Supporting better living conditions for animals is better than doing nothing, but this sidesteps the crucial problem of inevitable slaughter
Farms Not Factories is a celebrity-endorsed campaign that seeks to bring an end to factory farming in favour of ‘real’ farms.
The campaign focuses on the treatment of pigs in factory farms and encourages people to only buy pork from high welfare farms. While demanding an end to inhumane factory farms is a crucial step towards cruelty-free foods, that’s all it is — a step. Regardless of how nicely you believe pigs on farms are treated, the fact of the matter is that it always ends in slaughter.
We are forever hearing people proudly proclaiming that they only buy ‘ethically sourced, humanely raised meat’. It is clear that our addiction to eating animal products has left us with skewed morals; surely there are few things as inhumane as breeding a creature with the sole intention of eating it, its death date already set the moment it is born. Put it this way: if you read in the news about a cannibal who stole a baby, let it grow into a plump little toddler, and then ate it; would you be any less horrified by hearing that before killing it, he took it to the park, read it bedtime stories and bought it ice-cream on the weekends? I didn’t think so.
Regardless of how ‘humanely’ an animal is treated before it is slaughtered, we must accept that these lives are not ours to take in the first place. Our trivial desire for good-tasting food does not take precedence over another creature’s right to live.
The Farms Not Factories website states that one concern regarding factory farming is: ‘Animal abuse through confinement, overcrowding, mutilation, exploitation, neglect and denial of natural behaviours’. It’s a shame this concern for animal welfare only goes so far — an animal’s quality of life matters, but only until we decide it is time to end it.
The organisation’s #TurnYourNoseUp campaign features videos of celebrities and well-known faces stressing the importance of buying only high-quality pork. The most disturbing part perhaps is where actor Dominic West says: ‘I love eating pork. In fact, it’s my favourite thing’, while holding a pig in his arms. The idea that ‘humane meat’ exists allows us to recognise animals as sentient beings while still feeling justified in killing and eating them.
Another concern Farms Not Factories raises includes the use of antibiotics on livestock and the negative effect this has on human health. There is very good reason to be worried about this: around 40 per cent of all antibiotics in the UK are given to farm animals, and the overuse of antibiotics in farming is contributing to dangerous and deadly drug resistance in humans. However, pigs raised on ‘nice’ farms do not necessarily live antibiotic-free lives. While such farms generally avoid excessive, preventative antibiotic use, certain drugs may still be necessary if livestock becomes unwell. So, if the thought of consuming antibiotic-dosed flesh bothers you, there are foods that don’t require drugs to prevent you from becoming ill after eating them: plants.
In addition to this, the website states ‘pollution of air and water which sickens local residents and destroys wildlife’ as another factory-related issue. While it’s true that crowded, unsanitary, poorly managed factory farms will have a worse environmental impact than ‘real’ farms, the fact of the matter is that the mass breeding of livestock for food will always be harmful to the planet. If you are genuinely concerned about the environment, it only makes sense to follow the Farms Not Factories’ argument to its logical conclusion, and stop eating meat altogether.
This article is not intended to disparage the Farms Not Factories movement — as I said, it is an important step towards treating animals fairly and with compassion. The reason such a campaign is problematic, however, is that it allows us to feel satisfied with partaking in a slightly less immoral version of a very cruel industry. It allows us to believe that we can champion animal rights while still eating animals, and this is wrong. As long as we partake in the unnecessary slaughter of animals in order to satisfy our desire for meat, we cannot ever call ourselves truly humane or ethical.
Cruelty is not just treating animals badly while they are alive — cruelty is ending those lives, too.