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Exposing the Beast: Factory Farming
Exposing the beast: factory farming must be called to the slaughterhouse
To any thinking person, it must be obvious there is something terribly wrong with relations between human beings and the animals they rely on for food. It must also be obvious that in the past 100 or 150 years, whatever is wrong has become wrong on a huge scale, as traditional animal husbandry has been turned into an industry using industrial methods of production.
There are many other ways in which our relationship with animals is wrong (to name two: the fur trade and experimentation on animals in laboratories), but the food industry, which turns living animals into what it euphemistically calls animal products and by-products, dwarfs all others in the number of individual animal lives it affects.
The vast majority of the public has an equivocal attitude to the industrial use of animals: they make use of the products of that industry, but are nevertheless a little sickened, a little queasy, when they think of what happens on factory farms and abattoirs. Therefore they arrange their lives in such a way that they need be reminded of farms and abattoirs as little as possible, and they do their best to ensure their children are kept in the dark too, because children have tender hearts and are easily moved.
The transformation of animals into production units dates back to the late 19th century, and since that time we have already had one warning on the grandest scale that there is something deeply, cosmically wrong with regarding and treating fellow beings as mere units of any kind.
This warning came so loud and clear that one would have thought it impossible to ignore. It came when, in the 20th century, a group of powerful and bloody-minded men in Germany hit on the idea of adapting the methods of the industrial stockyard, as pioneered and perfected in Chicago, to the slaughter - or what they preferred to call the processing - of human beings.
Of course we cried out in horror when we found out what they had been up to. What a terrible crime to treat human beings like cattle - if we had only known beforehand. But our cry should more accurately have been: what a terrible crime to treat human beings like units in an industrial process. And that cry should have had a postscript: what a terrible crime - come to think of it, a crime against nature - to treat any living being like a unit in an industrial process.
It would be a mistake to idealise traditional animal husbandry as the standard by which the animal products industry falls short. Traditional animal husbandry is brutal enough, just on a smaller scale. A better standard by which to judge both practices would be the simple standard of humanity: is this truly the best that humans are capable of?