Great cheese comes from Happy Cows?

June 6, 2008 at 12:09 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )




A close friend asked me a question that I now realize is central to the miscommunication between vegetarians and omnivores. He asked me if I would eat an animal raised on an ‘old-school’ grass farm like that described in the book “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. I responded that although I personally would not eat it because I know I don’t need to and I see no reason to kill needlessly, I am not opposed to the killing and eating of these humanely treated animals. What? Yes, you heard me right:


I am a vegan and I am not opposed to eating meat.


No this isn’t an oxymoron, and no it isn’t rare. It is not meat eating that most vegetarians and vegans are opposed to, but the inhumane treatment of animals while they are aliveI am not opposed to the killing of animals (everyone’s gotta die, right? And it’s rarely pleasant), I’m opposed to infliction of unnecessary suffering. I do in fact support grass farms where animals get to live out lives free from intensive confinement, constant pain, suffering, abuse and neglect before they are killed and eaten.


Why, then, am I a vegetarian?


Unfortunately, 98-99% of the meat in this country is produced through factory farming (Peter Singer, “The Ethics of What We Eat”), so ‘humane’ alternatives are very difficult to find. Truly humane meat is almost impossible to find. Labels such as “free range” “humane certified” “organic” etc. are deceiving and in reality mean very little. “Organic” meat and dairy, for example, often comes from animals that suffer more than non-organic animals, because they are kept in the same conditions but are not given antibiotics and treatment that the others are provided. Ultimately, unless I raised the animals myself or visited the farms I purchased meat from, I could not trust that the animals were humanely raised.


For anyone interested in this subject, I highly recommend the book “The Ethics of What We Eat” by Peter Singer. It’s an eye opener about the meat industry and its relation with this country. It is an incredibly well researched book, and sheds light on the practices and the labels (“free range” “humane certified” “organic” etc.) without being preachy.



“Great Cheese Comes From Happy Cows”





Do you really believe that?





  1. mindy said,

    Hm. I have to say as an ethical vegan that while MOSTLY I am opposed to the prevalence of factory farming and the cruelty it embodies, I also don’t believe it’s okay to eat meat, even if it’s raised “humanely”. Ending an animal’s life pre-maturely just to satisfy human taste buds isn’t compassionate–even if you slaughter that animal in the most humane way possible. While I get your point, I also have to say that I don’t agree. I mean, if people are going to eat meat, I’d rather they look for sources that are more humane, but “more humane” does not equal “humane”, you know?

    Thought provoking post.

  2. Alex said,

    Less suffering is always better. However, “humanely raising and killing an animal for food” (which is oxymoronic on its face) is still unjust because it turns, as Tom Regan argues, a sentient being who is reasonably viewed as having an experiential welfare logically independent of his utility to others (i.e., a possessor of inherent value) into a thing, which only has instrumental value (e.g., a pair of pants).

    Sentience, which implies the possession of interests, ought to be the only requirement for entrance into the moral community, less we continue to force nonhumans who rightfully are considered moral persons into the role of “human property.” A status that invariably leads to more “humanely” taking a baby cow from her mother after a week or two and sending her to the veal farm – a better veal farm though. As you said before, milk is for baby cows not human beings. Only in a society where the mother cow is a piece of property could this persist.

    There seems to be some inconsistency here, Michelle.


    “…I personally would not eat it because I know I don’t need to…”

    Assuming that this statement is true, which I believe that it is, it seems reasonable to argue that most others like you (i.e., human beings) also don’t need to consume a pig to survive.


    “I’m opposed to infliction of unnecessary suffering.”

    Bentham used “suffering,” as opposed to mere pain (as did Mill) to avoid being a reductionist: suffering is not simply pain – as happiness is not simply the avoidance of pain. Although Bentham said that “pain” is inherently bad, his use of the word “suffering,” the ability thereof being what Utilitarianism is predicated upon, would suggest that Bentham saw the inherent badness of pain as capturing many forms of “suffering.” I agree. Singers’ use of the term “preferences” captures this well.

    Returning to the “dairy cow” example, if you were replaced with the dairy cow, assuming you want children, do you believe that you would not suffer? I mean if I controlled how much you had sex, where you had sex, under what conditions and with whom you had sex, and then I controlled everything you did and everywhere you went when you were pregnant, and then after you gave birth I took your child from you after how ever long, say 6 months, only to force you to have sex again and begin the process anew – Isn’t this a form of suffering? If yes, then your stated opposition to “unnecessary suffering” would exclude so-called “humanely raised” – what a misnomer that is – because, as you said, you don’t need any of that to be healthy, etc. and neither does anybody else.

