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The fight over transparency in the meat industry (nytimes.com)
158 points by triplesec 353 days ago | hide | past | web | 177 comments | favorite



As I mentioned in another thread, I live on a farm.

(I hack Ruby and C++ as a day job, the farm is just a hobby).

One major reason for doing so is animal welfare. I'm a meat eater and will staunchly defend it...but factory farming is terrible.

At this point we get most of our meat from our own pastures: chicken, goat, lamb, pork.

It's much more expensive than buying factory farmed meat, and even more expensive (in labor, if not dollars) than shopping at Whole Foods. It is wonderful, however, to not merely know that the animals are being treated well, but to watch them every day, enjoying their animal lives: chickens pecking at the pumpkins and squash we grow and feed them, pigs rolling around and enjoying themselves in the mud, sheep chewing contentedly in the pasture. And, of course, at the end of the season, when it's time to turn living creatures into meat, doing it yourself ensures that it's done well, and with minimal stress and pain.

This lifestyle isn't for everyone, but for those who are interested in it, it's becoming more and more possible because of remote work (and soon, driverless cars).

Pictures of processing one of three 500+ lb pork carcasses below:

https://goo.gl/photos/6rzXQXL23esitdh76

https://goo.gl/photos/gZqXZ2ENXfNZv9xL9

(Btw, I'm in civilization, on a client site, today. I packed my lunch, as I always do. It was pulled pork and home-made cole slaw. The pork came from that very critter in the above photos.)

If anyone has any questions about the farm life, feel free to email me. My user name @ my user name . com


You've just put a new idea about "the good life" into my head… This sounds positively delightful, to combine tech with rural living. I just might give that a try someday!

As someone who has struggled with his diet for ethical reasons for a long time, I have a question though. You say

> at the end of the season, when it's time to turn living creatures into meat, doing it yourself ensures that it's done well, and with minimal stress and pain.

How does this work? Do you not get cognitive dissonance from killing "your children"?

In the abstract, I completely agree with you that 1) eating meat can be done in a good, respectful way and 2) that perhaps the best, most honest way is to do it your way. But I would imagine that once I actually raise a chicken, I could probably not bring myself to kill it with my own hands (let alone eat it). Hell, I'm probably soft enough that even spending just enough time with a chicken to get a sense of its personality would make this impossible for me. Well, maybe if it's a particularly nasty personality, I could kill it but then how could I put such a revolting character in my body? Either way, it seems undoable to me… So how does it actually work, in practice?


There's a great anime on Netflix called Silver Spoon (http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=15...) about a kid from an urban background who goes to an agricultural high school as a way to give the middle finger to his type-A father.

Anyway, one thing I thought was interesting is all the kids who grew up on farms know you basically don't name your livestock, and they even told him this, and he does it anyway (naming the pig he's raising for class Pork Bowl). A good chunk of the plot of the first dozen or so episodes is him dealing with the reality that he's going to have to slaughter and break down the carcass of what is more or less a pet.

I think the most interesting part is that the kids who grew up on a farm (I'm halfway there; I spent my summers on my grandfather's farm, but he only had a hundred or so head of cattle. Mostly he farmed the Holy Trinity: corn, beans, and wheat.) didn't even think about it; livestock is livestock, pets is pets. Watching him come to grips with it was very well-done and very interesting.


> livestock is livestock, pets is pets

I had a Korean friend that explained dog meat in basically the same way: pet dogs are pets, food dogs are food.


Glad you're intrigued! Feel free to reach my by email with any questions!

> Do you not get cognitive dissonance from killing "your children"?

Well, first, they're not my children. I don't mean that flippantly, and it's a great question to ask, it's just that my answer is: my wife is my wife, my dogs are my dogs (and, yes, family), pigs are livestock...and chickens are sort of walking squawking vegetables. :)

I shouldn't joke about chickens tho. The first time I had to dispatch one it put a deep pall over the rest of the day. Taking a life, even of something with a brain the size of a peanut, is a big deal.

The first year on the farm my wife gave all of our goats names, played with them, took them on walks, etc. I cautioned her against it...but I also used their names. Slaughter was ... not fun. Still, I did it. A .22 to the brain, and they dropped like sacks of cement.

My wife ended up not wanting to eat goat, so I ate a fair bit of goat after that. ...and she learned never to name or play with the livestock.

When we started raising pigs, we had learned from our lesson. It also helped that several times pigs escaped from our farm and had to be chased around the block and herded back to the farm, which is a huge amount of work. That put the kibosh on overly warm feelings.

Still, pig slaughter again hit me hard. Sure, I gave the pigs freshly picked apples to eat, and even their last minutes of life were better than the best day of a factory farmed pig's life, but killing is killing.

The way you slaughter a pig is [ squeamish people, please stop reading ] shoot them in the forehead. This gives them a concussion and drops them, but does not kill them. You then roll the pig on its side or back and stick a 12+" knife into its chest until it scrapes the spine, then you pivot the knife to slice the aorta and other arteries.

The pig is still technically alive at this point, although it is insensate. Because of my ethics re animals, if I'm going to take a life, I want to use every last bit of the animal. This meant capturing the gallons of blood in a five gallon bucket.

This is the most visceral thing ( no pun intended ) that I have ever done. I don't want to oversell it and say that it's "spiritual", but there is absolutely no escaping the reality of exactly that you're doing and what's going on. The act of sliding a 12" knife deep into a living, breathing thing is irrevocable, undeniable, and challenging.

Eventually even the neurological echoes stop and the animal is still.

At that point the animal is 100% gone, and you can tell. It still *looks

Photo (again, not for the sqeamish):

https://goo.gl/photos/No2xyddwDMGfLn6f6

At this point you have to slice slots in the pigs rear angles, hook a gambrel through, and then lift it (tail up, head down). You then skin in, disembowel it, and skin it.

I had a dissociative event the first time I did this. I was elbows deep in a creature that was about 4 minutes from having been completely alive, and it was still 98.6 degrees (or whatever pigs runs at), and it was in that uncanny valley between "alive" and "foot". I was quite lucid, and eloquent, as I spoke to people around me, but I felt like I was doing something that was in an entirely different realm.

I realize that lots of people here probably hunt and killed deer when they were 10, or whatever, but this was the first large animal (larger than a goat) that I had ever killed.

Hunters often say things like "I respect the animal and feel a deep kinship with it and blah blah blah" and that's easy to hear and not really appreciate, but killing and processing a large animal really is a transformational event, and one that I'm glad I've had. There is no denying exactly what you're doing, and - to me, at least - this created or strengthened my commitment to (a) raise animals as ethically as I possibly can, (b) use every bit of them without waste.

I think that killing and eating animals is fundamental to who we are (and I don't mean "we've evolved incisors"; I mean "the rituals and process are encoded in our minds". The hand shapes the tool and the tool shapes the hand).

If anything, this belief that humans have a deep connection with raising animals makes my revulsion against factory farming even stronger.

