Let me start off by saying that this post isn’t meant to convert people to veganism or make some sort of statement about anyone choosing to eat meat. I had to get something off my chest and this is the way I’m doing it.
As part of my Vet Medicine course we have to do all sorts of work experience. Some I like, some I absolutely love, some I can’t wait to be over.
Being a vegetarian, many times the experiences that have to do with the meat industry are tough for me. And there are more than a few of those. There was one with rabbits last year that almost had me in tears. There are more to come that I will probably have an even harder time with.
Last week my group went to a pig farm as part of our animal welfare course. The professor in this course does a lot of research aimed at helping improve conditions for animals in the food industry. You could say she’s no better than anyone else helping this industry. In my opinion her role and similar ones are vital in a time when food production from animals has no end in sight.
She took us to a relatively small, family run pig farm. The family do everything themselves and cooperate with the university, let students do work experience there and were very nice to us.
As we walked in, the first thing we saw was a huge truck and piglets being loaded for transport. This, for me, was difficult. They weren’t being treated badly or thrown in or any of the horrors seen in some docos. But, as explained later, they were on their way to get fattened so they could be made into prosciutto. Damn.
After that we started the tour of the place and at the beginning I was pleasantly surprised. The pigs weren’t living in terrible conditions at all. Yes they weren’t out in green fields, but their pens were big enough and they had space to move around. There were no cuts or bruises or anything, just pigs in mud.
At this point I was thinking maybe it’s not that bad. Yes, a lot of pig farms have terrible conditions, but maybe it’s OK if you buy from a farm you know takes good care of its animals.
But then we went to the maternity area and this is where reality punched me in the stomach. Sows and babies are kept in small, cramped areas where they can’t move so mom doesn’t squash the babies by mistake. The babies run around but mom pig can only get up or lie down. Same with the insemination area which is just rows and rows of cramped spaces where sows can only stand or lie down waiting to be inseminated.
Plus the language surrounding the whole situation. They aren’t looked at as living animals but as producers. Basically the female is born, raised to a certain age, gets inseminated, pregnant, birth, weening, repeat. This goes on for about 2 years at which point her body is done and she is of no use anymore. You can guess the rest.
At this point the tour ended with a visit to the nursery and a massive migraine that felt like Negan’s bat had hit me over the head.
Like I said, for the most part this was actually OK, but the parts that weren’t OK were very depressing.
Mostly, the bad part was imagining the future of all these animals and the reason they were there.
In conclusion to this post I don’t really have a call to arms or anything clever to say. This was my experience and for me it was tough. For others it might not be. The people working at the farm do treat their animals well and they adhere to industry standards. But the industry standards are low and to me, that’s what we need to change, because if we’re honest – the meat industry is here to stay. In my perfect world, all animals would be free, but as long as they’re not, can’t we at least treat them well?
Tell me your thoughts, I’m sure you have some.