The ethical omnivore

LEGO-City-Farm-Lot-8-Brown-Cow-_57.jpgVegetarianism is basically a crime against humanity. Metaphorically its taking your ability to walk upright and choosing not to use it. Instead you want to crawl around everywhere on all fours. It took your ancestors millennia to get to this point and look at you, spitting on their accomplishments while you crouch down to munch down on your Cos lettuce. Like some Watership down cottontail.

We have our ancestors to thank for our ability to eat basically anything. Including but not limited to our yellow timberland boots and should we so desire the paper in our Gideon’s bible. I would suggest boiling your boots first to soften them up a little. Native American Indians were known to boil strips of tanned hide when buffalo and berries were hard to come by. If you’re going to eat your bible I suggest starting with the Old Testament. Maybe Leviticus. Broadly considered the least useful to modern ethics and morality. I find it irksome to carry these rocks around in case I happen on any homosexuals that need stoning. Also, Revelations is supposedly a good substitute for Rizla. Pretty sure those 144,000 spots have already been filled, by people A LOT more virtuous than me. So might as well get blazed while we wait for the end times.

To be fair we’ve been murdering other creatures (and one another) since the dawn of time. It’s kind of our thing. But if you like to believe that being a vegetarian absolves you of bloodshed then you’re very much mistaken. Your morning Oats are basically bathed in the blood of a million tiny creatures. When that combine harvester goes rolling through the fields it literally picks up and then dices and slices hundreds of little field mice families, bunny rabbits, little baby does and well meaning voles. Not to mention snakes, lizards and chameleons minding their own business, plus all the beetles, slugs and snails and all the other insects that couldn’t get out the way in time. Breakfast cereal is basically an animal kingdom holocaust in a brightly coloured box, endorsed by a creepy cartoon character. Really if that isn’t the biggest indictment of humanity, then I don’t know what is.

The reality is, in order for me to eat, something else has got to die. If you eat anything other than hydroponically grown vegetables raised in a sterile environment you are a killer.(although sterile means you killed some bacteria along the way) Maybe not on a killer on a personal level where you look your sheep in the eyes before sawing through its jugular, getting sprayed with its warm blood and then hauling it up by its hind legs in order to get an efficient bleed out. But by eating meat you’re endorsing the death of another living creature.

I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with is how the industry that feeds us has evolved into this insane cruelty machine.

So I endeavoured at some point last year (I don’t remember when exactly) to try and become an ethical omnivore. So the rule was if I didn’t know the provenance of my food I wouldn’t eat it. I very quickly found out that I almost couldn’t eat anything. Let me start with breakfast. A very good place to start since I love breakfast.

Eggs

So what do you imagine when I say ‘free-range’. Chickens roaming on a rolling green acreage, eating bugs and having dust baths in the sun? Yeah, unfortunately all free range really means is not caged. So they could still be under-roof in a warehouse on a concrete floor. Doesn’t attest to their time spent outdoors or in the sun.

Eating out becomes a massive ethical issue. No restaurant is going to shell out (no pun intended) a bit more for free-range eggs. Margins are way too tight. Your omelette, eggs benedict or even your slice of chocolate cake was made from factory farmed eggs, produced by chickens living in a cage the size of an A4 piece of paper for their 18 month existence, after which they are considered ‘spent’ and disposed of. A normal chicken can live for about seven to eight years, sometimes longer. But really after 18 months in a cage you’re probably begging for death.

No matter if your eggs are free range or battery farmed male chicks are killed the day they are born. New born chicks are sexed, the ‘useless’ males are picked up and thrown onto a conveyer belt which drops them into a big grinding machine, which instantly blitzes them. Sometimes this gets fed back to the chickens. Nothing like a bit of cannibalism to get things going.

Milk

Again we imagine our black and white Friesland cows roaming the pastures, grazing, sun on their backs, before some cheerful herder summons them to the barn where they are milked. The product is then bottled, shipped and then combined with our bloody, dead animal oats in our morning ritual.

The majority of dairy operations are indoor operations. It costs too much money for them to roam free and then having to go fetch them and bring them back to get milked twice a day is totally inefficient. Easier if they don’t leave the warehouse, we will bring the food to them. I never knew this until recently, but a cow needs to be pregnant to produce milk. I mean duh. So dairy cows are constantly artificially inseminated to keep them pregnant. As soon as they give birth the baby calf is taken away from them, some of them will join the milking herd but most are murdered to give us veal. A man with a glove and some sperm then enters the cow from behind and knocks her up again.

As you might imagine, one cow produces as much milk as is sufficient for one calf. Not very efficient. To get round this the dairy cow is pumped full of hormones to maximize milk production. The poor cow now produces twelve times as much milk as she would under normal circumstances. Obviously she can’t produce that ruminating on grass all day, so we supplement their diet somewhat…

The constant stress of being pregnant, the separation anxiety of having your calf forcibly removed from you as soon as its born, the perpetual lactation and near constant confinement means the dairy cow after, four years, starts to dip in milk production. Which is bad news for the cow. A normal dairy cow lives for about twenty to twenty five years. The now spent dairy cow is zapped in the head with a stun-gun and ground up to make mince which ends up in your Quarter pounder with cheese. Yum.

Editors note: I always thought the milk industry was quite benign. Those are some evil motherfuckers. Glad I sold my Clover shares. Fuck them.

Bacon

This is possibly the cruellest and most despicable of all industries. There are few fates worse than being a breeding sow. You live in a gestation crate which is a concrete box just big enough for the sow to turn around in. You spend your day lying in your own shit and piss. Pigs are intelligent, clean and social creatures. Only if you’re a sow you spend your life alone and pregnant, constantly artificially inseminated via rubber glove. When you give birth you are moved to a slightly bigger concrete box where you can suckle your piglets through steel bars, after which they are taken away from you and it’s back to the gestation crate to repeat the cycle. Lucky you.

Piglets are taken to a large concrete pen to get fat and await slaughter. But first their tails are chopped off, their ears mutilated, their teeth clipped in half and if they are male their balls chopped off. All without pain meds.

They are crammed into sunless concrete pens, again living in their own shit, with no space to move. They are pumped full of antibiotics to keep the wounds they inflict on each other from getting too infected. Still, some pigs die, and get eaten by the others. Half the pigs are suffering from some sort of lung infection by this point, and more than half are suffering from mange. Almost all of them are developing severe arthritis and joint pain because they can’t move and are growing too heavy.

At four months they are taken off to the slaughterhouse. Because of the sheer volume of pigs that need to processed, many pigs are not properly stunned before being dumped into giant vats of near boiling water (which softens their skin and removes their hair) and end up drowning. Although I’ve lately seen a video where screaming pigs get lowered into a gas chamber. That was chilling. I’m not sure which is worse.

So if being a vegetarian is going against evolution. Being an omnivore makes you a sick fuck. You’re trapped between a rock and a hard place. Sure we can get around the inconvenient truth by just not thinking about it. I mean clearly most of us don’t really give a damn where our food comes from. We’ve got enough other shit going on in our lives. Food needs to be cheap, easy and convenient. Not ethical.

I just worry about where we draw the line in the sand. When are we so ethically compromised that nothing matters to us anymore. If we don’t care about the animals that we share this planet with, what do we care about?

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