Just as dog fighting isn't merely horrific in its own right, but extra horrific because it is a perversion of something good, factory farming takes something good and inherently human and replaces it with something cruel and inhumane. I see that as a perversion.

I hope this answered your question; I seem to have rambled a fair bit.


Thank you for writing this. If one is going to eat meat, this is how one should do it.

I myself would not do this, and therefore (and for a few other tangential reasons), I'm a vegetarian. But I fully respect how you're living. If you're going to be a carnivore, BE a carnivore. Don't be under any illusions to the contrary.

You talk about having a dissociative experience, but it sounds like, on the whole, you're having a far more associative experience than most people. When I see people casually munching on cheap store-bought ham sandwiches, having no particular concept of what they're eating or how it got there -- and who would in fact recoil in horror if confronted with that reality -- then it seems to me like they are the ones who are being fundamentally dissociative. Not you.

Anyhow, ramble ramble, but from a person with a very different approach to life: respect.


FWIW, even though I choose to live an omnivorous life, I have the highest respect for vegetarians.

I've met people who say "I enjoy meat, but I could never kill an animal".

Fuck you. You kill animals every day by eating meat; you're just too squeamish to face up to the ethics of what you're doing.

So, hats off to all the vegetarians out there. You reached an ethical conclusion and you do the hard work to live it. Mad respect.


I don't think he was using the word that way. I interpreted "dissociation" as the more clinical and formally defined psychological term for a mental state.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissociation_(psychology)


exactly


> The act of sliding a 12" knife deep into a living, breathing thing is irrevocable, undeniable, and challenging.

It's amazing what some people are willing to do for pleasure. I wish that everyone who consumed animal products had to do it your way. I couldn't do this, so I don't eat animal products. (Yet, I don't suffer a pleasure deficit or any other ill effects, but that's my personal experience.)


This was a beautiful answer. Thank you! :-)

(I especially liked the line "Just as dog fighting isn't merely horrific in its own right, but extra horrific because it is a perversion of something good, factory farming takes something good and inherently human and replaces it with something cruel and inhumane.")


> Because of my ethics re animals, if I'm going to take a life, I want to use every last bit of the animal.

If you're going by raw efficiency, you can hardly beat factory farming. Besides the minimization of inputs, even the feathers and shit of chickens are digested to their amino acid components and used for animal feed and fertilizer. There is the unspeakable cruelty aspect... but then, I've bought ridiculously expensive "free range" turkey from a hyperlocal organic poultry farm, but, judging from appearances, the barren, rather crowded turkey yard is a far cry from a cartoon happy-animal sleepy farm.

It's nice that you're privileged enough to run your own hobby farm, but even the most artisanal of commercial farms is a business and their animals are commodities. Many of the worst cases that organizations like Farm Sanctuary encounter are cases of neglect or bankruptcy in small family-run farms.


> Because of my ethics re animals, if I'm going to take a life, I want to use every last bit of the animal. This meant capturing the gallons of blood in a five gallon bucket.

I buy whole chickens and part them out myself, and I do use every bit of the chicken that comes in the package. The bones are used for stocks, skin gets rendered for fat, etc. So I like to think I (can?) get using every last bit of the animal.

But I'm curious, what use(s) does the blood have? I was of the impression that like the viscera, the blood is something that necessarily must be disposed -- it cannot safely be used. Is that not the case?


Not the parent but I have some knowledge on this.

[Blood sausage][1] is made using pork blood. I have never tried it myself though. What I have tried is [Sanguinaccio][2] made in southern Italy. It's absolutely delicious. I imagine there are plenty of other recipes that use pork blood as an ingredient too.

[1](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_sausage)

[2](http://www.chicagonow.com/cooking-cop/2014/03/sanguinaccio-d...)


Yes. If you see that dive gallon bucket of blood in the photo? I made bood sausage with it.


There's Taiwanese-style pig blood cake (made with rice and fried); or Cantonese-style pig blood curd, which is nothing more than solidified pig's blood.


> I buy whole chickens and ... do use every bit of the chicken > But I'm curious, what use(s) does the blood have?

When I was a kid, my dad used to take me sometimes to a street vendor (this was in a small city in Malaysia, late 60s/early 70s) who ran his business from a bicycle. He had a small gas ring, a crate on the back of the bike with a couple of chickens in it, and some veggies and noodles.

My dad would order a meal and the guy would grab a chicken out of the box, wring its neck, drain the blood into a bucket, burn off the feathers, dismantle the chook and fry it up with mein and veggies. Yum!

But after handing us our food he would boil and eat the then congealed blood (and the other stuff we didn't eat). The food was great (especially since my mum did not approve) but I was always fascinated by this last step.

As I got older I appreciated that he had us pay for the meal and then still got a meal himself out of the deal.


Black pudding (blood sausage) would be my pick, but there are also a lot of good Chinese recipes that include pork blood curd.

The only danger I am aware of--beyond the risks of eating pork products in general--is iron overdose, which means you have to ration your consumption appropriately.

The viscera may also be used, though not necessarily for food. Whatever cannot be eaten can likely be turned into glue, leather, fertilizer, string, etc.


Many cultures use most of the animal. For example, in Korea a popular dish is called Sundae (soon-day), basically a kind of pork blood sausage. It's often served with pig ears and snouts as a side dish to alcohol.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundae_(Korean_food)

Pig liver is a popular in dishes the world over: pate, various sausages, etc.

It's surprising how much of a pig is useful as food.


Where on earth did you get the idea that the viscera must be disposed or cannot be safely eaten?

Pig intestines, heart, lungs are all part of traditional cuisine. Even the kidneys and liver are "viscera," and those are completely mainstream organ meat. Brain is also eaten (head cheese).


Agreed.

Photo of making blood pudding

https://goo.gl/photos/fUkkcmUxLXmopAQf6

Photo of preparing the heart before marinating it in olive oil and spices, then grilling it.

https://goo.gl/photos/T4MQZDpyEDVLgy7o7

Photo of pressed, sliced, and fried pig ears as a side to a sausage sandwhich

https://goo.gl/photos/me1rguNxWKXrmNLQ9

Photo of head cheese

https://goo.gl/photos/kHpyoDWJRxvDgHxW9

Photo of dog enjoying pig spine

https://goo.gl/photos/Wwpf9npvyvoKiBQN8

I use absolutely everything (well, except for the intestines. Not worth my time or energy to wash the feces out and scrape the mucousal lining off).


Pig guts is actually the only porcine viscera I've eaten before. It's not bad at all. The prep does sound rather unpleasant and smelly, but it can't be worse than the butchering you've already done. I believe the colon is nastier than than the small intestine and less eaten. But then, in my high school bio class we were given a lab book for fetal pigs, and came to class and our crazy teacher had a fully-grown, fresh dead sow on the lab island for a group dissection. When we opened the abdominal cavity, the smell was so foul we just about vomited; teacher helpfully told us that the human abdomen smells the same during surgery. This was without having dissected the intestines.

