A member, and hoping to stay that way, of the reality-based community

20 February 2012

You gotta be cruel to be cheap.

Blake Hurst opines in today's NYT that, because today's hog farmers don't practice "needless cruelty," the rest of us should shut up about conditions on modern, productive hog farms because we're benefiting by getting cheap meat.  OK, he doesn't directly draw that conclusion.  He only makes that series of points in that order,  anticipating that inference.

Along the way he also impugns my intellectual capacity.  "[W]e can't ask the pigs what they think...."  Well, he can't know my mind, so how does he think he can assert that the standard I demand of my meat producers is "needless" cruelty?  He can't, of course.  Which is why he's writing this drivel.

I completely understand that eating meat entails some level of cruelty to the eaten.  I am not deluded on this account.  My acceptance that cruelty will therefore exist does not mean that I cannot expect that the least cruelty possible be inflicted.  I'm even on board with forcing the consumers to help with the butchering, on the theory that if you're not willing to do it yourself, maybe you shouldn't enjoy the fruits of the labors of those who are.

Mr Hurst even acknowledges, if only obtusely, that the issue here is cold, hard cash, not mere possibility.  The only ways to produce hogs without a specific form of hog confinement (gestation crates), which is coming under scrutiny for it's factory-cum-laboratory-like resemblance and the lack of exercise afforded the sow, are "complicated, expensive, or dangerous to the pigs."  I think it should be obvious which of those I would continue to object to, but in case you missed it, I'm comfortable with farmers working harder, and it costing more for my pork chop.

We cannot progress as a society by consciously or unconsciously inflicting more harm on our food or the environment than we must to survive.