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.
Over this Fourth of July weekend, many of us in the United States will be celebrating the independence of the United States of America. Holidays mean fun and rest.
My favorite holidays are the ones when I don’t have to work, and where there is good food. I suspect that is why “tailgating” parties are great: they are just spontaneous holidays.
It has been 18 months since I took a vacation. My jobs have me working six days a week. So I am tired. I will take a needed break by driving up to Michigan and Ontario, Canada, for several days.
God knew that people needed rest. In fact, God ordered us to take rests once a week.
Exodus 20:8-11, “Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it – not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Common English Bible translation)
Did you notice that “your animals” are in the list of beings not allowed to work on the sabbath?
I have no interest in arguing about the details of the Sabbath day here, in my blog.
My point is this: God planned for us to take a break once a week, and for our animals to also share in that break once a week.
In the twenty-first century that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to you, I suspect. What animals? My cat? My dog? My goldfish?
Back in the days of Moses, the Jewish people probably had some domestic animals around. Chickens for eggs. Goats for milk. Oxen for pulling cats. Donkeys for carrying people. Most of us ‘city slickers’ don’t have domestic animals around.
But the Ten Commandments were not just personal orders; they were community orders; national orders. These are the rules God wanted from all the people and their institutions.
One of the biggest industries in the United States is animal agriculture. Meat, Dairy, and Eggs.
Most of you are probably very happy to be ignorant about the reality of modern animal farming. I will not illumine you much today. No gruesome details. Nothing to upset the holiday.
The bottom line, basic foundation of all modern industrial farming is confinement. Companies can make more money by keeping animals indoors twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the life of the animal. This is done for many reasons. To keep from getting morbid, I won’t explain. Just take my word for it. Chickens and pigs, at least, never see the sky.
That is a direct violation of the commandment to give your animals rest.
Industrialists will say, “but animals never work! They rest all day, doing nothing!”
Rest is not doing nothing. Rest is celebrating life. It is freedom to enjoy the creation.
Do you think that God was exhausted by the six days of creation? Of course not! Exodus says that after the six days of creation God rested, blessing the seventh day and making it holy. God said, ‘this will be a day of happiness and holiness.’
Jesus, the Word, created everything (John 1). Then He celebrated. He just watched and enjoyed the scenery, so to speak. In Genesis it says that God went walking with Adam in the Garden of Eden.
“Adam” means dirtboy, you know. Son of soil. Earth being. Dirtboy.
I can just imagine Jesus asking Adam, “what did you call that strange creature I made? Oh yeah, platypus. Great name!”
Of course I am being silly, since platypus is probably Greek or Latin. Who knows what language they were speaking back when Eve was around.
God told Adam to get some work done on six days. Jesus wanted Adam and Eve and their future kids to spread the Garden of Eden all over the planet. That was a big job! But apparently, from the very beginning, one day was supposed to be for rest and celebration.
Being stuck in the same building, or cage, for an entire lifetime, is never having rest. No celebration of life. Drudgery. Enslavement. Violation of God’s command.
Now you, as a disobedient human, may not care about taking a sabbath day. Maybe you are a workaholic. Maybe you are an atheist and don’t even believe in a god. Whatever. You can sin for yourself, but are you also going to force others to miss out on God’s bounty? Will you force your children to work seven days, not just six? Will you force your domestic animals to never get a break?
Will you continue to buy your meat from companies that never let the animals have a break?
A factory farm, or CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), or Harm Farm (my term), or whatever you want to call it, is cruel by its very definition. I will not now enumerate all of their cruelties. Only one. Rest.
You can say, “animals aren’t people; they aren’t smart enough to know what they are missing.”
Did God ask for your opinion of animal intelligence when He made the Ten Commandments? It makes no difference. God wanted them to have a day off too.
Rest is only one of the principles of animal treatment from the Bible that modern animal farming fails to honor. I can talk about other principles in the future.
For this holiday weekend: rest, and celebrate! And if you have a pet or domestic animal, let it rest and celebrate!
In the future, when you buy meat, ask yourself, “should I look for the cheapest meat? Or should I look for a God-honoring, humanely-treated, piece of animal flesh?”
That would make the celebration even better.
I read this book last year and just reviewed it last week.
This is a book intended for an academic audience but it is not difficult to read. It deals a lot in philosophy and specific Jewish questions of meat and slaughter which particularly intrigued me.
The springboard issue is a famous 2004 incident when an animal-rights group secretly videotaped the activities in a Jewish kosher slaughterhouse. Many serious abuses were shown. The New York Times ran articles about it, and there was an uproar, as you might expect. Because orthodox Jews try especially hard to keep the Old Testament dietary laws, the animals must be kindly treated, killed quickly, and drained of blood. The secret videos showed abuse and probably violated the claims of kosher licensure. The USDA inspectors were playing videogames and napping rather than observing (and not punished).
The author analyses public and Jewish reaction to the incident. Surprisingly, the general public seemed more worried about it than the Jewish community. Many Jewish leaders shrugged and didn’t seem to care, or made silly excuses as to why it didn’t matter.
The author studies some famous Jewish writings to discuss how and why people distance themselves from cruelty to animals, and etc.
I found the book helpful but it would not be entertaining for any casual reader. Useful for understanding some elements of kosher slaughter. A good glossary of terms in the back.