Curious, what did you do with the lungs? That's one part that I think was commercially banned for human consumption in the USA in the '70s. Even if it wasn't, it's rarely sold fresh as I understand it does not keep well at all even under refrigeration. Pork lungs are used used in Fillipino (bopis, kilayin) and Cantonese cuisine; Europeans certainly use sheep and cow lungs (Greeks, French, Scottish; haggis, anyone), but I'm not aware of western recipes specifically calling for pork lungs.

Pork intestine, on the other hand, is ubiquitous.


"But I'm curious, what use(s) does the blood have? "

Also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaszanka


| The hand shapes the tool and the tool shapes the hand

I really like that line a lot. I've used a similar phrase to describe the relation between the data you're generating and consuming and the code doing so.

Very eloquent, I'm going to have to remember that one.


Good answer, still makes no sense why you don't eat your dogs. It's hypocritical not to; pigs are smart and they respond to you like dogs do (if you let them of course). It's fine, many people do it and at least you look them straight in the eyes while most buy something in plastic 'which taste nice' and they don't have to think.


It isn't necessarily hypocritical.

For instance, someone might prefer the look of hair on dogs and the feed conversion ratio of swine and thus keep dogs to pet and swine to eat.


> My wife ended up not wanting to eat goat, so I ate a fair bit of goat after that. ...and she learned never to name or play with the livestock.

So treat the animals like objects to make it easier to kill them? That also works for humans:

https://www.amazon.com/Eternal-Treblinka-Treatment-Animals-H...

> I had a dissociative event the first time I did this.

Dissociation happens for a reason. Slaughterhouse workers get PTSD.

> I think that killing and eating animals is fundamental to who we are (and I don't mean "we've evolved incisors"; I mean "the rituals and process are encoded in our minds". The hand shapes the tool and the tool shapes the hand).

The same argument could have been made for cannibalism, but somehow we managed to get over that.


This is probably the most rewarding and insightful thing I've read on HN in 5 years


"The way you slaughter a pig is <...> shoot them in the forehead. This gives them a concussion and drops them, but does not kill them."

I'm not a farmer (though your lifestyle is a dream of mine), but couldn't you just use bigger caliber? I'm sure .45 would do the trick. Shooting and killing a pig instantly in one blow is one thing, but putting a knife through a still living creature.. that would be too much for me.


You don't want the pig to die instantly; you want it unconscious and unable to feel pain... but you want the heart still alive. The heart pumps blood which exsanguinates the animal after you slice it's aorta.

This allows you to collect the blood for some other use, and removes it from the veins and arteries in the muscle tissue.


Doesn't hanging a carcass with open veins drain enough blood?


No.


If you have to force yourself not to name and play animals to be able to kill them eventually, it is probably wrong to kill them.

Disclaimer: I am a vegetarian.


Some people might say that our instincts are often wrong. A lot of people use tricks to do something other than what their emotions are telling them. They get angry and contain it. They feel jealous that someone else is getting attention and ignore it. We tend to divide emotions into bad ones like that and good ones like empathy, but there's an argument to be made that the natural empathy we feel toward animals is wrong in some cases and should be suppressed. Taken to its extreme, we'd end up with a world where we tried to save everything, even every insect, and we'd end up with an unsustainable world or at best a planet-sized zoo where everything was controlled and coddled. Maybe the natural world, as messy and bloody as it is, is better than one in which every living thing is protected and loved. Maybe empathy is an emotion that was beneficial to our evolution as mammals but has grown out of control as we gained intelligence and the ability to see beyond our family and clan needs and we're better off slaughtering animals which we raise because at least they get to live better lives than any animal would live in the wild before that slaughter comes, making way for a new generation to be raised in a pastoral situation.

I'm only speaking in hypotheticals because I'm also a vegetarian and don't personally subscribe to that idea, but I think it's not necessarily cut and dry that avoiding killing for food is absolutely the right thing to do. Personally, I think the normalization of dominating animals is what led to a lot of bad behaviors toward humans like slavery and subjugation and that we would be better off cultivating more empathy rather than accepting the order of nature as we were born into it. There was a time before hunting and slaughtering, and I think there will be a time after it, and I think we will be better of once we have moved past it. But I also have to consider that I might be wrong.


>Taken to its extreme, we'd end up with a world where we tried to save everything, even every insect, and we'd end up with an unsustainable world or at best a planet-sized zoo where everything was controlled and coddled

We are in the middle of the largest extinction event in this planet's history, and it's our fault as a species. A major causative factor is our dependence on needless animal slaughter to get our jollies. I'd say we are at the opposite extreme to the one you hypothesize, and perhaps some extreme thinking to rectify this is needed. Don't let conciliation become collusion, even rhetorically.


This is true. Especially South American slash and burn of the rainforest for cattle grazing is a huge contribution. We're burning through our largest carbon sinks and also the most diverse ecosystem to raise meat. Switching to alternatives like lab-grown meat and vegetables would do more than anything to stop both climate change and species extinction. It's insane that we're dancing on the edge of the extermination of life on Earth because of flavor. I do think that it'a important to look at the other side though to understand why we're following these kinds of practices. There'a a lot of culture tied up with meat, and we won't be able to get past it unless we address the reasons for doing it on all levels.


>Taken to its extreme, we'd end up with a world where we tried to save everything, even every insect

That's a Nirvana Fallacy. I can only imagine you'd never try to apply the same reasoning to humans. That since it's wrong to cause harm to them, you're now responsible to ensuring that no harm of any kind comes to any human anywhere.


Humans also have to learn to swim, not fear fire, and many other things that our instincts say we shouldn't do.


I find it gets easier, the older I get. Right now we're bottle-feeding a hydrocephalic calf named "Georgie". He can't stand up for more than 30 seconds or walk in a straight line (and therefore would have died if left with his mother), but he will produce a fair amount of veal. Probably not enough to make up for the $3500 we could have gotten selling him as a young bull!


Doesn't the same apply to plants?! I don't know about you, but I'm quite attached to my indoors plants... Obviously I won't eat them (I don't know any recipes involving orchids), but I'd be quite sad if they died.


I just logged in for the first time in forever to say thanks for a really interesting and thought-provoking read.


We tried the gun, it didn't at all work that way for us -- we had a terrified pig running around with a hole in its forehead. Would you mind me picking your brain? Let me know your preferred method and I'll reply with my handle.

EDIT: just saw the email address on your first post.


Wow, that was an amazing read. Thank you for sharing!


I've not raised animals for food, so I am hypothesizing here. It seems to me the key is to be honest with oneself that you are intending to kill this creature for food, and not allow yourself to form emotional attachments to it like one would with a pet. Now, having not done this, I don't know how easy or hard it would be. Were I to have the opportunity to do so, I would be willing to try it.


As someone who raises animals for food, how would or wouldn't your behavior change if sufficiently cheap and adequately tasty cultured (i.e. var-grown) meat were available?

I ask as someone who eats meat quite regularly, but would prefer not to contribute to the raising of animals for slaughter if I don't have to. I understand that the death of one animal to feed another is part of the natural way our ecosystem functions, but factory farming makes me extremely uneasy. Animals raised in conditions resulting in relatively the same level of comfort or discomfort they might experience in the wild until they are slaughtered is one thing, but being born into an existence that appears to consist of nothing but confusion, fear and pain until death is not something I wish on anything that can feel those.


