Imagine being trapped in a nightmare in which you are seized by your legs and carried upside down. You thrash wildly to try to free yourself from the grip of your captor. But resistance is futile. There is no mercy, no regard for your life. Your last conscious experience is the terror of being thrown into a gas chamber connected to a machine from which your body will emerge a few minutes later in the form of ground hamburger. What I’ve just described to you, and what you will see in this video if you watch it, is not a nightmare but the reality behind what “humane meat” advocates are calling a compassionate alternative to commercial poultry slaughter. Bringing the mobile slaughterhouse to your chicken farm might spare your animals the horrors of transport, but removing transport from the equation does not make exploiting and killing animals any more ethical.
Is slaughter made “humane” simply by doing it on a smaller scale, in your own backyard or under the pretext of “strengthening your local food system” as author Ali Berlow would have us believe in her new book the Mobile Poultry Slaughterhouse? How can slashing the throats of 6-week-old baby birds for profit and pleasure — not from necessity — be consistent with acting humanely? Especially when we have an abundance of cruelty-free alternatives?
Why define what is “humane” against the worst case scenario of factory farming instead of the best case scenario: a world that can thrive on a plant-based diet and no longer needs to breed animals into existence for the purpose of enslaving, exploiting and slaughtering them, at all? How can we claim to value animals’ welfare during the short period of their lives we allow them to exist, yet so easily and violently dispose of their lives as if they held no value at all? What does it say about our culture when people like Berlow, who comes from one of the most affluent regions (Martha’s Vineyard) in one of the world’s most affluent countries, still feel entitled enough to harm animals for their own pleasure, even after claiming to believe that animals count morally and should therefore be given moral consideration?
Isn’t this notion of humane meat yet another example of Orwellian doublespeak? If you were bred into this world merely to be enslaved, exploited and slaughtered for completely unnecessary reasons, would you maintain that you had been humanely treated? In the words of Voltaire, “If we believe in absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.”