Photo by Cameron Hindmarsh
Recently I watched a documentary called Death on a Factory Farm, which explored animal abuse on the Wiles Pig Farm in Ohio, USA and follows the subsequent court case against the Wiles as a result of animal cruelty allegations.
I sat there with silent tears running down my face watching the piglets and hogs get mistreated by the hog farmers. They were being thrown like rag dolls from their cages into trolley bins, ‘euthanised’ by asphyxiation using a chain and forklift, useless pigs were killed with their head smashed and thrown into a rubbish bin and sows in cages where they could not move around and the only option was to stand or sit.
I was crying because my heart hurt for these animals and when I see pain, cruelty and injustice, whether it be inflicted on a human or an animal, my heart hurts. It’s as if the suffering is too much bear and it manifests in me as tears and a sore heart.
As human beings, we have the responsibility to care, protect and treat other living beings on this planet with reverence. Even farmers can still operate their farms in a way that does not mistreat the animals that are being prepared for slaughter. If it was on my shoulders, I could not slaughter any animal, except maybe fish.
Confronted with the Meat Truth
Interestingly enough, I have been in a situation where I met my meal before it ended up being my meal. I was in the Philippines and travelled to a province 6 hours away from the capital city, Manila. We stayed in a house that my cousins owned, which was located on a a few acres of farmland. I was hungry and begged my mother to make something I was familiar with. My mother promised me she’d have something prepared so off we went to the beach. When we returned, I was ravished and there was a delicious-smelling Filipino chicken dish (known as Adobo) on the table with rice and fresh crab boiled and ready for consumption. And then it occurred to me as I looked around the farm house that there was no refrigerator and there were a few less chickens plodding around. My mother confirmed that the chicken on the dinner table were in fact the farm chicken I had been running around with earlier. She tried to make me understand that the farm chicken was no different to the chicken I’d purchase in the supermarket and that in actual fact it was better for me because it was raised organically and free from growth hormones and antibiotics. I still wouldn’t budge and I refused to eat it.
To me, knowing the chicken had sacrificed its life to feed me was something I had never thought about before. I never felt connected to the food on my plate but this was a new experience. Soon after, I became a vegetarian, although a loose one because every now and then I’d eat prawns or fish if I ever felt the need for protein. But chicken and red meat were stricken off my menu list. I lived the vegetarian life for four years until I discovered that I was close to having anaemia and I was suffering from low blood pressure lacking in nutrients that a well balanced diet would have afforded me. So I returned to eating meat and chicken with my vegetables.
Now I’m not advocating that everyone should become a vegetarian like I did, but what I am advocating is being aware of the choices we make when we purchase animal products. I know for example that I try to do the right thing and purchase free range eggs. Knowing how caged hens are handled, I prefer to pay a few extra dollars for free range eggs supporting my belief in treating these animals humanely.
And if you’re still undecided, feel free to watch this documentary. Hopefully, it will help push you into action and make you think differently about the food served on your plate.
Update: Three years since writing this post, I returned to vegetarianism. It just seemed the right thing for me to do and I never did get the hang of eating meat. I am a lot smarter about my vegetarian eating habits this time round. I plan my meals and get regular medical check-ups. According to my doctors, I am healthy. Yay!