If my choices were factory farming or vat grown food, I'd choose vat grown in an instant, to minimize suffering.

If my choices are vat ground vs home ground...that's complicated. There's a lot to be said for small scale farming. It brings animals into the world and lets them enjoy life, which I see as actively good. We don't have to go remotely near the Repugnant Conclusion Paradox https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mere_addition_paradox and can just note that the pigs seem to enjoy being alive.

I also think that it's in man's nature to interact with the natural environment. This is really a book-sized topic, not a news.yc comment one !


Sure, I understand it's a complex topic, I just figured I would source some info from someone involved in farming at your level. :)

I'm for farm raised animals, I think that results in a fairly good life for the animals. I understand there's not a lot of incentive for people to raise certain animals without some sort of pay-off at that end, and that's usually eating them. That makes it somewhat complex.


If vat grown meat contains fat as well as muscle, I'd take in a heartbeat too, but if it's just muscle...I would have to turn it down. Lean meat is tasteless meat, IMHO.


We started out making our own farm for animals (pigs + chickens) but we figured we actually liked the little buggers (what you describe as watching them grow etc, for me, especially with pigs, makes them the same level as dogs and the hypocritical west is as the hypocritical west does which I couldn't really stomach) and went vegetarian anyway. Don't miss meat at all (don't actually like it anymore), but that's not the point; the life is good if you like that kind (nature, fresh air, quiet usually if you have a small farm) of thing with or without eating meat. We have fresh eggs from our chickens and fresh fruit and veg without pesticides and water from our own well.

We started growing hops (& more apples) for the brewery and it is really nice. It isn't for everyone but if you like it then there is no reason not to if you are a programmer (which I am). You don't have to go full in with a complete farm, just growing / rearing your food partly is a nice feeling. It also is, at least here in the EU, much cheaper if you don't go full in (and you wouldn't have to if you don't have to make money); everyone wants to live in cities (I feel left out as I hate them :), so the country is empty and land is cheap. As are houses (depending on the location). In a lot of countries you would not even need a house per se; just a container or caravan would suffice (if only I had known this when I was young).


Sounds great!

We also grow hops and apples.


I don't see why, for example, chickens couldn't be humanely farmed for not much more expense. If you let them wander about freely in a field, they will voluntarily go back to the coop at night. The current battery system, besides being awful for the animals, is very unhygienic with the chickens cramped together, pooping on each other. Consequently the chickens are given large amounts of antibiotic which encourages superbugs to develop. It's not good for public health, surely!


I'm not defending factory farming of chickens (I actually just adjusted our fencing to double the size of the chicken run), but the answer is: cost.

Chickens in modern factory farms are stacked deep. Each has < 1 ft^2, and their cages are stacked vertically perhaps 10 deep, so they get around 0.1 ft^2 of farm land each.

We have around 15 chickens in our flock. They share a 144 ft^2 coop and have a little chicken door that gives out onto a 400 ft^2 outdoor run.

That's ~550 ft^2 for 15 chickens, or 45 ft^2 per chicken.

That's 450 times as much space as a factory farmed chicken gets.

That costs money.


I understand that the space is the big thing, but that is the only additional cost. You may actually save on antibiotics and deaths to illnesses. I think you could maybe have your chickens slightly more dense than the example you mention. For example here in South Africa we have plenty of space, and I see vast warehouses go up.


Currently, the farmers are not paying for any of the externalities(1) of their operation, including harm to the environment from waste runoff, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and the overall health consequences of eating factory-farmed meat, which are still little understood.

This needs to change in order to make humane farming methods more viable, however, it is in direct conflict with the USDA's goals of reducing the price of food for consumers.

It's a tough problem to solve, but I've gotten to the point where I don't even know what meat to buy any more. So-called "grass fed beef" can be any beef, since all cows eat grass during at least part of their lives, even factory-farmed cows, and the rules are so lax that there is zero enforcement. This has to change.

1. a side effect or consequence of an industrial or commercial activity that affects other parties without this being reflected in the cost of the goods or services involved, such as the pollination of surrounding crops by bees kept for honey.


Chickens need to be protected from predators, need to be sheltered from the sun, need to be protected from the cold, need to be fed in a way that minimizes waste, need to be watered in the same way, etc.

Also, don't underestimate the cost of land. Even if it's just $5,000 per acre, if scheme one packs chickens in at factory farming levels, and scheme two packs them in the way I do (remember: 450 times less densely), then we need an additional 449 acres of land.

That's $2,245,000 in land costs.

Plus, how do you distribute food and water over those 450 acres?

Factory farming may be cruel, but it's not dumb. Farmers are smart micro-optimizers.


I'm just a grain farmer, but in the highly competitive agriculture world, fortunes are made and lost on seemingly small efficiencies. If the savings on antibiotics and deaths were actually greater than the alternative costs, someone would quickly exploit the gains, and everyone else would eventually be forced into that model to compete.

Which is the same reason why you see barns going up everywhere instead.


In the US, and for much of the developed world, you are touching upon a very messy, complex, inter-related mesh of issues, all revolving around land-as-an-asset. Throw in population pressure, how debt is used to acquire land by different economic actors, etc., and it gets...complicated. Basically, anytime someone says the cause of a set of ills is cost, and if you can tie it back in any way to land cost as an input cost, it will be a Gordian Knot-impenetrable intermingled mess of issues that prevents one from characterizing space as "the only additional cost".


Fantastic. I would love to do what you are doing. A long term goal of mine is to have a few acres in the UK, raising animals for meat in my spare time. 1. So I know I can give the animals an peaceful and happy life 2. The quality of well raised meat is many orders of magnitude tastier than the supermarket stuff imo.

Could you point me towards any resources that you found helpful when you were starting out? One of my concerns is long term storage of the meat. 3 pigs yield a massive amount of meat, even for a large family. Raising some pigs for beautiful meat, it would seem like a shame to lose some of the quality by freezing 90% of it.


No time to answer this now. Send me an email and I'll respond in detail. Email addr is in my original comment above.


Do you generally work 'normal' (9-5) hours? Do you have help on the farm or are you the primary caretaker? I'd not have thought of farming as low-time-commitment enough to be a hobby.


We have a 1,000 ft^2 greenhouse, a 3,000 ft^2 corn field, and a 3,000 ft^2 pumpkin patch.

We do not have 10 or 50 or 5000 acres of crops.

Basically, large gardens, not real farming.

That said, we ALSO delegate some chores to farm hands. I installed fencing the first year, then realized how stupid this was given comparative advantage. Now I code, code, code, and then get some extra work and code some more, and let farm hands do other work.


you seem concerned with animal welfare, or at least the minimization of suffering; how do you justify willfully killing animals (which undoubtedly creates suffering)?


Humane killing, I imagine?

Stun gun or that bolt hammer thing right to the brain, over in a flash as far as the animal is concerned.