    I mean if you think about it, the only way to create and raise nonhumans for food is to make them suffer in some ways, including as Mindy said, an untimely death. There is simply no way around it. By definition, if you are raising nonhumans for food, then you are turning them into things to be exploitation.

    Therefore, it’s all unnecessary, and on your own premises you shouldn’t give your support to these practices.

    Are you vegan by-the-way? I suppose I always assumed you were.

    Thanks for this post, and the nice picture 🙂

    I’m happy you started this discourse.

  3. Alex said,

    Sorry, by “nice picture” I meant that in a negative way. This isn’t well expressed with the smiley face.

  4. michiko280 said,

    Thank you both for your responses! I definately hear what you’re saying, and I do see the contradiction in my words and the beliefs I expressed in this post. This is a confliction I have been grapling with a lot recently, so thank you for bringing it up! I’m not sure how exactly to put this in words, but I’ll try. I think the big inconsistency stems from this: My personal beliefs are different from the stance I take.

    Fundamentally I am opposed to the killing of animals, unless it is done painlessly or the killing of the animal encompasses less suffering than the pain of that animal remaining alive. Fundamentally, I hold a utilitarian philosophy.

    However, the practical application (the actions and accomplishments I expect of myself and others), is slightly different. I make effort to hold myself to the highest ethical standards. Theoretically I would like to completely stop supporting and contributing to suffering. However, realistically I know I am not doing that, and in fact I am constantly becoming aware of new things I can improve upon, or things I never knew before to be unethical. There are also unethical things I support indirectly that I have not stopped. For example, wearing contact lenses. These were developed using animal testing, and would not exist without animal testing. And yet I am wearing contacts at this moment. Another example is volunteering at animal shelters. I volunteer walking dogs weekly, but is this ethical? Because the dogs at the shelters are fed meat based diets. By working to keep these dogs alive and find them homes, I am in fact supporting (indirectly) the meat industry. This all really confuses me, and I am still trying to work it out in my head (and your thoughts and imput is welcomed!). Nonetheless, what I therefore realistically expect from myself is to make effort to inform myself and act in a way that, based on my existing knowledge, is most ethical.

    What I expect from the rest of the world is the similar, but different. If all the meat people ate came from animals raised . This will never happen. It is not even possible to feed the world with meat produced in todays intensive confining systems. But theoretically, if animals lived a truly happy life and were killed in a fast way, I would focus my efforts on something else…the hunger crisis or some other cause of suffering in this world…because at that point the degree of suffering that occurs only at the moment of death would be trivial in comparison to the other suffering in this world. Unfortunately this is not the case, and animals rasied and killed for meat account for an overwhelming majority of suffering in this world. And it is easily preventable, and supported by most of us.

    In regard to the term suffering, I completely agree that it encompasses much more than physical pain. In fact I think that emotional and psychological suffering, (fear, distress, anxiety… are much worse than physical pain in many cases.

    And yes, I am vegan. I’ve became vegetarian at the age of 8 and just last summer started becoming vegan…after reading Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. It never before occured to me that dairy products caused as much if not more suffering to the animals as the meat itself.

    I know I went on a number of tangents there, and please re-ask your questions if I missed them. But thank you again for your responses. I am, as my blog says, on a search for compassion. I am constantly remodeling and revising my beliefs, and frankly right now I am torn between what I believe, what I expect of myself, what I expect of others, and what I can say that other people (omnivores, etc.) will listen to. To be completely honest, I am afraid of being tagged as an “extremist’ and discounted for it. I want to be able to have these discussions with you and with others, and I know extremes scare people.

  5. mojomonkey77 said,

    So if I catch and eat a fish, it’s immoral? I doubt anyone here would criticize a dog for catching and killing a squirrel. Death is a natural part of life, ALL life. Consumption of meat is not, of itself, an immoral act. Man is not the only animal to do so. Nor is he the only animal to partition populations of prey and maintain them. He’s not even the only animal to torture his food before he kills it (anyone who owns a cat can testify to that, but otters, weasels, badgers, bears, wolves and even seals and whales have been documented “playing with their food” before they kill it) – not that that’s an attempt at justifying or condoning anything, just an observation. I think michiko is closer to finding the truth than alot of vegans/activists I’ve met.

    “Sentience, which implies the possession of interests, ought to be the only requirement for entrance into the moral community…”

    According to Merriam:

    1 : responsive to or conscious of sense impressions 2 : aware 3 : finely sensitive in perception or feeling

    I should hope there are more requirements than mere sentience for moral consideration. There are tens of thousands of people in hospitals around the country that don’t meet this requirement.

