For many people, there seems to be a need to justify eating meat–as if it’s somehow inherently wrong. At the same time, many vegans have to defend their own dietary choices. I don’t think it needs to be this complicated. Instead of explaining ourselves every time we order food, I think we should individually discern our dietary ethics and understand that other people have as well.
In his essay “Give Thanks for Meat,” Mark Bittman outlines the three steps one must take to consider eating meat ethical. According to his philosophy, one must understand that all life on earth is more or less equal, one must show compassion by eating only ethically raised food, and one must give thanks. This notion is elegant, except that it can be hard to know what ethically raised food looks like.
Jonathan Safran Foer argues that chickens raised in factory farms are not slaughtered in especially humane or sanitary conditions. In his detailed account of the process the chickens go through before being sold, he describes the “fecal soup.” After being slaughtered, the birds are boiled and then cooled down. It is not uncommon for dirt or feces covered animals to pass into these cooling tanks. This creates a problem, as the dirt-infested water is allowed to be absorbed, which creates bigger, plumper birds. Under law, the meat processors are only allowed to sell chicken with “slightly more than 11 percent liquid absorption.” I must say, that number seems a little arbitrary. Considering that this is our food, wouldn’t it be better for our food to be free of fecal matter?
I suppose I don’t really have much room to talk, seeing as I’m already a vegetarian. Still, I doubt I could trust anything to be raised “ethically” after learning of this industry standard.