We have two thoughts on “humane meat.” First, by any reasonable standard, there is no commercially available meat that approximates anything most of us would call humane; the production of what is called humane meat today involves cruelties that would warrant felony charges were they inflicted on dogs or cats. For example, in almost all cage-free egg production, hens still suffer the painful amputation of their beak tips; they are still prevented from ever going outside, raising their chicks, or fulfilling most of their desires; and they are still crammed into trucks and shipped through all weather extremes to slaughter. They are slaughtered after living only a small fraction of their natural life span — and often in the same slaughterhouses where factory farmed animals are slaughtered. A similar story could be told about “crate-free” veal and almost all other so-called humane animal products. They are perhaps less inhumane, but they are far from humane.
Second, “humane” means “having or showing compassion or benevolence,” and we don’t believe that there is any way to raise and kill animals that shows either virtue. At our sanctuaries, we work extremely hard to protect all farm animals, and we know them as individuals, just like so many Americans know dogs and cats as individuals. For the same reason most Americans wouldn’t think of eating a dog or a cat (and calling it humane), we wouldn’t think of calling the killing of a farm animal for food humane.
We recognize that a vegan world is not yet imminent, and so we work diligently both to promote veganism, and to promote improved living and dying conditions for animals who will not be able to escape from their current circumstances. If you were a hen in a tiny battery cage, unable to spread a wing or do anything interesting to you, it would be a meaningful improvement for you to suddenly have an entire barn to explore. If you were a pig or a calf in a tiny crate, unable to move for your entire life, it would be a meaningful change for you to suddenly have a shed or a large pen in which to move about and other animals with whom to socialize.
At Farm Sanctuary, we share our lives with chickens, pigs, and other farm animals — and we know them as individuals. In determining our stance on any issue, we ask ourselves, “What’s in the best interest of the animals involved?” The idea of raising animals for food is unacceptable to us, regardless of cage sizes, living conditions, or slaughter methods — just like it would be anathema to most Americans to raise dogs or cats well (or in conditions slightly less awful) only to eat them. But welfare improvements are just that — improvements. And if we were the animals involved, with no hope of escape, we would want some activists working to reduce the cruelty we face.
In Vitro Meat
Farm Sanctuary is working to reduce the suffering of farm animals, both by promoting a reduction in animal consumption and by working for better protection of farm animals. Right now, precisely what an in vitro meat industry might look like is unclear, but it does appear that the mass production of in vitro meat would serve our mission — the reduction in numbers of animals being raised for food.
Current research even suggests that animals need not be killed in the development process of in vitro meat: The production of in vitro meat can begin by taking a muscle biopsy from a living animal and then proliferating the isolated stem cells in a nutrient-rich medium. Given these developments, Farm Sanctuary is hopeful that further development of this technology, ideally using animal-free media to scale, could save billions of lives every year.