The tragedy of happy meat

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If you’re familiar with the Onion, you know it’s the print and online precursor to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. Fake news, heavy on satire. That’s not to say that people, including high-profile people–heck, including entire governments–haven’t been taken in by Onion “reporting.” More on that in a moment, when we end up back at the Onion by way of a pig named Eddie, now deceased.

Our local, alternative weekly paper recently carried a personal essay on “Responsible Meat: A lesson from a pig called Eddie.” In it, the author told of her epiphany upon learning about factory farms when she thumbed through a book called “CAFO: The tragedy of industrial animal factories” (check out its fantastic website).

That put the kibosh on industrially-produced meat, where the greatest amount of suffering and pollution are crammed into the least amount of space for cost efficiency, and where the circumstances of an animal’s slaughter really don’t matter for the same reason. The author opted not to forego eating meat, but to instead purchase a piglet she named Eddie. A piglet who was sweet, who liked belly scratches, treats, and affection. An intelligent pig. Eddie would provide happy meat, because Eddie would live a happy life. Eddie’s meat would be socially responsible meat, because it circumvented the suffering and pollution.

Long story short, Eddie’s “job on earth was nearly complete” when he reached 250 pounds. Sadly, these words simply reflect the speciesist attitude that defines the status quo bottom line: treated well or treated badly, animals are nothing more than commodities for human use and consumption. Their “job”–even those with whom we develop personal relationships–is to fulfill our desires and appetites. You can read the maudlin part for yourself, wherein Eddie is thanked and shown respect and gets whacked. Some tears are shed and, one assumes, some responsible bacon is eventually fried.

The author seems earnest enough when she proudly takes responsibility for the meat on her table and credits the dead pig for helping her in her “journey as both a meat eater and an animal lover.” In the end, it really is all about us, isn’t it. But what might Eddie have preferred? Thanks, respect, and a bullet of betrayal–or to continue living his life? Why is it so hard to understand that sentient animals–all of us–value our lives? That you’ve been thanked and never saw it coming just doesn’t seem like a square deal.

So imagine my glee at subsequently finding an article about humane meat in the Onion! The glee wasn’t long-lived, however, as I soon realized that this article was really just telling the truth. See, it’s just that the truth about so-called food animals–hidden from view as it is–is so freakin’ outrageous that it appears ironic and exaggerated when dispassionately revealed. Entitled “We Raise All Our Beef Humanely On Open Pasture And Then We Hang Them Upside Down And Slash Their Throats,” it comprises paragraph after paragraph in this, uh, vein:

Ha ha! I’m fond of saying, “You can’t make this stuff up” when discussing the forehead-slapping excesses of Homo sapiens’ normalized malevolence toward animals. The Onion merely shows that you don’t have to make stuff up–just tell it like it is. Do it on a satire site and it’ll even be funny!

Question is, will anyone fall for it?
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Coming to bookstores in June: The Ultimate Betrayal: Is there happy meat? Also: What’s wrong with happy meat? at Animal Blawg; and Further thoughts on happy meat

Comment on this post at animal law blog Animal Blawg.

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