The Modern Savage

The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals, by James McWilliams.  Thomas Dunne Books, 2015.

Once again James McWilliams proves that he is one of the most articulate thinkers and writers we have on the subject of how we treat animals used for food. Regarding so-called “humanely-raised” meat, he shows readers that chickens, pigs, and cows have emotional lives, suffer and do not want their lives cut short to provide food humans don’t need. It is not ethically acceptable to claim to care about them, give them a more natural life for awhile, and then kill them. And in case you want details on typical slaughter procedures, that’s in here too.

“Humanely-raised” animals allowed to live outdoors can be even more disease-prone than those in factory farms, picking up infections from the soil and contact with feces. McWilliams cites numerous blog posts from small farmers giving their animals a marginally better life, but dealing not only with frequent diseases arising from an outdoor environment, but losses to extreme weather and, in the case of chickens, to predators–often a grisly death for the chickens. These “humane” farmers also mutilate their animals–for example, castrating male pigs without anesthesia–and farmers who do their own slaughtering can be shockingly inept, causing greater suffering than if the animals had been taken to a commercial slaughterhouse.

Food labels can mislead consumers about what they are really buying. So-called “grass-fed” cattle are not entirely grass-fed; many must be fed hay to survive–hay that must be grown elsewhere. And here’s a surprise: grass-fed cattle are no less likely to be infected with deadly E.coli than those fed grain and confined on feedlots.

The outrages and inconsistencies go on and on. The only way to remove oneself from supporting cruel treatment of “food” animals is not to eat them. Period.

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