Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Humane Slaughter: an Oxymoron?

One aspect missing from my research has been a truly critical look at the meat industry in the United States.  Therefore I signed up for an undergraduate class Fall quarter 2012 taught by Katie Gillespie through the Comparative History of Ideas (CHID) program at the UW.  I was very excited to take this class from the moment I read the syllabus description: Students enrolled in this course should gain a better understanding of the workings of the U.S. food system (at both an industrial and small scale) and the experience of animals within this system. Using animals in the food system as a case study, this course will explore notions of power and difference, ethics and responsibility, and creativity in reimagining the status quo. This course will push the boundaries of how we think about difference and discrimination and recognize the intersections between human and animal oppression.

I knew this class would fit perfectly into my research as I am looking at food spaces and one of these food spaces was that of the production of meat and dairy products.  One of the first books we read in class was 1984 by George Orwell and I wrote a think piece looking at how I practiced the concept of 'doublethink' and 'doublespeak' in my life.

It is interesting to see how my thoughts changed from when I wrote this first paper to when I completed my final paper.  Throughout the class we journaled twice a week to chronicle our journey and also have an outlet for how the class impacted us as the material was very graphic and heavy at times.

The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, Eating Animals,
Every Twelve Seconds, An American Trilogy
We read five books (four entirely), numerous journal articles, visited an animal sanctuary and focused on a project of our choosing.

I wrote two journal entries about sanctuaries and expressed my feelings for the role they play in the animal industry.  Rather than type the journal entries, I'd like to post them in their entirety for you to read.  While I am still conflicted on the role of sanctuaries and disagree with how many animals many of the sites keep, I do feel they serve a vital role in educating people on the horrors within the slaughter, pet and clothing industries.

Pigs Peace - Free Slideshow Maker

For my core project in this class I returned to Dog Mountain Farm as I wanted to observe a harvesting event.  Cindy was kind enough to allow me to return to the farm and pepper her with questions prior to and during the harvesting.  Cindy showed me all of the steps involved in slaughtering and then processing a single duck and I was profoundly grateful for the experience.  If you are a meat eater, I strongly encourage you to find a farm that will allow you to observe, or participate, in a harvesting and really look at this process with a critical eye.

Dog Mountain Processing - Free Slideshow Maker

Do we still eat meat?  Yes, we do.  However, I know where the meat I purchase comes from, how it was raised and slaughtered.  I am not afraid to ask a restaurant where they purchase their meat products from and I am willing to pay more for the quality of meat I eat.  However, I still believe this is a process for us and we may at some point choose to remove meat from our diet.  I continually read and dig into this subject as I find the dichotomy of how we treat certain animals with great love and compassion (dogs, cats, guinea pigs, etc.) keeping them for pets versus how we treat the animals we eat with contempt, disgust and torture (pigs, cows, chickens) extremely disturbing.

If you are interested in learning more on this subject I find the blogs Sistah Vegan and Serenity in the Storm to be extremely helpful in engaging the discussion and looking at the slaughter industry in a critical manner and seeing how the slaughter industry overlays with other discourses of race, gender and class.

You will also find in my sidebar lists of books and documentaries/movies I have found extremely helpful in engaging with this topic and learning more.  The final question for me is: do I deserve to take the life of and eat the flesh of another living being? And if I choose to do so, why do I choose to do so?

If you do want to purchase any of these books from Amazon, please use my Amazon Link. I’ll earn a few pennies to put towards the further creation of this blog!

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