Far more pleasant than the natural way - 6 of us chasing it round the prairie chucking spears.


Just because it's better than "the natural way" doesn't make it humane. How is the idea of humanely killing someone unnecessarily who wants to live not an oxymoron?


If you lead a pig to a trough and feed it something tasty, then bonk it on the head from behind with a sledge hammer, they're dead before they even know it.

I hope I get to go out that easy.


Yep, it seems perverse that we force humans to die in ways (e.g. chemotherapy on late-stage cancers, irreversible brain damage) that we would be horrified by if we inflicted them on animals.


There are ways to kill that minimize suffering. To counter your point, he only raised the animals to eat them, if he could not kill them they would never have existed. Is that superior?


Super cool! My family and I are also looking to buy a small farm and basically do the same thing, use it to provide good healthy food for our kids and hopefully at some point setup a program for other food conscious programmers and do a hackathon every couple months to improve on farming equipment.

Did you get a govt loan for your farm? If so did they require a certain amount of food to be sold or grown?


No, I bootstrapped into a farm by being lucky enough to have bought a small house in Arlington, MA just before it hugely gentrified.

I sold a 1,500 square foot house on 0.1 acres of land and traded laterally into a 5,000 square foot house on 56 acres of land.

I've worked in tech for 25 years and never hit a good IPO; I guess this is my one big karma win!


I'm not sure if they are still active, but this group was hacking together some cool stuff for the farm: opensourceecology.org


Also check out farmhack.org/tools


Curious what your thoughts on Joel Salatin + Polyface farms are? I've read a small handful of his books and found them enlightening - if a bit preachy. From the perspective of never really farming for profit and only volunteering / taking urban farm courses in college, his writing seems prophetical to me. Any thoughts?


I've read one or two of his books.

I'm tentatively a fan. I need to dig in deeper.


That second photo has me wondering... do you use the table saw for butchering? I only ever use hand tools (with the exception of the electric grinder), but I was under the impression that big meat saws are band saws rather than table saws... it seems it would make a huge mess!


Oh, no! Im just doing it NEAR the tablesaw. I do it all by hand with knives.


It would be one thing if someone sneaking into a factory farm and filming the operation were subject to the same penalties as someone sneaking into any other business, but due to the horrific nature of what goes on, laws have been passed that result in significantly harsher penalties for secretly obtaining footage of the farms.

We should all be able to see what goes on in our prisons, in our concentration camps (Gitmo, etc.), in our Zoos, schools, and factory farms... anywhere there are basic concerns about abuse of power and suffering.

The various industries that support secrecy in these systems (government, entrenched businesses, etc.) will fight to claim that secrecy is needed, mainly so that their practices will not be deemed atrocities.


I couldn't believe that there would be special laws for filming agriculture.. It seems I'm wrong. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ag-gag

Of note:

- prohibits "entering an animal or research facility to take pictures

- crates a "terrorist registry" for those convicted under the law

Fortunately it seems primarily only in the US and in a minority of states.


The animal ag lobby is strong here unfortunately.


The interesting thing, is that the laws are being passed by your elected officials, not a lobby group. Yes, I know the lobby groups bribe the lawmakers, but why do voters allow that to happen?

Why not take those lawmakers to task?

Voters don't seem to care, really.


If you read the Wikipedia link above the law was written by the lobbyists. It's up to the elected officials to take the time to write their own bill or they may simply work from the lobbyists draft.


> We should all be able to see what goes on in our prisons, in our concentration camps (Gitmo, etc.), in our Zoos, schools, and factory farms... anywhere there are basic concerns about abuse of power and suffering.

100% agreed. Of course, this is precisely why we aren't able to see what goes on in prisons and factory farms — the people in power know it would curtail what they're able to do.

That said, it's not like the conditions in prisons and factory farms (and Gitmo, and so on) are a mystery. We know they're horrible. I am legitimately not sure whether greater visibility would actually prompt the average consumer to care.


The intent isn't even close to being the same. The intent in industrial espionage is personal and/or corporate gain. The intent in exposing conditions in factory farms is to expose suffering and unsanitary conditions. Nobody taking videos in a farm are interested in stealing industrial secrets to build a competing farm.


Exactly. Also, how can we possibly want to eat something that the company producing it is going to great lengths to prevent us from watching how it's made? That's really creepy.


I grew up on a ranch.

Watched my dad slaughter cows, chickens, rabbits, goats... watched him put down old / injured horses, dogs, and cats. When I got old enough I helped.

Hardest time was killing and butchering a steer I had trained, and showed in 4H. I think I was like 12 at the time, but you work with an animal all summer... get it trained to follow you around and not pull on the halter... and then the reward is someone buys it to kill it. I ended up being vegetarian for a few years in high school after that.

Anyway my only point here was... nobody, and I mean nobody including the PETA activists, cares more about the animals than the ranchers who raised them. One time we were slaughtering a steer and the guy shooting the animal was a dumbass who shot the animal 3 times in the wrong places. Animal was angry, scared, hurt. Dad saw what was going on, jumped the fence as fast as he could, grabbed the gun from the guy, smacked him hard in the face with the gun handle, and then put the animal down as quickly as he could.

Dad then yelled at the hired man, using the harshest words I had ever heard at the time, and told him to get lost and never come back. Dad pulled out his wallet and threw some money on the ground to settled up with the man, then just turned his back on him. I'm pretty sure Dad broke the guy's nose, the amount of blood coming off his face was a pretty good indicator of how mad Dad was that he wouldn't show respect to the animal.

Similar time, we had been invited over to help a neighbor, and the neighbor's grown son was trying to put a steer down and mistakenly put bird shot in the shotgun instead of a slug -- Dad took the shotgun away from the man. Put the animal down quickly, and then Dad yelled at his neighbor (a man he had known for 20+ years) about what a dipshit his son was. We left and never talked to that neighbor again -- pretty harsh considering we only had about 5 neighbors within 20 miles of us.

Factory slaughter houses are different, but if you can buy meat from a local rancher who slaughtered the animal himself you can be fairly sure he did the job humanely.


If only all of this were unnecessary. Oh wait...


I think that fundamentally this is just a sign of people realizing that the meat industry can't ever be ethical. I'm expecting society to become maybe 50% vegetarian/vegan in the next couple of decades.


50% of the population being 100% vegetarian/vegan is bit much to ask, but I can certainly see 100% of the population being 50% vegetarian/vegan, i.e. eating 50% less meat and using 50% less animal products.


That's a good point actually. Yeah, that would be a big win but I also expect more people to be making the switch.


After seeing that Rolling Stone article on Smithfield Farms, I've cut back on my meat consumption.

The 'typical USA' diet of lots of meat for all three meals of the day doesn't seem sustainable to me. If we all cut back at least some, that will greatly reduce the environmental impact.


I think most people in this thread are new to animal rights theory.

This TED talk from Dr. Melanie Joy is a good introduction to Carnism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0VrZPBskpg


This video made me vegetarian eight months ago. Then I watched Cowspiracy. And then I started to read more about the meat industry.

