Skip to content

On Compassionate Carnivores and Betrayal

Stephanie's post about "The Compassionate Hypocrite" on Saturday reminded me of what Catherine Friend and other "compassionate carnivores" are doing in addition to twisting the definition of compassionate beyond recognition. Their claim is that what has become the customary way to take sentient nonhumans from babyhood to untimely death is not humane. It's cruel. There's no "compassion" in the process. It's impersonal and hideously ugly and the animals suffer greatly.

No argument here.

However, the solution they have created, which harkens back to before industrialized agriculture, is simply to still raise animals for their flesh and secretions, and for profit, but to do it the old-fashioned way. No factory farms, no large-scale operations where animals are crammed together under a roof, never to see the light of day. No hormones, no "feed" that is unnatural for them and/or genetically modified.

I'd say no argument here if this were some kind of sanctuary situation, and the animals were in need of a loving home for the rest of their lives. But the entire purpose, which cannot be glossed over with any amount of creepy love letters, is that Friend and her ilk are being kind to the animals because they believe animals who are less stressed are tastier, and because, just like the CAFO owners, they will profit from their efforts (and perhaps more, as they charge a premium).

Yes, I do think it's better to have lived a comfortable life and then be slaughtered than to have been tortured the entire time and then be slaughtered.

But looking at it that way is allowing Friend and others to distract you from a far more important issue: none of this is necessary or justified. No one needs to eat sentient beings, so it's not as if these "farmers" are providing a valuable service to humanity. And regardless of how you treat someone when they're live and regardless of how you kill them, if you don't need to kill them and you're doing so merely to please your palate, how do you justify what you're doing? You can't (at least not in a meaningful way).

Getting people to move their focus from the final chapter of the story of the animals–and I don't mean how they died, but that they died–allows you to appear to be the good guy. It allows you to swoop in with an alternative to the disgraceful human behavior that is factory farming and provide a kindler, gentler way to partake of the flesh of others. And if those whom you're addressing are willing to drink the KoolAid you're serving, plenty of profit awaits.

But the real good guy is the one who, like Cheri and Jim and Howard and Harold says (and this is my paraphrasing of everyone): Yes, I have profited from the lives and deaths of sentient nonhumans. And now I regret that because I realize there is simply no way to raise an animal with the intent to kill that animal and call it anything but betrayal. I wouldn't do it to a dog, and I shouldn't do it to a chicken/sheep/cow/pig. It's just not right.

Betrayal, according to the Oxford English Dictionary:

1. A treacherous giving up to an enemy. (Here, that enemy being Death.)

2. A violation of trust or confidence, an abandonment of something committed to one's charge.

Interesting definitions of betray include:

2. a. To be or prove false to (a trust or him who trusts one); to be disloyal to; to disappoint the hopes or expectations of.

4. a. To lead astray or into error, as a false guide; to mislead, seduce, deceive (the trustful).

There is no question about the motive here: seduce the sheep into believing you care so that they are easier to deal with and easier to lead to slaughter. At least CAFO owners don't use that kind of deceit–of their customers, the animals and themselves.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. All that Friend does is give these animals a reprieve. These calves are not being "rescued". One does not rescue their "livestock". Saying that she "saves" animals would be much more accurate. She saves them until they are eating size.

    Gastronomic indulgence cloaked by a healing hand… with a knife in it. That's Friend alright.

    June 22, 2009
  2. Mike Grieco #

    People would really love to believe you can exploit and kill nonhumans and truly be "compassionate". Nope! Here's what RPA has to say with respect to "humane" (which could apply to compassionate).

    Keep well.–
    "Humane" describes practices that show the best of human kindness – not practices that are merely less cruel or inhumane than some other practices.

    Human beings are natural herbivores – plant-eating animals – not omnivores or carnivores. Consuming flesh, milk & eggs, owning animals, controlling their reproduction and way of life, trucking them around, killing them young – all of this is exploitation, not kindness. Therefore, it is never humane.

    But the news industry, government, and other institutions continually promote the flesh, milk & egg industries by speaking of "humane slaughter," "more humane" ways of destroying animals, and the like.

    Words are powerful. The "humane" refrain surely keeps many people believing they can consume flesh, milk & eggs humanely. It simply is not true.

    To help create a humane future, join RPA in correcting wrong usage of "humane" and other important language."

    June 23, 2009

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS