I want to talk today about something I only thought of recently. Why, when I drive through the countryside, don’t I see pigs all over the place? Cows, sheep, yes. Pigs, not so much… I did some digging and discovered why, and it’s not a nice discovery.
In Australia, the meat of the pig is generally regarded very highly by pretty much everyone (well, except for those whose religion maintains a prohibition against eating pigs). And why not, it’s one of the tastiest cuts of meat, isn’t it? Not much to worry about here, right? Well, no. Frankly, it’s just not OK as far as I can see.
Now, you’ve probably heard or thought of all the arguments in favour of eating meat. We are omnivores. We evolved to eat meat. See these teeth. How else to get protein. It’s the natural way.
Fair enough, but do you honestly believe those arguments?
Modern humans (and here let’s just focus on Australia as that’s where I am) do not have to do everything that we evolved to do. We have the good luck to combine three features – large brains with the capacity for abstract thinking, language and utile hands. We can pretty much do anything we like, and we do. We don’t live in caves. We don’t die from disease as much as we might. We have medical care. We aren’t hunted by anything at all in the usual scheme of things.
We have also developed in a social sense. Again, we don’t have to do what other animals do. We have a strong and complex social structure. We know what it is to be noble and have compassion. We strive not to have slavery, inequality, repression/oppression, we offer women and men equal rights and status and so on. We don’t kill indiscriminately.
In short, we have risen above our evolution. Consequently we do NOT have to eat meat to survive. We can quite successfully get all our nutrient needs from other sources. It just takes more effort and thought.
In that light then, meat eating is a choice, not a necessity. More than that, in most cases it’s an entertainment. Do we eat just enough meat to survive, cooked at home in the form we prefer? Or do we have an enormous industry that caters to our every whim? Every possible cut of meat. Many different kinds of creature eaten – cows, pigs, sheep, ducks, chickens, turkeys, kangaroos, fish, etc. Endless restaurants, fast food houses, TV shows, cookbooks, you name it.
The truth is, we eat way more meat than we need to because we like to. There’s more that could be said here, but I want to further refine our focus to one creature alone.
Some argue that bacon is the ultimate food. Others love their pork chops and crackling. Tasty low fat white meat. Yep, we consume huge quantities of pork every year because well… we just love that stuff. And I agree, it really does taste good.
But do you ever think about how you come to do this?
The pork industry would have you believe that this is a wonderful, informed and compassionate industry. Forgetting for the moment how compassionate it might be to raise an animal to be eaten, let’s consider some facts.
* In Australia, over 90% of all pigs farmed are raised in factory farms – indoors, in artificial conditions, with minimal freedom.
* Some pigs are kept in stalls, only just big enough for the pig to stand in. The industry standard is that there is enough room for the pig to stand, turn around, and lie down. That’s it.
* Other pigs are housed in sheds with concrete floors or deep litter floors.
* Piglets can have their tails clipped and their teeth cut down, without pain relief. This is to stop them biting and damaging each other or the sow.
* Sick or underweight pigs can be killed via a variety of methods, including by hammer if small enough.
* Many are mistreated, brutalised even.
* Industry standards commonly suggest “should” in terms of treatments. For example, and at random: 5.6.13 states that when teeth clipping “only the tips… of the teeth should be removed”.
There’s so much more that could be said, including pictures, videos, industry statistics and so on. But I shan’t because a lot of it isn’t nice. Now, I am not necessarily suggesting that all farmers are negligent or cruel or intentionally mistreat their livestock. However the industry standards are not exactly generous and there have been no shortage of cases where farming practices have been shown to be cruel and neglectful. The bottom line is, quite simply, that many if not most Australian pigs are treated poorly, even brutally, in their millions, so we can enjoy our bacon.
My simple question is this – is that OK?
Modern science has shown us how conscious experience arises from the processing of the brain. It turns out that all mammals operate in much the same way (and birds too). There is ample evidence that pigs experience the world in much the same way you do. They think, they feel, they experience. Yet we pen them, we hurt them, we kill them after short brutish lives, so that we can enjoy the taste of bacon. So that we can enjoy the taste of their flesh.
Make no mistake, no single Australian EVER needs to eat pork. Yet we do, in monstrous quantities. For fun. And millions of sensitive, sentient beings suffer for that.
Is that a reasonable equation?
There is an industry slogan – “Get some pork on your fork”.
How good would it be if we as a nation stood up and spoke for those who cannot and said NO.
I want MY pork to walk.