There is no going back when you realise how fucked up this industry is. HN fellows, we are willing to make the world a better place, right? How about not taking part in one of the worst crimes in history?


That's about as effective as saying that Americans should stop working so they won't support US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lybia and Syria with their taxes.

In other words, it won't work until you give people a reasonable alternative (lab-grown meat, anyone?).


There's no literal need for a "reasonable alternative". We have plenty of other food options. I can fully appreciate that lab-grown meat is probably what will make a large-scale difference, but your analogy if not applicable. It's completely possible to opt out of animal agriculture in he US right now.


Not an alternative as you may imagine it, but thought you might be interested in it: https://www.huel.com/


I disagree. Meat CAN be ethical, and often is.


For some definition of ethical, maybe. I guess fundamentally my question to you is, why do you think that human life is worth more than animal life, because that is the foundation of our differences.


It's an interesting question because it informs where we draw arbitrary lines about what's ok to eat and what's not.

Honestly, and not to just be a smart-ass, but what are the acceptable life forms to eat? We've drawn the arbitrary line that "humans aren't ok to eat," but that's really about the only nearly-unanimous thing we can agree upon.

If we move the line further, to say, "no intelligent animals," then we're stuck defining what "intelligent" means, or how complex a nervous system needs to be before we classify it as intelligent.

Ok, we could say "no animals," but why do, say, sponges deserve protection that we don't extend to algae?

Don't get me wrong: I'm fully in favor of re-examining our modern diet and how other living organisms are included in that. It's just an interesting discussion when we move the line further than "no humans".


I think most animal rights advocates draw the line at sentience. If a being is capable of suffering, then this suffering needs to be justified. If an animal has their own desires, those desires should be taken into consideration.

Intelligence is not a justifiable metric, e.g. some individual humans are less intelligent than some animal species. Yet, we don't use those humans for our own interests.


Even that is a little contentious though, no? Even if we define sentience as the ability to feel pain (which is a bit of a simplification of sentience), the definition of pain seems fairly vague when talking about non-human animals.

AFAIK for certain groups of animals (one that comes to mind is sharks) it's very unlikely they feel anything approximating what we would call pain. Still, I imagine few advocates would say that eating shark meat is ethical behavior.

Certain animals could barely be said to do anything approximating feeling pain besides responding to external stimuli, which plants do as well.

It's a fascinating, complex topic though.


The topic of whether sharks feel pain is contested at best.


De gustibus non est disputandum.

Why do you prefer spinach to collard greens? Why do you like Van Gogh more than Matisse? Why do you eat fries more often than onion rings?

I can advance dozens of rationalizations as to why other people should share my opinion that human life is worth more than nonhuman animal life, but most of them will not find traction in any person not already at least slightly predisposed towards that opinion. The value of nonhuman animal life is very much like a religious belief.

If we deconstructed the differing opinions down to their foundations and really examined them, we would likely recoil away in existential horror. The truth is that life has no inherent, objective value at all. The universe is very large, and collides a lot of random atoms and molecules together, and will be entirely unaffected on a large scale whenever some of those random reaction products develop some self-reinforcing complexity.

The only value life has is that which we subjectively impart onto it. And summing up the opinions of 7 billion humans, I generally find that we tend to have a rather higher opinion of ourselves than of any other animal, and the other animals are ranked by some combination of cuteness, cleverness, market price, and deliciousness. But since that's all just subjective anyway, I could still tell the rest of the world to get bent, and just go by my own preferences.


Human life is worth more to us because we're humans. What's wrong or surprising about that? There are plenty of valid arguments for the humane treatment of animals, but don't sit there and pretend you value all animal life equally.


> you value all animal life equally.

Don't deal in absolutes. They don't have to be equally valuable for both of them to be valuable.


To be fair, you originally asked

> why do you think that human life is worth more than animal life

which was asking whether value(human life) > value(animal life), not whether value(animal life) = 0.


It's not surprising, considering our own bias, but that doesn't mean it's ethical to exploit them for our pleasure and convenience.

Your line of thought is the basis for most human atrocities ever committed; you see your own group (species, race, gender, class, nationality, etc.) as more valuable, so you dismiss their own interests in favour of your own.


This is very similar to the arguments people who discriminate against other people use based on factors like race, sex, skin color, sexual orientation, gender identification and others.

The point is that many humans have evolved to or desire to becoming more compassionate and inclusive over time, and this, the species difference, is one more barrier to cross. Instead of arguing about what will happen or what will never happen, humans will always continue to look at improving things. That's why even though we still have wars after thousands of years of civilization, we still want those to reduce and stop, and take actions that will help. It will take time to manifest changes in different spheres of discrimination and oppression, but as a species this is an inherent quality that takes us all forward.


It's not that simple. If the world consumes a million less pigs every year, that's not a million pigs that get to live happy, wild pig lives; it's a million pigs that will never exist, because we don't need to make them.

You could certainly make the argument that non-existence is preferable to the life of a present-day factory-farmed animal. I wouldn't contest that. But perhaps there is some value of ethical treatment for which "a few years of peaceful farm life followed by a painless death" is preferable to non-existence.


> But perhaps there is some value of ethical treatment for which "a few years of peaceful farm life followed by a painless death" is preferable to non-existence.

The thing is that the planet can't handle that many beings. You realize that farm animals are a worse contributor to global warming than all cars right?

> But perhaps there is some value of ethical treatment for which "a few years of peaceful farm life followed by a painless death" is preferable to non-existence.

Sure. Would you find this ethical if you replaced pigs with humans? Furthermore you are describing this idyllic, farm life which only a very small fraction of animals get to live. For the most part it's industrial farming. Do you know why? Farms can't scale. Industrial processes on the other hand, oh boy do they scale.


You are ignoring the fact that when you raise animals for profit, there will always be a conflict of interests between what you want and what the animals want.


Since I haven't seen this argument in the sibling comments: I've met a fellow vegetarian in Australia who still ate kangaroos, which are often killed for population control. Not everyone will agree that that's ethical, but it doesn't necessarily have to do with valuing human life more than animal life. I guess we'd see more of this if we'd let nature recover from human overdevelopment.


Disregarding what they say, 98% of humans live as if "human life is worth more than animal life".


tjic didn't say that human life is worth more than animal life. Are you projecting? All life is precious, but we are all still animals. We need food to survive. Almost all life consumes other life for survival. There is nothing more natural than eating.


>We need food to survive.

Non sequitur, food isn't synonymous with killing animals

>Almost all life consumes other life for survival

Appeal to popularity, almost all life does all sorts of things that we don't condone or have decided is suboptimal.

>There is nothing more natural than eating.

Non sequitur and naturalistic fallacy. Eating is natural but that doesn't imply killing and eating animals is natural. Even if both are, that isn't in and of itself a valid justification for that behaviour.


Those arguments could be applied to just about any behavior, including not eating meat. You're presupposing the need to justify eating meat, and then using generic arguments to dismantle specific statements without point. If you want to have a useful discussion, please provide an argument..


