, Muskogee, OK

January 20, 2014

Treat food animals humanely

— Animals kept for food should be kept humanely.

Let’s not kid ourselves, these critters are going to be killed for our food. And that is fine.

Animal husbandry is a noble practice. Most farmers don’t want to be cruel.

But as agricultural operations have become more industrialized the human touch has become less evident. It has been replaced with increasing confinement and a focus on the creatures as the source of a product rather than living, feeling animals.

Two of the country’s biggest meat processors recently urged producers to change how pregnant sows are kept. One of the two also announced it wanted to stop killing sick or injured animals with manual blunt force. This is encouraging.

Tyson Foods sent new animal welfare guidelines to hog suppliers Wednesday and Smithfield Foods announced it would ask growers to move pregnant sows from gestation crates to group housing, according to a story by the Associated Press.

These changes are needed. Efficiency is great, but not when it comes at the price of unnecessary cruelty.

Animals should be slaughtered quickly and humanely.

Confined operations concentrate waste and filth and limit the mobility of animals.

Creatures kept for food should be kept in reasonably clean conditions and should be allowed to move enough to maintain their health and a reasonable level of comfort.

The idyllic image many have of the family farm has largely given way to industrial-scale systems where huge numbers of animals are raised in tightly managed situations.

Though the system is distinctly different from the image, we should keep the human in the system by treating our food animals humanely.