  6. michiko280 said,

    Most creatures cling to life. Most fear death, and dislike pain and suffering. In my personal opinion, which led me to vegetarianism at the age of 8, I think it is to some degree immoral to take a life and inflict suffering unnecessarily. In the same way that I would not catch, kill and eat a human or a dog when I don’t need to, I would not do so to any other sentient animal.

    That said, I know many people disagree with me. We evolved to be a selfish and oftentimes cruel species, and although these attributes are no longer necessary (or desirable) for our survival, I have a hard time believing there will ever be a time where morality leads the human race. Which is why I fight for an end to intenive prolonged cruelty that is an unnatural and blatantly unethical cost of your meat–even if it is a cost we don’t have to pay for. This is a cause that no ethical being, carnivore and herbivore alike, can oppose. You can have your meat and eat it too.

    Although on a random side note, I just read that: “According to the American Dietetic Association, 11 percent of girls ages 13 – 17 identify themselves as vegetarian or vegan – the fastest growing segment of the vegetarian population. That compares favorably with 7 percent of adult females who don’t eat meat.” This is a much higher percentage than I ever dreamed possible this soon. But it seems that people who don’t like the cruel practices they learn about and have flexible minds are altering their habits to match their morals. This is incredibly uplifting!

  7. mojomonkey77 said,

    I don’t think natural responses to stimuli (trying to avoid pain) or fear of death make an act immoral. People are afraid of cancer and the pain and extensive suffering it causes before death. Does that make cancer immoral? Of course not. It’s simply a natural biological process (albeit it still cruel). Death is not something that is governed by morality (though I recognize that the means by which death is achieved can be) or human thoughts and emotions. It simply is. Dead is dead. People’s fear of death causes them to fight against it in every form. But again, fear does not arbitrarily award moral consideration. Is the antelope less afraid of the lion than the 36 year old mother of three with terminal breast cancer is of her situation? Or I suppose a more appropriate example would be is the cow driven to slaughter any more afraid than a child born with a terminal genetic disorder? Is one more a victim of a moral wrong? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that fear and response to stimuli do not necessarily grant moral consideration. I’m not challenging the ultimate message of what you wrote, simply the route by which you got there. The arrogance of people to assume that they can put labels such as “moral” or “humane” on something like death is mind-blowing to me.

    Incidentally, I find it a little amusing that the earth existed for millions of years under the tenants of carnivore/prey interactions (where every being is obviously not equal), but there is a philosophical debate about the morality of eating meat and equal treatment for all. But I suppose in his quest to “humanize” everything, man will be humbled by no natural boundaries and laws (we’ve already all but eliminated natural selection and evolution in our own species – time to move on to others!). Saying animals deserve the same treatment as humans is nice and all, but whose arrogance assumed they would want such a thing?

  8. michiko280 said,

    Yes, in fact I do think it would be immoral to give cancer to someone (if that were possible) because it would cause suffering and I see no justification for inflicting suffering one someone when I have no need to. If I could cure people from cancer easily by simply changing my habits, I’d do it in a heartbeat as well. That said, I don’t think cancer is a solid comparison with inhumane treatment and slaughter. Of course I am not opposed to death, and understand that every living being will die, but that said, I value life and I try to treat others how I would like to be treated…and I sure as hell would not like to be immobilized for prolobgued periods, have my babies taken from me, castrated or cut up in any other way without anesthetics, electrically prodded, and slaughtered (to name just a few of the horrors that I would experience as an animal raised for food.

    You are that we don’t usually think of what we eat as a matter of ethics. In fact, most stated with major animal industries have writtrn into their anti-cruelty laws exem,ptions for “common farming practices.” Therefore what laws deem unethical (and in fact punnishable by law) to be done to animals outside the meat industry, is accepted when done by the meat industry. I think this is hypocrytical. The whole concept of morality is based on the idea that the purpose of an action and th benefits to certain individuals cannot play a role. A definition of Moral is: founded on the fundamental principles of right conduct rather than on legalities, enactment, or custom: moral obligations. ( Just because something is commonly done or has been done does not make it moral. Killing other humans has been done throughout history as well… and most people agree that killing other humans is immoral.

  9. bob said,

    Mojo is right. We are man, we are more powerful and superior than any other species, so we have the right to do what we want. They do not deserve a choice. In fact, if I want, I should be able to have sex with my dog, because I choose to, and she doesn’t have rights. Her struggling and yelping is just a biological reaction. The lubrication she produces due to my penis inside of her is also a biological reaction. I guess that means she wants such a thing. I sure enjoy it, just like my taste buds are satisfied when I eat meat. Whats wrong with that? I’m more powerful and superior, so my enjoyment comes first.

