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Is Free-Range Really More Humane?

by Amy

I am wondering what your stance is on someone who eats free-range, cage-free, organic, naturally raised animals/animal products? What would you say to that person? My fiance (who does eat meat) and I often get into that debate. He refers to this website a lot in the debate...http://www.precisionnutrition.com/flexitarian. What do you think?

Hi Amy,

I love that question.

First, I think it's great that someone cares enough about trying to reduce the suffering of animals to pay a little more for their meat and dairy products by getting free-range, cage-free, or naturally raised food. Especially if they are cutting back on the amount of animals they eat, they are making a difference over the typical American/Western diet.

Second, I would definitely encourage both you and your fiance not to try to convince each other to eat one way or another. I find that when we try to pressure others to eat according to our beliefs, it may work for some time, but eventually that person is going to lose sight of why they are eating that way, and will eventually revert back to their prior way of eating. People have to do things at their own pace and for their own reasons. In my experience, the best way to sway someone is by setting a great example. Be happy with your eating choices and others are more likely to follow.

Now, if I were to get in a respectful debate about that question, the answer could either be short and sweet, or more drawn out. The short and sweet is that I simply don't believe that animals are meant for human consumption, regardless of how they are raised.

Longer answer...

Peter Singer is often called the father of veganism, simply because he has an indisputable argument that the assumption by humans that we are more important than other species of animals is speciesm (Animal Liberation.) Philosophers can't find a way to argue with his point. Much like people used to think that Africans were a lower form of human, speciesists believe we are a higher form of being than other animals.

Ultimately, we all suffer, and who's to say their suffering is any less important on a grand scale of suffering than ours? And, by that measure, why do we not think it's alright to let humans suffer and eat them? Many animals are at least as smart as toddlers and mentally challenged adults, and we would never think of eating them. So, that's one argument.

You can look at it from a food chain perspective-- humans aren't made with carnivore bodies. We have blunt teeth and nails and a long digestive tract (not conducive to meat that starts to rot in our bodies). We more closely resemble an orangutan or chimpanzee than a meat eater like a lion or leopard. So, the "natural" way would be for us to forage for edible plants and possibly also eat insects.

Of course, we aren't in the wild, so in more practical terms, there is no cruelty-free way to eat animals. Eating another animal is cruelty. In addition, the labeling system in our food system has seriously gone to junk. Free-range and cage-free mean almost nothing, the term organic is constantly debated, and naturally raised is just a way for factory farmers to make money on unsuspecting bleeding hearts. I don't meant to sound so cynical about our food system, but it is widely known to be under attack and in a bad state right now.

Also, if people are eating that way for their health, the marginal difference between those animals isn't enough to make up for the cholesterol and illness that comes from eating animal products. From a health perspective, you can avoid (and sometimes reverse) critical illnesses by sticking to a plant based diet.

There are so many ways to go with that debate. I hope that helps!

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Are products from "happy animals" ok?
by: Anonymous

Let's say, you visit a friend who has a few chickens and a cow living on their small private farm/property. The friend offers you a glass of milk and a fresh egg. The cow is miked by hand, chickens are happy. Would you drink the milk and eat the eggs?
One of the earlier questions asked why vegans don't eat eggs as it is natural for a chicken to lay an egg. The answer said that nowadays chickens live under terrible circumstances. So if you know that they don't. Is it okay to eat eggs or drink milk?

Respectful Response
by: Spiderwoman

I loved your respectful response. My favorite response is "If you wouldn't kill it, you shouldn't eat it". Most people wouldn't eat meat if they had to kill the animal or even see it before it was killed by someone else.

Another reason eating plant protein is better is that besides protein it also has fiber (legumes) and beneficial oil (nuts and seeds).

Great question for debate
by: Cathleen

This is a great question and one that I find myself talking about often with people who are naturally prone to looking out for the environment and the world.

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