Why I Support Humane Farming, Even as a Vegetarian

Let me start by saying that I am very well aware that humane farming labels are sometimes misleading. Factory farms often label their products “humane” as a marketing ploy. Producers can use the term “humane” as they please, because sadly, it is not defined or regulated by the USDA. You can read more on that here.

When I refer to humane farming I am definitely not referring to factory farms. There is no such thing as humane, industrialized farming where animals are raised and slaughtered as fast as possible for profit.

I am referring to small family farms that carry 3rd party certifications from organizations like Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, and Global Animal Partnership. These organizations publish their own animal welfare standards (all available online to the public) that participating farms must adhere to. The farms are audited annually by 3rd party inspectors to ensure that they’re in compliance.

Basically, these 3 organizations are doing a job that the USDA should be doing.

The standards set by these organizations are not perfect. For example, Certified Humane does not define how much roaming space animals should have. The standards vaguely ask that animals should have enough space to do what comes naturally to them. And Global Animal Partnership, (a step 1 to 5+ program), allows physical alterations all the way up to step 5. I admit that there’s a lot of room for improvement, but these organizations fill the gap between the USDA’s neglect of animal welfare and veganism.

Although I support humane farming, it does not mean that I agree with the consumption of meat. With so many meat alternatives available, and with so much evidence supporting the benefits of a plant based diet, there’s absolutely no need to eat meat. Still, I don’t judge people who eat meat, as most of my family and friends are meat-eaters.

I support the vegan lifestyle, and I think that the world is headed in that direction. But progress takes time, and I believe that humane farming is part of that progress. Here’s why I support it.

Going vegan or vegetarian does nothing to help animals that are currently in factory farms

According to PETA, each vegan saves 198 animals a year, and according to Vegan Bits, there are currently 1.62 million vegans in the US. That means that over 320 million animals will be saved in 2017!

This is a BIG accomplishment by the vegan community, and in no way am I trying to diminish it. But the truth is that going vegan or vegetarian is not saving animals that are CURRENTLY in line to be slaughtered. What it does is lower the demand for meat and reduce the number of animals that in a FUTURE time, would’ve been produced for meat.

That means that in 2017, the meat industry will produce 320 million fewer animals. It does not mean that 320 million animals will be spared from slaughter.

Once an animal enters a farm, factory or family owned, its fate is already sealed. Farms do not release 198 animals each time someone goes vegan. Going vegan or vegetarian has no effect to the animals that are already in death row. Unless these animals are freed by a rescue organization, the only thing we can do to help these animals is to give them a better life by supporting and adapting humane farming practices.

Socioeconomic issues

Dirty water spilling from bottle

By Ildar Sagdejev via Wikimedia Commons

Ask a parent in Flint, Michigan how much they care about animal welfare. Tell a poor family in Africa or Latin America that eating meat is wrong.

People who don’t have access to the most basic needs, like clean water and food, are not reading labels when they go to the supermarket. I guarantee you that they’re not looking for humanely raised meat, and they’re definitely not looking for the vegan section.

Social media campaigns and action calls for veganism will not reach people who don’t have access to basic needs.

But in areas where it’s difficult to spread a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, humane farming can make a difference. This is because adapting humane farming practices only requires the willingness of producers. It does not require changing the mindset of a population, as veganism and vegetarianism do.

Certified Humane is a perfect example of this. They’ve managed to spread their program to 3 developing Latin American nations: Brazil, Peru, and Chile. (The linked page is in Portuguese but can be translated to English).

Of 9 Certified Humane Latin American producers, the largest is BRF Sadia. Based in Brazil, BRF is one of the largest food companies in the world and described by Forbes as 1 of the 100 most sustainable companies in the planet.

Under the agreement with BRF and Certified Humane, 33 BRF chicken farms and 8 turkey farms will be raised under Certified Humane standards. This will improve the lives of nearly 40 million birds.

This goes to show that meat producers, small and large, and in developing & developed nations, can make a positive impact in the life of farm animals simply by making a choice; even when consumers mindsets are slow to change due to socioeconomic issues or otherwise.

On another note… If a producer in Brazil, a developing nation with a wide income gap and a long history of corruption, can adapt humane farming standards, why can’t this be done in the US and other developed nations? I’m taking to you, Tyson Foods.

People who lack empathy towards animals

Like it or not, there are people who will never become vegan or vegetarian because they just don’t care for animals.

Not too long ago, I Googled “why do I care about animals more than people.” It seems that I got results for “why do people care about animals.”

I was appalled by the number of people who openly admit that they don’t care about animal abuse, don’t care about animals going extinct, and don’t care about the welfare of farm animals. These people have a dominant view over animals. They think that animals are here for us to do as we please.

Sadly, we can’t purge these people from society. People with such attitudes are part of the reason why the meat industry will stay alive.

Meat is needed for animal consumption too

Tiger in Captivity Chained to Ground

Maybe someday we’ll be done with factory farms, but not the meat industry. Meat is needed for other things aside from human consumption, like animal consumption.

There are plenty of vegans and vegetarians, myself included, who find the idea of a vegan pet unnatural and continue feeding meat to our pets. I feed my dog Open Farm pet food which carries the Certified Humane certification.

Aside from our pets, think about wild animals that live in captivity. Wild animals that have been rescued from circuses, the illegal wild life trade, and laboratories. Animals that can’t survive in the wild and must live in sanctuaries. Animals living in zoos for our entertainment. These animals need meat to survive.

As long as there are zoos, as long as there are wild animals in captivity, as long as there are wild animals living in sanctuaries, as long as people have pets, we will need a meat industry. So, why not make it a humane and responsible one?

We have a long way to go before the world goes vegan

Everything that I’ve said above boils down to one thing… we have a very long way to go before we reach a vegan or vegetarian majority, if that is even possible. And accomplishing this is not as simple as saying “there’s no need to eat meat so stop eating it.” Before we reach that milestone, a plethora of world issues need to be addressed and corrected.

Until that day comes, should farm animals continue to live in deplorable conditions? Should farm animals be treated like dirt for X years to come because we can’t fathom to support humane farming?

One argument that I often hear from vegans against humane farming is that there’s no humane way to kill an animal that doesn’t want to die. I agree, but does that mean that we turn our backs and deny them the chance at a better life? By not supporting humane farming, we are essentially turning our backs on animals that are living in factory farms RIGHT NOW. We can’t ignore the present over an ideology that we know will take years to accomplish.

If you think that humane farming is a myth, then let’s make it a reality by supporting organizations that are legitimately trying to make a difference in farming practices. They do not do what they do so that people can feel good about eating meat. They do what they do because they share the same believe as us that animals deserve a lot better, and they believe that the USDA is failing these animals.

I love animals, and it pains me to know that they will continue to be slaughtered for human consumption. But I also accept reality, even when reality does not align with my beliefs. We can help even more animals by promoting a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, less meat consumption, and supporting humane farming. And I will continue to support humane farming until it becomes the norm, and until it is no longer needed.

I know this is a touchy subject for most, and you can feel free to disagree in the comments. But if you must disagree, please do so respectfully.

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