Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner: Food for Thought

I recently received a comment from a reader who labeled me a hypocrite because I avow to be an ardent animal lover, yet I consume meat.

For the record, I don’t eat much animal flesh; however, in the grand scheme of things, a little goes a long way… in, it doesn’t really matter if I have a hamburger once a year or steak every day. The bottom line is that an animal died for my dinner.

However, this column is not going to be an effort to convert the world to vegetarianism. That’s an impossibility and we know it. Whether I became a vegan this instant, the slaughterhouses would still continue to echo with the screams of terrified creatures. And that’s the point I’m going to address.

Not many decades ago, dogs and cats at county pounds were unceremoniously tossed into gas chambers, crammed together so tightly that a few even survived this traumatic horror. Animal-lovers were outraged and, as a result, today most shelters are operated by humane organizations with individual lethal injection being the normal mode of euthanasia. Still too sad, as still too many abandoned pets are being put to sleep, but at least - for the most part - they are not afraid or suffering before or during their final moments on this earth.

The same cannot be said for the cows, calves, chickens, pigs, and lambs that are killed every day for human consumption. So this begs the question: Instead of bombarding the world with grisly pictures that momentarily elicit tears and gasps of guilt, wouldn’t it be better if animal rights groups focused every bit of their considerable power into promoting strong enforcement of the Humane Slaughter Act, the Animal Welfare Act and any other acts the government has in so-called force?

Death is a given for each and every one of us. So, bottom line, dead is dead. Yet what matters most here is not so much about when an animal dies, but how it dies.

Believe me, I am not being trite as this is a heavy-duty moral and ethical issue for those of us who love animals. But it seems to me that - first and foremost - preventing fear and suffering in any living creature should be the ultimate goal, one pursued with a vengeance.

Again, I could quit eating chicken, then smugly tell myself I am not contributing to the rampant cruelty that food animals endure. Yet, while I eat my salad, that cruelty rages on and the animals continue to suffer horrendously. So, unless and until we all fight to change the system and forever stop these inhumane practices, eating meat really becomes a moot point.

For while we loudly scream bloody murder about the squalid conditions of puppy mills, we should be ashamed that we’re not fighting just as vehemently to silence the unheard screams of animals suffering on factory farms and in slaughterhouses…and that includes your Thanksgiving turkey.

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