The transition from animal to food

“Were the walls of our meat industry to become transparent, literally or even figuratively, we would not long continue to raise, kill, and eat animals the way we do.” Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma

I know, I know…more Michael Pollan. But he sums up so many of our food ills so beautifully!

Last year, I posted about instances of animal cruelty that had occurred at a Sydney abattoir responsible for the production of pork products.  Today, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on a another incidence of cruelty in an abattoir,  this time one responsible for the ‘processing’ of turkeys.  There is a video embedded in the link, but be warned that is is described as being quite graphic and disturbing (I haven’t watched myself – I really can’t bring myself to do so).

Looking beyond the immediate issue of this one abattoir whose employees have behaved in an absolutely reprehensible way, we come to two overarching questions  – how much do we really know about how animals become food, and how much do we actually care?

The increasing number of meat products in the supermarket that are labelled as ‘free range’ and/or ‘organic’ suggests that there is a sizable group of consumers who care about how animals are treated during their lives, in terms of their food, health and accommodation.  But, while we care about how they live, it seems like we’ve forgotten  about how they die.

I don’t want to detract from the fact that more people do seem to be giving more thought to the treatment of farm animals.  That’s a really, really positive sign. But it’s not enough if there is this degree of suffering taking place between paddock and table.  We need to ensure that these incidences don’t keep occurring and that the consumer can (if they choose) be informed of the full cycle of meat production.  In the case described in this report, the investigating vet has indicated that he will be recommending mandatory video monitoring at all abattoirs.  This hardly seems unreasonable – at least those who choose to eat meat can do so in some confidence that what they are consuming was treated with respect, even at the time of slaughter.

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