I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.
I feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants.
I do not regard flesh-food as necessary for us at any stage and under any clime in which it is possible for human beings ordinarily to live. I hold flesh-food to be unsuited to our species.
– Mohandas K. Gandhi, Indian political and spiritual leader. Died, 1948.
Well, I absolutely agree with Gandhi on his humane attitude to animals, and I want all industrial farming, transportation and slaughtering stopped as well as all the other cruel practices involving hunting and animal sports.
I don’t agree that eating flesh is unsuited to our species. Our dentition shows clearly that we are omnivores.
This means that the right diet would include some flesh. However, dentition tells us only what we evolved to eat, but doesn’t help us establish values for anything we do. If our aim is to learn to become compassionate beings as well as top of the food chain – in other words, assume the position of demigods in the kingdom of life on Earth instead of “devils” – then prescriptive world-wide free-range farming would be the right thing, keeping animals till they reach relative old age, then slaughtering them as painlessly as possible and in non-factory conditions. By allowing them to live far beyond their lifespan necessary for providing us with meat, we acknowledge that eating their flesh is a privilege, not a right. We “borrow” their flesh in return for compassionate restraint, avoidance of killing them till the latest moment compatible with their quality of life which should come first. The meat would be more expensive but if free-range compassionate farming was worldwide and compulsory, it wouldn’t be as much as people seem to think and would not have to compete with industrial farming which should not be allowed. A price must be paid for compassion and outlawing industrial farming and paying more for free range / compassionate is a price worth paying. We would eat meat once a week instead of every day. This would be healthy and appropriate. The meat we ate would not be produced out of cruelty. This is the kind of world we should be moving towards, instead of committing a holocaust of billions of farm animals every year. If this seems too complicated to manage, we should forego meat altogether.