A few days ago, two Danish radio announcers beat a rabbit to death on air. With a bicycle pump. That last part isn't really that important, but the media scrabbled after it for some reason. A blunt object is a blunt object.
The hosts’ point was that most people aren’t familiar with the death that is required to support their daily diet , that people in general consume without thinking about what that consumption means. The way they presented it seems gruesome, but the reality is that Allen the rabbit had a far better life and death and the kazillion farm animals that are killed each year in the U.S..
But fuck those animals right? They aren’t like Allen, the adult rabbit (incorrectly reported to be nine weeks old by several tabloids) and his feelings.
When I was a vegetarian, I thought you should be able to kill whatever you eat; I couldn’t kill anything, so I didn’t eat meat. Seven years later, I started killing a lot of fish. Despite that fish can feel pain, and that they might even feel fear and stress, I still pulled them out of the river, delivered a few sharp raps to their head, then bled them out.
It wasn’t hard for me to do at all, so I ate fish. Each fish was a gift, highly prized and prepared with care. I felt bad their lives were ending, but felt like they did a pretty good job at being a fish to make it to size, and that if it wasn’t me, it’d be a bear. No one makes it out alive.
Allen was going to die anyway -- he was a meat rabbit. Outside of posh eateries, we don’t eat a lot of rabbit in the U.S., but it’s delicious and has varying degrees of popularity worldwide. We don’t eat horses either, because they are noble and sexy, even though they probably aren’t any more intelligent than a cow. People should know that the animals that supply their often lackluster diet were creatures with beating hearts and emotions, but do we need to be able to kill them ourselves?
I don’t think so.
We romanticize a time when each person killed their own food--which isn’t accurate. In most primitive societies, parties of hunters were dispatched. After agriculture started catching on, certain people farmed corn, others pigs. Not everyone eating pork was a pig farmer. Just like some people are better at keeping plants alive, others are better at killing and cutting up animals. It doesn’t bother them, they take pride in it; raise it well and treat it fair and feed it good food. Then when it’s time, the animal is killed quickly and humanely. Each animal is a gift.
Killing animals for food comes easier to some than others. To assume that all people need to honor some ‘primal’ moral code when it comes to eating meat is absurd. Not everyone who uses a computer understands how they work, not everyone who drives can build a car, not everyone wearing clothes could sew their own. It’s called ‘specialization’, folks. It’s a modern convenience that we have access to--purchasing goods and services from people who do it better than us.
All this distracts from the real problem--that the treatment of animals in factory farms is atrocious. People should be pissed. People ARE pissed. But not everyone is privy to the situation. Big Agriculture actually spends money to make commercials to make you think that farming is this touchy-feely all-American experience, when even on the surface it’s treating living animals like objects to maximise profits.
Restrictions are placed on farmers that land contracts with buyers, often both to the detriment of animals and farmer’s profit margin. The raising and killing of these animals isn’t being carried out by people that are good at raising them and have respect for the process, it’s being carried out by people willing to work for the least amount of money it is legal to pay people, for long hours, in what is essentially a nightmare factory.
The result of meat as big business is tasteless, crappy meat. I was raised on it! We’re eating animals that are denied even the smallest courtesies like sunshine, fresh water and a diet that does not include eating their own kind. When you feed a cow nothing but soy meal and corn, that’s exactly what its meat will taste like -- something that eats bland trash for a living. Factory-farmed meat tastes like sadness, and we’ve just gotten used to eating it. Maybe that’s why we eat so much of it now.
Eating less meat would obviously be good for everyone involved -- people’s health, the ecosystem we live in, and the animals involved. You can care about animals and still eat some of them. Not everyone needs to be able to strangle a turkey with their bare hands, but we really need to all back up and freak the fuck out about the current state of factory farming in America and re-think how meat fits into our diets. The only people benefitting from the current farming models are already rich jerks.
No one is going to wrestle the ham away from Grandpa--he grew up working on a farm and he'll be damned if anyone deprived him of pork. But maybe we could impress upon the next generations to be mindful of the animals that will die so they can be eaten. That maybe we don't need to eat meat at every meal or even every day. That even the animals we eat, even if they aren’t cute rabbits like Allen, deserve humane treatment. Each animal is a gift.