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October 2006
Sanctuary Perspectives on “Humane” Animal Products

 

People who work with rescued farmed animals at sanctuaries have a unique perspective when it comes to talking about “humane” conditions of animals exploited for food. Satya asked a handful of sanctuary founders to share their views on the growing association of animal rights groups with welfare reform and how they respond when people ask them about “humane” meat and “cage-free” eggs.

Lorri Bauston, Animal Acres

Lorri Bauston.
Photo courtesy of Animal Acres

Our feeling at Animal Acres, and as somebody who has personally taken care of and has had farm animals as companions for over 20 years, we certainly support any effort to make any food animal production system less cruel. However, there will always be cruelty if animals are used for food production. I’ve seen for 20 years after doing hundreds of investigations of factory farms, slaughterhouses and stockyards that when animals are seen as commodities, there will always be abuse—it can be less cruel, but it will always be a cruel system. Slaughter can never be done humanely, it is an oxymoron.

We are supportive of efforts to legislate. For example, I helped pass a downed animal protection law 10 years ago. Before the law, when I found a downed cow suffering in the 110-degree weather on hot asphalt, the police would be called and we would get kicked out for trespassing. Now because we have a law, the animals can be humanely euthanized. It is night and day for the suffering of that animal. Because we passed a humane reform law, we can use it sometimes to prevent really horrific suffering. But it will never be a goal simply to treat the animals more humanely.

Certainly for the hens, getting them out of cages is the first step. But it is only a step. I’m fine with, and I know working with Farm Sanctuary and with HSUS, I support those goals and those efforts to make it less cruel. I don’t say humane. It is never humane when animals are being raised and killed.

That is a really important distinction. I’m concerned that if we paint this rosy picture, now everything is good, everything is humane, without addressing the broader question of whether we have a right to kill them period. As long as organizations do both of those things, that’s okay. I would have a concern when an organization is only supporting the “humane,” less cruel animal production system, without bringing into question the issue of consuming these animals [in the first place].

Fortunately, farm sanctuaries are in one of the most unique and effective positions to present the side of the ethical aspects of consuming animals. People start bonding with the farm animals and they see that a cow is just like a dog, that a pig loves belly rubs, that turkeys like to come and sit on your lap just like a cat and they actually purr. They start making the connections between food and animals.

When a person asks us, “well what about humane meat and eggs?” as they are getting a cow kiss, we can say, “certainly, we support systems that are less cruel, but simply because we have the might to kill these animals, it does not give us the right.”

Lorri Bauston is founder and director of Animal Acres Farm Animal Shelter and Compassionate Living Center in Los Angeles, www.animalacres.org; (661) 269-5404.

 


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