Monday, May 18, 2009
Why Meat-Eating Is Mostly Evil . . .
I have been a (mostly) vegetarian for something like fifteen years. I write "mostly" in parenthesis because I have on rare occasions eaten the flesh of felled beasties (mostly in consideration of the world's five out of six billion who are not yet aware or properly responsive to the suffering and unnecessary cruelty inflicted upon animals raised for consumption and the inefficiency and waste of precious resources that goes into raising animals for food--that, and on occasion the predator in me wants to sink teeth into flesh . . .).
Now mind you, a significant part of my nature is a hunter, and if approached with respect and due reverence, reverently receiving sustenance from animals who live their lives free in the wilderness is not a sin, in my humble opinion. Animals raised to kill and eat, especially when confined to feed lots, is exceedingly unjust and cruel, and the amount of crops and water required to raise animals for food is excessive and wasteful.
Raising animals for meat consumes 90 percent of the soy, 80 percent of the corn, and 70 percent of the grain grown in this nation. If everyone nationwide turned vegetarian, that land would be freed for more responsible use, and could be either allowed to return to a natural state or utilized to grow biodiesel crops, food for hunger relief globally, or to grow hemp, which can be used for paper pulp, plastics, and as structural material to replace the deforesting use of lumber from cutting down trees.
Regarding water use, the livestock industry is responsible, more than any other industry, for the depletion of fresh water in this country. It takes over one-hundred times more water to produce a pound of beef than it does to produce a pound of potatoes!! Eating mass-produced meat is an environmental crime!!
Estimated water requirements for various crops and livestock (m³ water/ton crop) (Wikipedia)
The above table clearly displays how wasteful raising livestock for food is compared to food crops. When considering the water wasted, the wasteful use of crops to feed livestock that could be used directly as human food, and the cruel conditions of animals kept in feed lots and factory farms, the extreme pollution of water caused by livestock production, etc., etc., there is no doubt that meat-eating is amongst the greatest environmental and inhumane crimes of this land. In addition, the conditions of most animals raised for meat is atrocious.
Chickens are confined to cages in most large farms, and in such hazardous conditions those who tend to them often must wear respirators or other protective gear.
Cattle in feedlots don't have it much better . . . and worse if you consider their intelligence level.
These things said, I should add that though I do not think raising animals and then slaughtering them is without moral and ethical flaws at any level, family farms and ranches that keep free-range fed cows or maintain cage-free conditions for poultry are at least a half-step above mass-produced meat. Though I believe the ideal would be (and better soon become, or else . . . ) a vegetarian society through and through, small family farms and ranches are at least mostly cruelty free--except that most family farms end up selling some portion of their cattle to feedlots anyways.
These things said, I still maintain that hunting is the most responsible and ethical meat eating process there is. Those animals taken by hunters in their natural wild habitat live their lives free, and only experience a short period of suffering when pierced by an arrow or other projectile compared to animals who spend their whole lives in captivity, sometimes spending the better portion of those lives standing in their own feces. And any animals raised for food learn to trust humans as their providers, only to end up slaughtered by those they learned to trust.
Native Americans (er, perhaps more appropriately "Indians"--see post entitled "Maybe Columbus Was Right After All . . .") greatly revered the animals they hunted, doing ceremony and offering prayers as due respects offered their quarry.
When I lived for a short while with a Dine (Navajo) family in Arizona, Che ("grampa") Begay slaughtered a ewe (female sheep) for a Native American Church meeting this family was hosting. Though I did not observe the slaughter, my traveling companion Jonah watched as Che Willie Begay sang a Dine song over the doomed sheep, then according to Jonah's account, groaned and was visibly thrown back upon slicing the sheep's throat, as if perhaps receiving into himself the pain caused by the act. This level of empathy and respect is the least that is due a sentient being who gives its life to feed humans.
Mass feedlots and slaughterhouses are an infinite distance from the respect shown by those traditional societies who eat meat to the animals they raise for food.
Even Kosher and Halal rules (Hebrew and Muslim dietary guidelines) establish modes designed to minimize the suffering of animals raised and slaughtered for food. There is really no excuse for the cruel and inhumane modes of modern approaches to raising animals for food. Period!!