When did we stop caring about animals?

A truck drove past me at noon one day last week. It was a scorching hot day with little breeze, if any.
The truck was loaded with turkeys—big white turkeys crammed into crates to limit their movement to keep them secure.
My stomach began to ache and I felt nauseated, guilt erupting in me like a ’flu. I knowingly participate in what is considered acceptable treatment of animals for food.
The birds on that truck would not have seen sunshine before today. They would have lived in climate-controlled barns with no yard privileges.
Even people we have incarcerated in prisons are allowed time for fresh air and exercise.
When did we think factory farming was a good thing? When did we decide that profits and yield should beat out all sense of compassion and humane treatment?
When did we stop caring that dairy cattle, whose very design means they should eat grass, yet they stand in stalls 24/7 producing enormous volumes of milk?
When did we stop caring that pigs, who naturally love to dig and root in mud, are confined indoors in small pens, having had some of their teeth removed and tails cut to avoid them hurting each other due to the stress of their living conditions?
When did we stop caring that the female pigs stand in crates for birthing? When did we stop caring that beef feedlots have animals limited to concrete pens with little room for exercise and no grass?
When did we stop caring?
There are movements afoot to bring about change. Whole Foods is a U.S.-based organic food chain that grades and marks its meat products according to the treatment the animals experienced before they were slaughtered.
The consumer then can make his/her selection accordingly.
Whole Foods has a small representation in Canada, in Vancouver and Toronto, and I can only hope this grading system is a sign of forward movement and better things to come.
Organic agriculture was a start, but it is only a part of the picture.
Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals (CETFA) is an investigative and educational organization seeking to change abusive practices and to develop conscientious farming methods. Education and awareness are the tools this organization uses.
And it seems to me education is the best place to start.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an organization for animal rights that would prefer we not eat animals or use any of their by-products. Jane Goodall and Marc Bekoff, to develop practices for studying animal behaviour in a responsible manner, founded Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
People have been thinking about this subject for a very long time—and doing something about it. Every one of us can take an active role in bringing about change. All it takes is deciding where we buy our food and what food we buy.
It isn’t easy to change our buying habits and how we have come to rely on convenience, but it can be done.
I’ve written previously about wanting my food to have had fun before it appeared on my dining room table. It was partly a tongue-in-cheek column, but I’ve made some deliberate choices and amended my own buying habits since then.
I buy as much as I possibly can from local producers at farmers’ markets or you-pick farms and the like. I ask questions of my egg producers and meat producers.
I want to know how these animals were reared and cared for. I need to know. It costs more to produce food the “right” way—and I’m willing to open my wallet.
Compassion should be an armour that we wear proudly, visibly, vocally, actively; and not something we declare when it is convenient or when we have an audience.
I’m done feeling powerless. I will not compromise on this issue. Not now. We’re too late in the game to move slowly.
And I’ve bought my last turkey that has ridden on a truck in scorching heat.
I’m done telling myself that I’ll do better tomorrow.
wendistewart@live.ca

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