I am wounded by this to the depths of my soul. I am an omnivore, but this sort of thing makes me question how I justify it. It also makes me question fellow Christians that are so committed to the ” pro-life” movement. This is a creature that is fully conscious of its suffering; how can you consider this to be of less consequence than a fetus that had not developed a fully developed brain?
I eat meat; the fish I catch or my family catches. I know the farmer who raises the beef I eat. The deer we hunt every fall live good wild lives and then a bullet ends their life; a whole lot better than starving, getting hit by a car or be torn to bits by a pack of dogs/wolves. I do my best to know where my food comes from and how it lived before it came to feed me and my family. Everything dies and becomes food to another living thing, even we humans. I do my utmost to never buy much of anything from Walmart, especially meat, fish or eggs. I support each person’s right to choose what kind of diet best suits their lifestyle and moral choices. Please respect mine, because at the end of the day I know we want the same result: I believe that by consuming only humanely raised animals and sustainable crops I can do more to keep animals safe while supporting the health of my family.
Another responds to my call to contact Dave Warner, the director of communications for the National Pork Producers Council (and his response is below):
I have never in my life written anything like the email below to anyone, on any subject of public attention. Thank you for getting me off my arse!
Dear Mr. Warner:
I got your email address from Andrew Sullivan’s “Daily Dish” blog, where I have been following his recent excellent coverage of the use of ‘gestation crates’ and other factory farming techniques in pig farming. He has thoughtfully presented the moral issues from a Roman Catholic perspective and in the context of the respect for life and stewardship of nature that form a central part of that faith (which I share).
I am a lifelong lover of bacon, ham, and almost every other pork product! But in light of what I have now learned about the treatment of pigs in American factory farms I can no longer, in good conscience, continue to consume pork. While I have no moral objection to the consumption of meat, I will not remain complicit in the unspeakable cruelty apparently routinely inflicted on pigs by American pork producers.
Please convey to your members that I, and many consumers like me, ask that American pork producers discontinue practices like the use of gestation crates and make some concerted effort to provide pigs a life that approximates the natural life an intelligent mammal should be entitled to. Until that time, I will not purchase any pork product other than those that I can satisfy myself came from farms that treat their animals with dignity and (at a minimum) allow them to move around outside. I am prepared to pay a premium for such well-sourced meat.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Warner responds to the Dish:
Andrew Sullivan Monday posted a couple of videos from hog farms and wrote about the “brutal impact of keeping pigs in gestation crates.” But the videos’ images and, more importantly, the narrative that accompanied them don’t tell the accurate story of how America’s family hog farmers raise and care for their animals.
Providing humane and compassionate care for their pigs at every stage of life is one of the ethical principles to which America’s family hog famers adhere. They are passionate about caring for animals in a way that protects their well-being. In fact, housing sows in gestation stalls is one of the ways to ensure their well-being. Those individual pens allow farmers to give sows individual food rations and veterinary care; they also protect sows from aggressive sows.
Janeen Salak-Johnson, an associate animal science professor at the University of Illinois, has studied gestating sows in various housing systems, monitoring their stress, environmental physiology and well-being. She has found that individual pens work well for pregnant sows and that, contrary to claims made by opponents of the housing system, they don’t cause health problems for the animals.
The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) recognize gestation stalls as appropriate for providing for the well-being of sows during pregnancy. In fact, the key factor that most affects animal well-being is husbandry skills – that is, the care given to each animal. There is no scientific consensus on the best way to house gestating sows because each type of housing system has inherent advantages and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages of allowing sows to roam freely, for example, is that they will attack each other, with severe injuries and even death often the result. It’s also harder to ensure proper veterinary and nutritional care to sows in group or open housing systems.
Pork producers didn’t just wake up one day and decide to put sows in individual pens. Individual housing came about after years of working with the animals, observing their behaviors and determining what worked best to provide them the best possible care. Why would hog farmers want to abandon a system that provides that?
One practice (blunt force trauma) shown on one of the videos, while a method accepted by the AASV as a way to euthanize nonviable piglets, is being phased out – research on better methods is on-going – by the pork industry.
Certainly, there have been a few instances of animal abuse on hog farms, and that abuse has been condemned by the pork industry and by the farmers at whose operations the abuse occurred. Workers involved, including the worker in one of the videos posted yesterday, have been fired and, in one case, criminally prosecuted.
But most of the videos offered by animal-rights groups do not show any abuse, and even in the videos that do, the majority of the footage does not show abuse despite the groups’ narratives and claims to the contrary. Just because someone asserts that something is abuse – gestation stalls, for example – doesn’t make it so.
Hog farmers around the country are very concerned about the well-being of their animals, but they’re also concerned that the lies being told about how they raise and care for them could win the day and that, then, the United States would go the way of Europe, with animal well-being suffering, farmers going out of business and food prices skyrocketing.
Warner adds that the following video “(at about 1:50) explains why many hog farmers use gestation stalls, if you want to include it with the post”:
I just sent a polite but direct e-mail to Dave Warner. I told him that from now on my family will stop buying pork products and ordering pork in restaurants unless it is clearly marked as humanely raised.
On a tangential note, my parents lost a dear friend to mad cow disease here in the US earlier this year. You may already know this, but it is still possible for humans to contract mad cow disease in this country due to gaps in inspections and other loopholes. So now we only eat and order beef that is clearly labeled as having been fed grass or vegetarian feed. I swear, this nation’s meat industry is slowly turning me into a vegetarian.
Because you have such a large readership, I am pleased you are reaching a large audience on this topic – Thank You! I can never watch these videos; I suspect I would cry and be depressed the rest of the day. My husband, daughter, and I eat very little meat and when we do, it is from humane sources. As a society, if we reduced our demand for meat by half, our health, the environment, and the lives of animals would improve! Whether it’s “Meatless Mondays” or “Vegan Before 6”, so much good from one small step. Please continue this important topic.
We won’t let go.