You shouldn't eat meat because its production causes animal suffering. It's pretty simple really.

I presuppose the need to justify just about everything actually. Your surprise at this approach kind of explains the gaping logical holes in your previous comments. Please though, continue with your "specific" statements, I'm enjoying this.

EDIT: mixed you up with the other commenter, disregard the last 3 sentences, sorry.


If animals are raised responsibly (free-range, good food) and killed unconscious, there's no suffering, no?


Yup this is true when defined narrowly enough, but impossible in practice. Plus you'd have to address the argument that cutting short a happy life is a moral harm.

If we were a society that was capable of doing this at scale, there would certainly be far less of a reason to be vegan, but I hesitate to say there would be no reason at all.


You shouldn't eat veggies because their production causes animal suffering. Ever hear of pesticide runoff?


plants -> livestock -> meat -> metabolic energy is less efficient than plants->metabolic energy. In the interest of minimizing suffering caused there is an obviously superior approach to providing our society with metabolic energy. Your move.


Nah, you've proved unwilling to entertain other viewpoints so I'll save my breath.


"Appeal to popularity, almost all life does all sorts of things that we don't condone or have decided is suboptimal."

Sure it does. But eating is not one of those things. And you're going to have to do a lot better than that to convince people that eating shouldn't be condoned or is suboptimal.

"Non sequitur and naturalistic fallacy."

No.

"Eating is natural but that doesn't imply killing and eating animals is natural."

No, but the fact that it naturally happens in nature does.

"Even if both are, that isn't in and of itself a valid justification for that behaviour."

You haven't given valid justification for why it's not justified.


(Warning vegan here).

The idea that eating meat is natural is one of the four main reasons people give (the 4n's: natural, nice, normal, necessary).

A few counters: It is also natural for animals to kill their own. We as humans have decided to rise above this "natural" existence. It is natural for animals to eat other animals. A balanced predator prey system is a healthy ecosystem. This is not what we humans are doing. We are raising a handful of species simply because meat tastes good. Sure there are some cases where humans must still hunt for survival and I take no issue there. But most of us have the resources to eat a plant based diet. Which is healthier for us and the environment.


If you value them as the same, you couldn't really support vegetarian diets either, as little furry mammals do die as a result of farming in general.

Granted maybe less death, but you are still obviously valuing the animals as lesser than humans, as you're saying it's ok if a few field mice or rabbits die so a human can eat a tofu sandwich.

Side note, if you truly believe carnivorous diets are barbaric, than you'd probably also have to kill all the carnivorous animals (especially considering many of them torture their prey, rather than quickly killing it).


Lol, did you just read some listicle like "10 top anti-vegan arguments" and you are just repeating them? Because these are rehashed arguments that you can easily find convincing counter-arguments for but I can tell you haven't done the research.

> If you value them as the same,

They don't have to be the same value for one to still be valuable.

> a few field mice or rabbits die so a human can eat a tofu sandwich.

This argument is silly. How many of these do you think die from grain production? How many animals in the world are slaughtered every year? Also the ethics are also fundamentally different.

> Side note, if you truly believe carnivorous diets are barbaric, than you'd probably also have to kill all the carnivorous animals

I thought that we as humans accepted the fact that we have something called 'morals' and therefore things like killing and rape are bad. I cannot impose human morals on animals but I can impose human morals on humans.


You implied, or rather asked, if the previous poster thinks humans > animals.

I replied from a standpoint of assuming you believe a human and an animal have the same value.

Thusly, one can only assume that you if you are against eating meat because the cow and a few field mice will die, you must also be against eating grain because a few field mice will die (and maybe a bird or two).

You certainly can (and we do) impose human morals on animals. We put down dangerous animals (rabies, mountain lions venturing into civilization). We even put down pets if they're deemed dangerous (pit bull bit the neighbor). We neuter our pets, even the "animal lovers" encourage this. We also taken it upon ourselves to kill wolves if there's too many of them and they're about to exterminate the deer.

So, to re-ask your question, what makes you more valuable than the dozens of field mice and birds that die so you can have your soybean sandwich?


> Side note, if you truly believe carnivorous diets are barbaric, than you'd probably also have to kill all the carnivorous animals (especially considering many of them torture their prey, rather than quickly killing it).

I don't understand your logic. If we can't stop all suffering in the world, we should participate and financially support it?

I assume you are against rape, and for this reason, you are not a rapist. The fact that some species mainly use rape as a reproductive strategy will convince you that raping is somehow ethical?

Regarding animals being accidentally killed in the harvesting of plant foods, do some research on veganic farming. We are moving in the right direction, your "all or nothing" argument is not very productive.


I've never spoken to anyone who actually believes eating animals in modern society is morally defensible.

They'll defend it in a very ad-hoc fashion, but almost no one's moral axioms coincide with the belief that eating other individuals is morally acceptable.

Do you believe it's ethical to unnecessarily kill another sentient individual?


How is cultured meat unethical? Sure, it's uneconomical at this point, but I'm not sure how it's unethical. You could even go so far as to culture your own cells, and eat meat derived from yourself. That would be somewhat unappealing to most people (at least with current cultural taboos and stigmas), but I'm not sure how that could be seen as unethical.


You need serums and growth media derived from animals. Not derived as in scraping a few cells with a spatula but as in grinding up foetuses into fetal calf serum, or the like. Synthetic media are nowhere near as cheap or effective, at least from what I remember working in biomed research a couple years back.


> Synthetic media are nowhere near as cheap or effective, at least from what I remember working in biomed research a couple years back.

That's an argument against the current capabilities of the technology, not against the concept itself. Given that I raised the possibility of eating your own cultured meat right after that, I think it's fairly obvious I'm not limiting the discussion to current technology (also since it's not economically feasible at the moment). But given cultured meat grown in a synthetic medium, are there ethical questions that I'm not accounting for? I can't think of any, so this may be a counter to the argument in the GP statement that "the meat industry can't ever be ethical."


Agreed, if there was a way to grow them on synthetic media then we can do away with just about all of the negative externalities of livestock farming.


>as in grinding up foetuses into fetal calf serum, or the like.

You must not be paying attention to how little we care about human fetuses.


I see your point, though probably not in the way you mean. So let's pay attention shall we? FCS and FBS are collected from slaughtered dairy cows once they have exhausted their productive lifespans and rendered into meat. Details:

>After slaughter and bleeding of the cow at an abattoir, the mother's uterus containing the calf fetus is removed during the evisceration process (removal of the mother's internal organs) and transferred to the blood collection room. (3). A needle is then inserted between the fetus's ribs directly into its heart and the blood is vacuumed into a sterile collection bag. This process is aimed at minimizing the risk of contamination of the serum with micro-organisms from the fetus and its environment. Only fetuses over the age of three months are used otherwise the heart is considered too small to puncture. (4)

>Once collected, the blood is allowed to clot at room temperature and the serum separated through a process known as refrigerated centrifugation.

