If you believe that it’s wrong to subject animals to a lifetime of pain and deprivation, you should be very careful about what you eat.
Virtually all animal foods in this country — not just meat, but milk, cheese and eggs — are produced by a system of agriculture that subjects farm animals to just such a life. It’s called factory farming, and it entails intolerable overcrowding, unnatural food, excruciating procedures such as beak removal and tail amputation, and other forms of abuse.
Most people are horrified by these conditions when made aware of them. Yet few respond by doing anything concrete to steer clear of factory farmed products. I guess they don’t know how to go about it, short of giving up their customary foods, which for many seems like giving up their way of life.
But a radical change in diet isn’t necessary. While foreswearing animals foods and going vegan is the surest way to avoid the cruelties of factory farming, there is another route: look for animal foods that were produced humanely.
One way is to shop at a farmers market where you can ascertain from the farmers themselves how they treat their animals. What you want to hear is that the animals spend a good deal of their day outdoors, have room to engage in all the behaviors that come naturally to them, have access to shelter, eat grass and other natural foods that their species evolved to eat, receive antibiotics for therapeutic purposes only, are given neither hormones or growth promoters and get gentle, careful handling.
At the store, you can find humanely produced animal foods by Animal Welfare Approved or Certified Humane label on the package. Both eco-labels guarantee a very high standard of animal care.
Don’t be satisfied with products that simply say free-range, cage-free or grass-fed on the package. These terms do not deliver on the promises they appear to make and are often used purposely to mislead.
Read Ethical Eggs, Dairy and Meat for more information on the trouble with factory farming and how to find food you can feel better about.