Animal agriculture, or meat production, is the largest institutional system of cruelty in history, in its current form. Until a hundred years ago, animals were treated with a modicum of Christian virtue in the United States. When clever fellows figured out how to produce cars swiftly on an assembly line, other clever fellows figured out how to set up animal DIS-assembly lines. Once the animals came to be seen as nothing but biological machinery to be grown (not raised), we invented the horror of Confined Animal Feeding Operations. I call them Harm Farms.
Traditional farms had a variety of animals so that they could provide manure and meat to the farm while also grazing on grass or kitchen leftovers. Pigs, chickens, and cows lived on most farms, and it worked out in a symbiosis: a natural God-intended trade-off between humans and animals. God made domestic animals to live with humans and work with them. I call the traditional farm a Grace Place.
There are many reasons why Harm Farms have become the norm rather than a fictional horror story. The main reason is the growth of the human population and more, the increased consumption of meat by those people. In one century the human population rose from about 2 billion to 7 billion. So the population more than tripled. But in countries like the United States, our diets also increased in meat-eating by an even greater rate. Chicken consumption per person increased by perhaps ten times in the 20th century! So there are more people eating a lot more meat. This allowed entrepreneurs to turn to fast industrial meat production, without any pretense of ethics.
I am not a vegetarian. Jesus was not a vegetarian. Now there is nothing wrong with being a vegetarian, but it is not a biblical demand.
The problem is that we, as Christians, are supposed to have ethics. We claim we oppose cruelty. But in our diets, we eat meat produced by morally bankrupt companies. About 95% to 98% of the meat you and I eat comes from those Harm Farms. Very few Grace Places remain.
You may say, “I am never cruel.” Great. So, if your favorite brand of tennis shoes are made in child slave labor camps, would you stop buying them? I would hope so. Then how do you think you can rightly eat animal flesh that was abused and degraded for its entire lifespan? We are aiding and abetting cruelty. We are accomplices to evil.
If I was married and hired someone to kill my wife, would I be a criminal? Of course. Just because I don’t pull the trigger, but paid someone else to do it, I am still responsible. So why am I not responsible for paying someone else to torture a chicken or pig or cow before it dies?
But I didn’t INTEND for cruelty to occur. So? If I run over a pedestrian because I am texting on my cellphone, am I not responsible? I didn’t intentionally run over the person, it was an accident. But it was a culpable accident. I was not paying attention.
About the best defense you or I can mount for our eating meat from evil companies is ignorance. And that is not much of a defense. It means we are blind or stupid. We eat three times a day. How can we live holy lives if we don’t even worry about a regular, necessary activity in an ethical way?
Eating meat is similar to having sex or talking. Sex is a good thing when done in a godly manner. Sex is a bad thing when done as adultery, fornication, and etc. Talking is a good thing when done in a godly manner. Talking is a bad thing when done as gossip, slander, flattery, etc. Eating meat is a good thing when done in a godly manner. Eating meat is a bad thing when supporting institutionalized cruelty.
So what can you do? What can I do?
Eat less meat. We already eat far more than doctors recommend.
If you want to eat meat produced less cruelly, take beef before chicken or pork. Cows are too large to imprison in dark barns, so they still have half of a decent life.
The best thing to do, is to find local farmers who raise their own animals.
At the very least, I encourage you to start thinking about meat. Slaughterhouses and Harm Farms have become common because we allowed the stock market and business to hide from scrutiny. We have bathed gluttonously in ignorance, not wanting to know how the animals are treated. That is wrong. Eating meat is not sinful. Eating meat ignorantly is contributing to evil. We support the cruel industry by doing nothing.