When it comes to the spectrum of treating animals like animals and treating them like people, I know both types, those who keep their dogs outside year round, treating them as a security system and those who cook daily meals for their furry kids using only organic meats and vegetables. I fall somewhere in the middle. While I believe that animals are sentient beings who feel pain and emotion, I don’t equate a human life with that of an animal, I still eat meat (even if only the humanely-raised kind) and I don’t let my dogs sleep in my bed (although I have lost the couch battle).
No matter where on the spectrum you fall on, I strongly believe that we all must raise our standards of how we treat our farm animals. While none of us are directly abusing the cows, the chickens or the pigs, when we eat meat from animals mistreated by the commercial farms we indirectly contribute to their suffering.
Raising our animal welfare standards becomes even more important if you agree with Dr. Marc Bekoff who says that “how we treat other animals has direct effects on how we feel about ourselves“.
He goes on to add that “compassion begets compassion and that there is an ever-growing compassion umbrella that encompasses or embraces many different species including humans. So, when we’re nice to other animals and empathize compassionately with their physical and mental health we’re also spreading compassion to other people.”
The concept that ‘we are what we do’ is not a new one, but it continues to intrigue me when applied to the food we eat. Back in March I wrote about an idea that commercial farming system dehumanizes us and today I’m once again drawing parallels between our nation’s animal welfare standards and our human-ness. I wholeheartedly agree and admire Mahatma Gandhi’s wisdom when he said that “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the ways its animals are treated.”
Meanness is contagious and, if you let it, will infect your character. But I guess so is compassion. By eating only humanely-raised meat (and less of it!) we can help raise standards of how animals are treated and reduce number of animals who are killed for food. And if you believe in the domino effect of compassion, living in a way that treats animals with kindness, we just might beget more compassion to our human neighbors. Which wouldn’t be such a bad thing.