  10. mojomonkey77 said,

    Unbelievable. I’d respond, but I can see it’s a waste of time trying to engage in an intelligent conversation here. Mich if you care, feel free to ask. Bob, it’s people like you who have given the foul reputation to people like Mich who are actively trying to educate people. Aside from missing the point by about, oh, I don’t know, a couple thousand light years, your response was juvenile, counterproductive and completely inappropriate. Shock value counts for nothing, especially (I should hope) to people who are actually being productive and beneficial towards trying to change the way people look at things. People like you are the reason they have to deal with being labeled as word-twisting, aggressive extremists. Unless your cause is to slow theirs, the best thing you can do is keep your mouth shut. Mich, I’m sorry. I tried, but I’m done. It’s becoming quite apparent that no one wants to explain anything, just have blind devotion. I don’t know what more to say. This whole experience has just been completely unfathomable. I’d rather remain “ignorant” than be one of these so called “enlightened people.”

  11. michiko280 said,

    Eeeww, bob, seriously out of line!! So disturbed…*bluchhh*….I think I’ve been scarred. for life.

  12. Alex said,


    Bob took your argument to its logical conclusion. Ethics doesn’t allow you to place artificial barriers between those palatable actions that follow from your argument and those “bad” actions that also follow from your argument.

    Your ad hominems aside (why do you always resort to such methods?) mojomonkey77, Bob identified the end of your “might makes right” argument.

  13. vegetarianism said,

    […] are opposed to, but the inhumane treatment of animals while they are alive. I am not opposed to Vegetarian UnionWorld Union of Vegetarian/Vegan Societies – Promoting vegetarianism […]

  14. John said,

    It wasn’t a might makes right arguement – I’ve never once said that. The points that were so conspicuously disregarded in yet another attempt to avoid answering my questions were: 1) In the process of stating that eating meat is morally wrong, one must account for the fact that it is a natural means of food for a rather large number of animals on the planet – man’s an animal, like it or not and it would seem that he falls into this category. To say it is immoral for one species and moral for another seems to fall into the “speciesism” category. 2) Fear of a thing (such as a painful death) does not make said thing immoral.
    There was no indication that killing is okay simply because you can do it – bob’s response and your justification of it are simply a worthless attempt to twist what I wrote to avoid answering the question. I fail to see how that conclusion was reached by reading what was there. The simple fact is that despite the number of times I’ve asked plainly, I’ve yet to receive an answer. Instead, the “ad hominems” have actually been directed at me. I’ve never once attacked a person or their moral position (so I could not have resorted to ad hominem methods). I’ve repeatedly stated that I am not doing such (“I’m not challenging the ultimate message of what you wrote”), but rather have simply asked why the act of eating meat is immoral (go back and read). Responses have been blown out of proportion and taken to illogical conclusions, but no feasible answer has been proffered. I’m forced to conclude that a reasonable discussion on the matter without the inevitable twisting and exaggeration of what I ask is impossible. I’ve never been so throughly disgusted with a collective representation of a philosophy. I’m actually shocked that you would reply accusing me of an ad hominem approach. Have you not paid attention to what you and others have written? Unreal.

  15. Lita said,

    As far as I know, no other animal in this world has the ability to choose not to kill or harm another creature out of compassion. We do. That is what makes us so amazing, and yet so terrible… because knowing that there is a choice, humans often choose cruelty over compassion.

    Humanity cannot use the excuse that it’s just a part of nature; we stepped outside of the path of nature a long time ago. We are incredibly sophisticated creatures. Humans have long ago figured out how to eat in an incredibly healthy, nutritious way without ever needing to harm a living creature to do it. Humans all across the world, regardless of religious belief, value kindness and compassion very highly. Yet regardless of that, humans continue to torture and kill millions of animals each year because their pain and suffering is not a consideration, and besides, meat tastes delicious, right?

    I can’t speak for the entire world on this issue, but I suspect that many carnivorous Americans really have no inkling of how much cruelty was involved in the meat that they eat. I know that for years I ate meat because it was the tradition in my family. Even as a child I knew that there was some dark, ominous story behind my hamburger, but I turned a deaf ear to those concerns, convincing myself that it wasn’t like that everywhere, et cetera. We have to continue to show people what the true cost of meat is, from an ethical standpoint (environment, cruelty, et cetera.)

    Thank you for having this blog as a space to talk about these issues.

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