UPDATE: See the latest on our cruelty-free chicken co-operative and what we think of Hugh Fearning-Whittingstall’s Chicken Run series right here.
Some of you are asking what i mean by "Cruelty-Free", as in our Cruelty-Free Christmas Feast that we enjoyed a few days ago. I didnt want to post on this right before you started to bake your huge turkey – bad timing – but maybe now is more appropriate.
This is a post i wrote in 2005 which didnt get ANY attention:
There’s a lot of confusion about cruelty free diets, and most websites are not very helpful if you are not vegetarian or vegan. So | will briefly describe our understanding of a Biblical, ethical meat eating diet.
I told you at the beginning of the year about our commitment to a cruelty-free diet in a post called "Righteous Men and Meat", and that i had brought the subject up (perhaps unwisely) at a briefing for some Foundations who were asking about the Emerging Church. I also told you that last week I had a weak moment, a lapse of judgment, and am now back on track. But there is some confusion as to what it is we are doing. Maybe I am assuming that everyone knows more than they do. Here is the skinny on our cruelty free diet.
I believe God gave us care of the animals ("govern" is a better word than "dominion") and they, in return, give us food and clothing. We look after each other. It is a contract we have with the animals. under the eye of God. This is why Solomon can say "The righteous man cares for the needs of his animals" Proverbs 12:10
So the question for us is whether we are caring for the needs of the animals that we eat or not. In many cases, particularly in our highly industrialized world, the answer is clearly "NO!" The "acceptable" premature death rate for animals in intensive farming is outrageously high – up to 30% for poultry in intensive broiler houses and up to 15% for pigs. Thats not acceptable for our family. Neither are their living conditions, the food they eat, or their unnaturally rapid rate of growth due to growth stimulants.
"Intensive farming does provide large quantities of relatively cheap food – but often at a cost to the environment or animal welfare." (BBC for Schools – Intensive Farming VS. Organic Farming)
If you think this is a non-issue among the emerging generation – then its time to think again. Our kids are finding out what goes into a Chicken McNugget and they are not impressed. Mass-produced meat saves us a few bucks at the Golden Arches but the abuse of the animals that makes possible such a small price, at least for our family, is an ethical compromise. And we would rather pay more for meat, or eat less of it, and keep our consciences clear. So thats why we are taking care to find out the history of the animals we eat, and are buying from butchers rather than supermarkets, and have avoided buying "suspect" meat from fast food outlets all year. We used to take our family to either Burger King or MacDonalds about once a month. Now it is far less frequent than that and when we do go (only once this year). . . we don’t order the chicken.
"Christ of the Wilderness, hear our confession.
We are MacDonald’s, we confess our sin,
This is our temple, where we eat our fast feasts,
We are ready to enjoy a happy meal, but not to eat a meal of sadness for injustice.
HUNGRY GOD – HAVE MERCY ON US"
From a Grace church service mentioned in "Buffy the Backside Slayer"
Anyway – no judgment or snobbiness flowing out of our family to those who hold to a different ethical stance on their diet. And there are times when we go to eat at other peoples houses where we will "eat what is set before us" (Luke 10) I just wanted to explain where we are coming from, the ethics of our kitchen, and our take on how we are applying the Scriptures to our eating habits.
The Five Freedoms were drawn up by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, set up the UK government and are widely accepted as a standard of animal welfare. The Five Freedoms are:
1. Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
2. Freedom from discomfort – by providing a suitable environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
4. Freedom to express normal behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
5. Freedom from fear and distress – by ensuring conditions which avoid mental suffering. LINK
Further reading: Compassion in World Farming
A good book that really helped me was "Meat" by Hugh FW.
An earlier article i wrote about ethics, consumerism and the emerging church is called "Buffy The Backside Slayer"
Thanks for this post. My wife and I have made the financially painful switch to mostly organic foods this year (we’d rather our bank account hurt than animals or the earth), but also believe that it is ethically permissible to eat meat. We’ve been struggling with how to view our meat consumption in light of our desire to treat the earth and its inhabitants fairly and ethically. This post and it’s links are greatly appreciated!
These are good things that most people don’t equate with christian living. While there is a change throughout most of western society to really look at what goes into our mass-produced food (the success of the doc “super size me”), I think a good deal of younger Christians are starting to understand the church’s part of the redemption of this world, one of these being how we treat the animals that God has given us.
Andrew on Cruelty Free Diets
My friend Andrew has a great post (or, more precisely, a re-post) on the issue of cruelty-free diets, something Lisa and I are committed to for deeply spiritual reasons. Check out Andrew’s post.
good stuff andrew, now about that gingerbread waffle recipe….
hey andrew, I have been reading through the ‘meat’ book – its a fab read and has more than reinforced my desire to never buy meat from a supermarket again.
ps we are hoping to book a holiday near you neck of the woods for march this year – so we will have to pay you a visit I think 🙂
Andrew, people never read the old stuff, you were just way ahead of your time 😉 This is quite challenging, and I’m not sure how to broach it with the Mrs!
Grace To Ewe? Grace To You? What is really on your mind? Meat or MacArthur?
Mike, I am certain that if you apply the grammatical-historical method to ascertain carefully the true intent and meaning of my blog post, then you will find only one true interpretation, and you will recognize that the proper application of this blog post is binding on all generations.
Thanks for talking about this. We are slowly trying to switch over organic foods – its hard when there are no stores nearby that sell stuff other than organic versions of processed foods which I don’t want to eat anyway… We eat meat – just the free-range, antibiotic and hormone free variety. But when most evangelicals in America see cheapness and saving a buck as more spiritual than creation care – its a hard battle to fight.
We are part of a co op in Carlisle where we get our organic meat delivered to our door. Even thought the people who have the organic farm and treat their animals well are not Christians the animals they kill are Christians and we are ok with that.
happened upon your post and was happy to read it. i want to recommend a book my husband and i are reading right now called The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Pollan is very thorough relating alarming info about not only meat consumption but also processed foods, bio-diversity, “big organics”…
it’s difficult because there is so much to be aware of but wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world equated christians with care for creation, animals and our bodies?
But why not just give up meat altogether? Cruel or no, how do you justify causing death for your own personal tastes when people have discovered perfectly acceptable dietary alternatives that don’t require anything to get killed?
Pro Shape RX
Caught your post thru blogrush but I am glad I skipped around a bit…that meat book, really looks like one I would want to add to my library (I read the reviews at Amazon)
Hey, I’m so happy I found this site. I have recently stopped living in oblivion about how we get our meat at the supermarket. It breaks my heart to think of the mass reproduction of animals for the purpose of consumption with so much animal life wasted in the process. Every time a piece of meat goes bad at my house I feel awful. Not only has an animal been bred and given a terrible life only to painfully lose it, but here I am letting it go to waste. I think of all the grocery stores that throw meat away after it’s expiration and think “another wated life.” I have recently switched to vegetarionism, but I’m slowly fading meat out of my diet (just not that strong) but cannot find where cruelty free meats and other animal products (milk, cheese) can be purchased. I’ve been searching all over particularly because my husband will continue to eat meat and I would prefer that it was cruelty free. I live in California, any websites you can suggest to help me find cruelty free eating and grocery in my area? They had a Co op in Michigan where I lived before, but the best here is Trader Joes or Whole Foods, but I don’t think it’s guaranteed that the meat is cruelty free. Even free range animals can be cooped up in a cage and treated poorly.
Wow! Great read. Thanks for the info. Have you ever heard of the Calorie Shifting principle? You can lose 9lbs in 11 Days apparently. Check it out..