One of the reasons people take up vegetarianism is a choice about life and our relationship to animals. As an animal lover, it's something I think about.
Sometimes someone would ask if all the chickens are named Henrietta. It's a silly joke but there is a principle: You don't name animals that will someday be slaughtered. We had dogs, turtles, fish, hamsters, guinea pigs, a cat, some lizards, gerbils, a rabbit. They all had names. But the chickens never had names.
I've killed my own meat on several occasions. I didn't like it but I thought it necessary. I think it would be a better world if every meat eater did that, at least once. (If that's not for you, you can read about it or watch it. These links go a respectful article with links to the more graphic photos or videos. Click at your own risk: It's reality.)
Did you see Michael Moore's documentary, Roger and Me? There was scene in which Moore's crew saw a sign in the rural area near Flint, Michigan that said "Rabbits. Pets or Meat." With cameras rolling, they stopped to see what that was about.
The lady there, who seemed puzzled at the need to explain it, told them that she bred, raised and sold rabbits. You could buy one as a pet or as meat.
All the while, she was petting a rabbit. They asked if they could buy that one as meat. And they did. She said goodbye to the rabbit and she killed and prepared it, going from petting the rabbit to making it a product. Pet to meat. She was respectful and kind in doing what must be done. It could be seen as horrific in one way, but it was not very different from seeing a tiger take down an antelope on a nature documentary. I think the movie intended an allegory, comparing the respectful sacrifice to the more heartless and senseless sacrifices of humanity that Moore alleges GM was inflicting, but the episode struck me as an illustration of how we can be with the living creatures we use.
The times I have turned animals into food, I said a silent goodbye and thanked them for their gift. It meant nothing to the animal but it reminded me of what I was doing. As a meat eater, I want to be conscious that foam trays and shrink wrap don't truly insulate us from life's cruelties.
I am not likely to become a true vegetarian, much less a vegan. I wish we could produce meat without killing animals (and someday, we will). But I also wonder which is better for an animal — to be killed for meat, or never to have lived at all?
As meat eaters, we can do a few things to make the process more humane. One is to eat less meat, something that has myriad benefits. Another is to favor humane production methods. I appreciate the efforts to make farming more humane. Paying an extra 5 or 10% for our meat does not seem to me to be an undue burden. It's not a practical consideration — it just feels better.
What do you think?