We have let the factory farm replace farming for the same reasons our cultures have relegated minorities to being second-class members of society and kept women under the power of men. We treat animals as we do because we want to and can. (Does anyone really wish to deny this anymore?)
At the end of the day, factory farming isn’t about feeding people; it’s about money. Whether or not it’s right to kill animals for food, we know that in today’s dominant systems, it’s impossible to kill them without at least inflicting occasional torture. That is why some farmers apologize to their animals as they are sent off to slaughter. They’ve made a compromise rather than cut a fair deal.
If we are not given the option to live without violence, we are given the choice to centre our meals around harvest or slaughter, husbandry or war. We have chosen slaughter. We have chosen war.
The everyday horrors of factory farming are evoked so vividly, and the case against the people who run the system presented so convincingly, that anyone who, after reading Foer’s book, continues to consume the industry’s products must be without a heart, or impervious to reason, or both.
~ J.M. Coetzee
It shouldn’t be the consumer’s responsibility to figure out what’s cruel and what’s kind, what’s environmentally destructive and what’s sustainable. Cruel and destructive food products should be illegal. We don’t need the option of buying children’s toys made with lead paint, or aerosols with chlorofluorocarbons, or medicines with unlabelled side effects. And we don’t need the option of buying factory-farmed animals.
Historians tell a story about Abraham Lincoln. that while returning to Washington from Springfield, he forced his entire party to stop to help some small birds he saw in distress. When chided by the others, he responded, quite plainly, “I could not have slept tonight if I had left those poor creatures on the ground and not restored them to their mother.” He observed, quite simply, that once those suffering birds came into his view, a moral burden had been assumed. He could not be himself if he walked away.
Whether I sit at the global table, with my family or with my conscience, the factory farm … feels inhuman. To accept the factory farm…to feed the food it produces to my family, to support it with my money — would make me less myself, less my grandmother’s grandson, less my son’s father.
This is what my grandmother meant when she said, “If nothing matters, there’s nothing to save.
Image: Christopher Rogers.