Infant lambs, kids and piglets can be humanely killed by delivering a heavy blow to the head.
–Humane Slaughter Association
Why do we need to go vegan if we have the best animal welfare laws in the world? The belief that the current legal framework surrounding farmed animals is enough to spare them from suffering is fundamentally flawed, but unfortunately common. The reality is that even the countries with the best animal welfare laws still allow significant unnecessary harm to be inflicted on animals. But even if the law improves, the only way to completely eliminate animal exploitation is to adopt a vegan lifestyle.
To illustrate my point, I will focus my critique on what are currently considered the most ethical practices in animal farming. The following is an excerpt of what the Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) deems a humane way to kill an animal:
Hold the animal by the back legs and swing it through an arc to hit the back of its head with considerable force against a solid object, e.g. a brick wall or metal stanchion.
If you find this shocking, consider that it doesn’t get better than this. Under U.K. law, chickens can still be debeaked, male calves can be castrated, pigs can have their teeth pulled out, and pigs can be killed in CO2 gas chambers. This is by no means an exhaustive list. And the U.K. is considered to have some of the strongest animal welfare laws in the world. Imagine what the animals we eat go through in countries with less regulations. You can clearly see that there is nothing humane about the way we treat and kill animals, anywhere in the world.
Furthermore, most “animal welfare” organisations that regulate the treatment of farmed animals admit that their killing and treatment still causes distress to animals. They claim to fight for better killing methods because of their concern for animal well-being and happiness. However, the only way to rationalise this loving and killing dichotomy is by stating that their methods are the most humane. But surely not using, killing and eating animals is the preferred alternative? Why are we causing even the slightest harm to animals when we don’t need to for our happiness or well-being? Consider, for example, the following statement by the HSA regarding the use of carbon dioxide in slaughterhouses:
Carbon dioxide is aversive to animals and exposure to high concentrations compromises welfare … Whilst an alternative non-aversive gas mixture would be preferable, no such alternatives are currently commercially available.
This excerpt alone should convince anyone reading that when talking about animal agriculture, animals aren’t the priority. Whoever wrote this didn’t consider veganism a “currently commercially available” alternative. The above justification wouldn’t be valid in any other domain of human endeavour. This is the equivalent of saying that the best way to steal money is when the victim doesn’t realise. And that, even though this still causes distress to the victim, there is no alternative available for stealing more humanely. What about not engaging in the immoral behaviour in the first place!? The argument is clearly illogical in this example, and in the (much more serious) case of taking an animal’s life.
We need to widen our perspective on what we deem necessary, and to understand that the entire process of breeding, manipulating, abusing and killing animals for food is unnecessary. The best way to stop all animal abuse from happening is to end animal agriculture altogether.