The Eat with Care blog

Writing about humane farming issues by Caroline Abels, founder of Humaneitarian. Your comments and feedback welcome. (All replies are screened and posted, if thoughtful and respectful.)

You’re humane to farmers, too…

October 7, 2019

Would you take a selfie in a factory farm?

As a new farmer, I’ll be the first to tell you that farming is tough. From the uncertainly over weather, to handling sick animals that can’t tell you their symptoms, to never knowing what a “weekend” is, to needing mastery in everything from soil science to irrigation systems to Instagram — it’s a lot.

The last thing that farmers — and the employees who work alongside them — need is to be surrounded by miserable animals. The kind you see in those factory farm photos we all want to turn away from. I can’t imagine having to see that every day, on top of the daily challenges of farming. What keeps me going on the toughest days are my interactions with our joyful animals in their natural environment. Very few industrial livestock farmers and meat plant workers get to experience that.

When I had the opportunity as a journalist to visit an industrial pork plant a few years ago, I took a good look at the workers. They did not seem happy. Maybe they were getting low pay. Maybe the physical work was taking a toll. Or maybe they were unconsciously affected by seeing pigs in cages, day after day, and hearing the squeals. Maybe they didn’t care and were just grateful for the employment.

But I wondered if those workers had ever been nuzzled by a pig, watched pigs playfully wallow in mud, observed them in their natural environment to see how smart and responsive they are.

Workers in the industrial food system cannot experience those joys because most consumers want cheap meat, or meat at every meal, which requires the kind of industrial raising practices that workers, by extension, have to be a part of.

But every time you choose humanely raised meat — meat raised by ethical farmers who value animal welfare — you’re giving a farmer and the people who work for them the opportunity to tumble in the grass with their lambs or watch a sunset with their chickens, which makes all the hard work worthwhile. You’re also, through your purchases, showing industrial agriculture companies that there’s a demand for the kind of raising practices that provide a more humane environment for animals and workers.

I can’t speak for all humane farmers, but if the only farming practice available to me was industrial farming, I couldn’t be a farmer. Consumers like you ensure there’s an alternative. So now that I’m farming, let me say: You as a humaneitarian consumer — you allow me and so many other farmers to experience joy with our animals and stick with this profession for the long haul. Thank you.