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The Reasons Why Purchasing Meat Supports Animal Cruelty

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What makes one animal different than another? This past summer, you may have heard the news about the Yulin dog festival: an event in China where dogs are “‘tortured and skinned alive.’” (Qin). The western world was outraged to hear of this and people everywhere signed petitions to protest this awful slaughter of what many people consider “man’s best friends” (Qin). A large amount of people cared about what was happening to these dogs overseas and wanted to prevent them from losing their innocent lives. These protests are just one example that show that people care about inhumane treatment of animals. The awful reality is that animals are killed for meat on a scale even more massive than the Yulin dog festival on a daily basis, yet very few people choose to do anything about it. Why is this? There’s no question that the majority of Americans are opposed to animal cruelty. Are dogs and other domesticated animals with protected rights that much different than farm animals? Or are people just not aware that their dietary choices do not line up with the morals they have? Although it is highly unlikely that Americans would be willing to cut meat out of their diet completely, they should consider cutting back on their meat intake because purchasing meat supports animal cruelty, something that likely doesn’t line up with their morals.

Some may argue that our pets are different than the animals we eat for a couple reasons. First of all, it may be assumed that farm animals do not have the emotional capacity that dogs do. If we humor the idea that the intelligence of an animal is what determines whether it lives or dies, this argument can be countered with several studies that have determined that pigs share a number of cognitive capacities with other highly intelligent species such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants and even humans” (Viegas). Now, this higher intelligence isn’t seen in other animals that Americans are accustomed to eating, such as cows and chickens, but it is also not seen in other animals used as pets like hamsters, guinea pigs and lizards. Despite this, Americans do not consider it socially acceptable eat those. It is flawed thinking to believe that these animals are killed, or justified in being killed, simply due to their lack of intelligence.

Since the explanation for eating the meat we do as Americans is not that animals are deserving to die due to their stupidity, it comes down to one factor: taste. This is also the likely explanation for why the Chinese choose to eat dog meat (Qin). The difference between why it is okay to eat dogs in China and not in America is likely due to cultural norms. The fact that it is normal to eat meat in American culture is a very valid reason. It’s very difficult to avoid eating meat at holiday events because it is so engrained in our culture: from hot dogs at Fourth of July barbeques to turkeys at Thanksgiving. However, while it makes sense to participate in traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation, it is illogical to support an industry that goes against your morals on a regular basis.

Americans are clearly morally opposed to the butchering of dogs because of their culture, so it is not a stretch to believe that they would dislike what is going on in the meat industry if they had a relationship with farm animals like they do with dogs. This is an unlikely situation for the average American. However, there are situations in which average farm animals such as pigs are kept as pets and appreciated and treated incredibly well (Greenwood). Pigs are capable of being loving domesticated animals, and it is unfair that they should be raised and butchered as if their lives are worthless.

The farms that raise animals prioritize efficiency and consider humane treatment of animals last. “Egg-laying hens are kept in small cages, chickens and pigs are kept in jam-packed sheds, and cows are kept on crowded, filthy feedlots” (“Factory Farming”). These animals are not living in comfortable conditions and are prevented from having happy lives. It could be argued that we prevent these herbivores from predators that may end their life at any time, but the likelihood that they will die from a predator (people) is much higher when they are under human care. Not do these animals have little chance at happiness and freedom, but they are bred so specifically for their meat that they are incapable of living happy lives outside of human confinement. “Some chickens’ [breasts] grow so unnaturally large that their legs cannot support their outsized bodies, and they suffer from starvation or dehydration when they can’t walk to reach food or water” (“Factory Farming”). Animals suffer throughout the course of their entire lives because of the backwards priorities of the meat industry and the American population

The way that farm animals are butchered is not much more humane than the way animals are forced to live out their lives. If Americans were actually a part of the process of butchering the animal, it is likely they would be morally disturbed. Michael Pollan describes how this systematic process takes place in an article called “Power Steer”. Pollan describes what happens on the kill floor, “something that [even] journalists are[n’t] allowed to see”:

I have reconstructed what happens on the other side of the blue door. What happens is that the animals go in single file. At a certain point, they pass over a bar, their legs on both sides, and the floor slowly drops away, and at that point they’re being carried along sort of on that bar, which is a conveyor belt, and they then pass through a station where there’s a man on the catwalk above. He’s holding an object that looks like a power nailing gun or something. It’s a pneumatic device called a stunner.

This essentially injects a metal bolt. It’s about the size and length of a thick pencil into its brain, right between the eyes, and that should render the animal brain dead.

At that point, chains will be attached to his rear legs. He will be lifted up by the chains. The chains are attached to an overhead trolley, and then he will be bled. Another person in another station will stick a long knife in and cut his aorta and bleed the animal. And then he will be completely dead.

And from there he goes through a series of stations to clean him and to remove his hide.

The fact that neither journalists nor the general public are allowed to see what happens behind “the blue door” makes it incredibly difficult for the average American to understand the terror that a cow goes through in order to be enter one door and exit as neatly cut meat. The way these animals die is “a system dedicated to economy and efficiency”, not humane practices (Macy). If we return to the dog vs farm animal comparison, it is more than likely that one would be outraged to learn that was happening to a large group of dogs. The way people’s pet dogs are euthanized is drastically different. It’s a two-step process: the dog is put to sleep with a sedative and then an IV of saline solution is put in its veins. It is unlikely that anyone would say the way we put down our pets should be any different. The reason cows and other farm animals are different are because their bodies are viewed as a commodity instead of a container for a life.

People who hunt for sport may be immune to the blood and gore that goes into butchering of an animal. However, they might be disturbed to learn that 10 to 20,000 cows are butchered every week in the average Midwest feed lot (Macy) in the way that Pollan described. There is a large difference between catching and killing an animal oneself and mass producing animals without regard for their life. Traditionally, hunters have honored the animal that they killed. In an article entitled “Hunting Rituals”, Ron Spomer lists at least five different ways that indigenous tribes pay respect to the animal whose meat they are going to consume. Today, people order a burger without paying a second thought to the animal who gave its life for them.

Eating meat isn’t inherently wrong. Throughout the history of humans, people have hunted other animals and used their meat to as nourishment with respect for the life of the animal that they took. It’s interesting to observe how this has changed throughout the years. The way Americans get their meat has transformed into an industry with very little regard for the fact that they are mass producing conscious, feeling beings. It is an incredibly cultural practice to consume the kinds of meat that Americans do. Despite cultural norms, the harsh way that the meat most Americans eat was raised and butchered is likely not something that they are in direct agreement with morally. If Americans only purchased meat that was both raised and butchered in a way they agreed with, they would be able support kind practices and reduce the amount of animal cruelty in the meat industry.

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The Reasons Why Purchasing Meat Supports Animal Cruelty. (2018, October 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from
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