The Times’ ethical debate for a month or so has been about eating meat. Had to think it thru a while before throwing in my two cents’ worth, then decided that paying for access to their news stories is a reason not to give them my thinking for free.

It started with Mark Bittmann. In an article on confinement feeding operations, he felt he had to say, “And, vegan friends, I accept that killing animals is maltreatment per se.” Really Mark? Never mind if they had 4 sq ft of cage or 30 acres of pasture while alive? Doesn’t that weaken the argument against CAFO’s?

It was a preposterous statement, but it forced me to think about why. Thus: no animal lives forever. All life ends. Natural death is quite often neither swift, nor merciful.* Animals have no awareness of their own death, altho they grieve for lost members of their group, as four of my does are doing this morning.

Taking animals to processing, I have stayed to watch the kill. One, this much for them, to be sure that death is, indeed, immediate and painless (It is). Two,  to keep  processors aware that those who raise and consume the meat want to know what goes on. And three, to be able to tell consumers that I have done so, and to pass my assurance along to you.

What? No, you probably couldn’t.  I care for them, then take them to their death, and make money from it, so  I can. And no, it wasn’t easy, nor should it be. Anyone who finds killing animals easy probably should not be in it for a living.

And that’s the sealer to the argument about eating meat. Vegans, vegetarians, and all people of good conscience who raise these issues, and (I concede) have done much good in recent years to improve treatment of animals even in agribusiness: think for a minute. If ethical people are persuaded “that killing per se  is wrong,” they will either give up meat, or turn their eyes away from what goes on. And what happens then? Uncaring people will keep eating meat, and producers will then have no incentive to treat animals well.

I am told that my habit of giving kids nicknames to handle them by is “personalizing” too much, and would make it harder to have them killed.  So far it hasn’t: what it’s done is kept me mindful that they are so many individual lives, and that they are owed the best that we can do for them. If you can relate, well – these five were dropped off this AM:

With 4 sets of triplets to choose from, a little rocket science went into the decisions. E.g. Hyacinth had 2 girls and a boy, and the girls are sold, as soon as they’re weaned. The buck is the biggest of all 18, so he’d be a logical choice to process now. But – leaving the girls to nurse another few weeks won’t change their sale price, whereas keeping the buck with her would.  But-  she’s nursed all 3 heroically since January.  So, he goes (and she gets a break) along with the larger of Jonquil’s 2 bucks, and of Columbine’s 3, and the two small does of Aggie’s, former quads who won’t grow into good breeders, leaving her one buck to feed out to a good size.

There. You are now a little closer to your food supply, and better informed about what it involves.

* Natural deaths: I can give you examples, but be assured, the slaughterhouse method is easier to watch.