Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Which animals should we kill?

Save a Turkey. Eat a Bean.

That's my new facebook/twitter status. It's pretty simple. But the issue of Eating Animals is a lot more complicated than that.

I recently saw the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove. The movie documents the slaughter of 20,000 dolphins each year on the shore of a Japanese town. (The Japanese also slaughter lots of whales every year. Sea Shepard is trying to stop this.) Any American watching the bloody beating of these dolphins is likely to cringe. We are likely to ask why they do this. How could they be so cruel?

Yet we have to be careful not to be ethnocentric. I imagine if we put cameras in the places where we slaughter chickens, turkeys, and cows, people from other countries would cringe. Actually, I think Americans would be disgusted too. No wonder these places are off limits to cameras. (Although sometimes PETA sneaks cameras in. Warning: This is graphic. But it's where your food comes from.)

Now, I do not think that it is always unethical to eat animals. In full disclosure, I eat environmentally friendly fish about once a month. So how should we decide what living beings are ok to eat? Are dolphins ok to eat? Cows? Chickens? Dogs? The answer probably depends on where you live and which animals you were brought up eating.

Everyone has to decide what they are comfortable with. There are many food rules that people go by, whether they be religious or cultural. Both Jewish (Kosher) and Islamic (Halal) rules specify that an animal must be killed instantly, with minimal pain, by a slit through the throat. Others have written that you should buy your meat/fish from a local farm, so you can ask how it was raised and killed. Some even say that if you want to eat meat, the most humane way is to kill it yourself. This way you know how it was treated and you know that it fits with your values.

Whichever food rules you choose, I think most of us can agree that large scale slaughter, such as the dolphins in the cove, or the turkeys in a factory farm, is not the way to get our meat. All I ask is that you think about this during this Thanksgiving. Use some of the links above to learn more and get involved. (Be Active!)

Maybe it's not as simple as "Save a Turkey. Eat a Bean." Maybe it's more like, "Eat less factory slaughtered turkeys. Eat more veggies from your garden." Whatever the correct phrase is, we need to think more about what we eat and where it comes from.

Happy Turkey Day!

P.S. For the guys out there, that need a little inspiration to go vegetarian: Check this out.
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