs. It’s unquestionable that they’re delicious. Many people also rely on pig farming for their livelihood. However, I also think that pigs deserve to have good lives. We can change the way that they’re treated without having to forgo our lovely bacon. Just switch to free range. Coles and Woolworths are making this hard by not offering free range choices any more, but local butchers and smaller supermarkets may still have free range bacon or pork available.
Free range pork is more expensive than factory farmed, but not drastically so. Isn’t it worth a few extra dollars so you can have the peace of mind that you didn’t contribute to animal suffering? The meat will even taste better because it won’t be toughened from years of stress. You’ll be able to rest easy with a belly full of bacon, knowing that the pig you ate had a happy life. And you can bask in the warm glow of self-satisfaction, knowing that you’re also contributing to better treatment for pigs in the future.
Australians simply don’t care enough about farm animal welfare. When we see tiny kittens and puppies being mistreated we get all up in arms about it. Social media explodes, GoFundMe’s are flooded with donations, the national news runs stories. And yet millions of pigs suffer every year in cramped, unnatural conditions. Where are the headlines about that?
I want to make a change. Though I’m not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, I’ve stopped buying factory farmed pork and bacon. I’m paying the premium for free range. It’s worth it.
Pigs are suffering needlessly. There is plenty of room in Australia for large farms with space for pigs to move about, and yet we keep them locked inside, stuffed together like sardines.
What’s worse is that consumers who are trying to make a difference by buying ethical products are being misled by corporations that market “outdoor bred” pork. This is not the same as free range. In fact it’s the opposite. These pigs were kept inside from the age of four weeks. Only their mothers get to move about.
Stop buying sow stall free, outdoor bred and any other pork products that masquerade as ethical choices. It’s free range or nothing.
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