>It remains questionable as to whether or not fetuses have already died from anoxia (deprivation of oxygen) prior to serum collection. Nevertheless, no anesthesia is given, despite their possible ability to experience pain and discomfort.

Gestation period for a cow is around 7 months. Drawing an analogy to studies of human sentience (I am not an expert though), this is proprtionally well past the 1st trimester point where foetuses can feel pain. To speak in your language, FCS and FBS are essentially sourced from blood sucked out of the hearts of late-stage unanaesthetized 2nd-3rd trimester abortions. In this light it is not very difficult to see why vegans such as myself still have reservations about cultured meat.


"So let's pay attention shall we?"

There's no way you're going to have a productive conversation if you're going to be a condescending ass like that.


I think that possibility went out the window as soon as he brought up abortion. I'm not here to change his mind in particular, I'm just here to win the argument.


Sorry you failed at that too...


Not all cultured meat is unethical or needs a regular supply of bovine calf serum and such. There was a recent crowdfunding campaign by SuperMeat [1] that focused on bringing cultured chicken meat to the market. It didn't reach the funding goals necessary to work on commercial production in about five years time though. With SuperMeat's method, a tiny painless biopsy would help in the creation of a few hundred tons of chicken meat.

There needs to be more work on such methods even if there are failures or if the initial costs seem higher.

[1]: http://supermeat.com


So the ethics of cultured meat are actually interesting. IIRC you still need some cells (stem cells?, not a biologist) to start a 'cultured meat' production and you cannot make these synthetically. As a result, you might scale to something like 1 slaughtered cow producing the amount of meat equal to 10,000 slaughtered cows which somewhat changes the question.


Even if it's true that you would need some cells from a cow to get started, there's no reason you have to kill that cow or treat it inhumanely.


They aren't like normal cells. IIRC you have to abort a late stage fetus to obtain them.


Please see my other comment about SuperMeat. Ventures like those don't need fetuses, don't need to kill an animal or don't even need an animal to suffer to get started. It sounds like fantasy, but we will get to these while at the same time companies are innovating by making plant based "meat" realistic, tasty and closer to the price of meat.


That shouldn't be a problem once we make sufficient progress in creating and growing iPSCs.


Since that hasn't happened in past decades, I'm curious what you think has suddenly changed.


That is extremely unlikely if current demographic trends continue, unless by "society" you mean wealthy whites and Indians.


Beef commands a premium if it is labeled “grass-fed” or “naturally raised,” but the Department of Agriculture withdrew oversight of those terms in January and no longer verifies such claims. Even in cases where the U.S.D.A. does certify labels, the rules can be slippery. The term “humanely raised,” for example, has no standard definition, and the U.S.D.A. does not conduct site visits to confirm enforcement for those approved to use the label.

In other words, the industry has been given the power to police itself. What could possible be wrong with that?

The USDA is supposed to be monitoring these guys, but is now working with them to make sure that no monitoring takes place.


What's really interesting is that slaughterhouses are major users of H1B visas.


Oh man, this sounds like a plot device in a horror movie.


Or an Upton Sinclair novel.


I guess there aren't enough Americans who are willing to do soul-crushing unskilled labour for minimum wage.


Slaughterhouse jobs correlate with increases in PTSD, domestic violence and violent crime. "Contracting out" the cognitive dissonance of causing suffering and misery has consequences to all involved.

https://www.google.com/search?q=slaughterhouse+workers+domes...


And RSI.

In the chicken processing plants near where I grew up, the workers were expendable. You're worked hard until you get injured and then discarded/fired/pushed out and replaced.


The "minimum wage" aspect is an artifact of the imported labor (and mostly the "soul crushing"; you can lower labor costs by cutting wages, or working conditions). There is a reason they decided to be called the Green Bay Packers, and it's not because the jobs were associated with poverty & soul-crushing.


Interesting. Just searched on dolstats for that employer (Murphy Brown) and found more details. Looks like most of the h1bs in this industry are from South American countries (Honduras etc) http://dolstats.com/search


Interesting! Do you know of an open data source for that information?



Perfect. Thank you.


Trust HN to find a way to make animal suffering all about their career prospects...


One of the negative effects of visa holders that are completely dependent on their employers is that working conditions don't matter as much. That's probably true in abattoirs as it is in coding shops.


What isn't as true in coding shops is the torture and killing of sentient creatures, which was the whole point of this article. I think my point about the fixation of certain elements of this forum on inappropriately narrow and pecuniary perspectives still stands given that the comment I responded to was one of the first posted.


Well, yes, that's the point. Bad working conditions, and H1-Bs that have to tolerate them or go home empty-handed, have worse consequences, at least morally, when making meat.


This can be put quite simply - ethics has several monetary costs that being unethical skips. That gets reflected in the prices consumers see. People are used to opting for cheaper things and don't get to know the hidden costs to others involved (human and non-human). As long as more people aren't willing to vote with their wallets (at the minimum) and also consider changing their habits and lifestyle (even gradually, if not overnight), there's not much hope for improvement.

Talking only about humans, without changes in habits, there's a lot more human suffering waiting in the future due to environmental issues, health issues, lack of food, lack of fresh water, etc. (many caused by or made worse by animal agriculture). As always, those will affect the poorer people disproportionately. Those who care about humans and are privileged enough to choose things in life could do a lot more, even if it's one habit a day that builds up over time.


With uBlock enabled some script that removed the semi-transparent white overlay doesn't get loaded, so the article presents as faded and hard to read.

I mention this to help people figure out what's going on, and let people that see it make an informed decision whether to visit, not to start a discussion on the merits of this practice.

Please, that discussion has been done to death. People have very strong convictions, strongly held, which is not a recipe for a useful discussion.


the article presents as faded and hard to read

There are many different ways to skin a cat, so to speak.

In my case I read NY Times without any Javascript, courtesy of Noscript. So in order to easily read, I simply needed to

   View
      Page Style
         No Style


Re: uBlock problem: you need to allow the nyt.com domain, then it works fine.


Or inspect element and delete the overlay. Same effort, less surrender.


I do not see this issue with default filter lists.


Well, I'm using uBlock Origin, but I haven't futzed with the default block lists from what I can remember. I'm not really sure the difference between the origin and non-origin versions, so maybe it's related to that? You're probably uniquely suited to answer that... ;)


I could finally reproduce, once in a while when I open the dev console, so there appear to be a timing issue. I added a filter in uBO's filters to deal with this.


Thanks for your good work!


A good place to start with transparency in the meat industry would be mandatory cancer warnings, like tobacco products are required to display:

http://who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/



Maybe I'm a psycho, but it's interesting how pity and empathy extend to all living beings for some (most?) people


My concern for animal welfare ends when it imposes any significant burden on human interests. Billions of people want cheap meat, so let's make sure they keep getting it.


How about climate change? Producing staggering quantities of meat is responsible for an awful lot of greenhouse gas emissions and uses a ton of fossil fuels.


That is certainly a human interest.


We could suck Earth dry with such attitude.


That has nothing to do with animal welfare, but is indeed a core human interest.




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