Image credit: Charles Hutchins, used under Creative Commons license.
From a glimpse inside a humane slaughterhouse to a dairy farm that lets its cows retire, we've seen a lot of examples of farming with animals that take a different path to the industrial-scale cruelty of factory farms. But are these farms making a difference? Nil Zacharias, co-founder of One Green Planet, writes over at Huffington Post that humane meat and dairy may be a distraction, encouraging us to consume more animals guilt-free, but not offering any long-term solutions:
Most importantly, let's assume the humane movement helps us achieve the Utopian vision of animal agribusiness, where the overall industry is well-regulated (including big, small, corporate and family-owned farms) and all farm animals have space to stretch their legs and wings, eat organic produce and are drug-free; will buying such "happy" meat and dairy somehow reduce the overall demand for animal products? You guessed it -- highly unlikely.
I actually have to disagree with Zacharias here. If movements to secure more sustainable, more humane forms of farming with animals as the norm, not the exception, were to succeed (admittedly that is a big "if" at this stage), I believe we would see a precipitous drop off in meat and dairy consumption—not necessarily because of any new found ethical conscience on behalf of the mainstream consumer, but because raising animals the right way is considerably more expensive than taking short cuts and treating them like dirt.
True, as Zacharias points out, the most sure-fire way to reduce demand for animal slaughter and mistreatment is to forgo meat and dairy products entirely. But if we are addressing the topic through the lens of what the end goal looks like, then we once again have to address the question of what a vegan world looks like too. There may be a few successful pioneers of veganic farming out there, but whether or not veganic farming can be made viable on a large scale is still up in the air from where I sit.
More on Meat, Dairy, Animal Farming and Sustainability
A Look Inside a Humane Slaughter House (Video)
Vegetarian Diet Could Cut Climate Mitigation Costs 70%
Shocking Video Shows Dairy Calves Bludgeoned With Pick Axe
Another Law Proposes Making Factory Farm Photography Illegal
Shocking Photos Reveal Organic Eggs Don't Always Come from Happy Farms