November 7, 2016

GUEST ROOM | Why I Eat Meat

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I am a fourth year veterinary student. This month, I’m rotating through Cornell’s Equine and Farm Animal Hospital, where I care for food animals like pigs, cattle, goats and even sheep. The approach is different from treating the family Labrador, but the goals are often the same — to quote part of the Veterinarian’s Oath, “the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering.” The apparent paradox is not lost on me. Though I’ll wake up at 2 a.m. and rush to the hospital for a cow with a uterine torsion, I have no qualms going to Five Guys for a burger at the end of the day. As veterinarians, we are the only health professionals who eat our patients.

I enjoy eating meat. Whether or not you choose to eat meat yourself, production animals are absolutely vital to the global economy, enhancing quality of life for billions of people. Aside from food and fiber, vaccines are often incubated in chicken eggs, and many common pharmaceuticals are derived from pigs or cattle. Practically every medical product used today was tested in animal models during its development. Animal-derived ingredients are in your electronics, your toothpaste, your cosmetics — in the modern world, it’s ubiquitous.

However, the end does not necessarily justify the means. So how do I — having dedicated my career to their welfare and the relief of their suffering — justify eating and using animals?

The United States is home to 90 million cattle and 70 million pigs. The vast majority of these animals are raised in production systems and slaughtered at maturity for food. However, a cow doesn’t know she will be slaughtered — she exists in the present, experiencing life as any other animal would. I’m no philosopher, but here’s my nod to Bentham’s utilitarianism: life is generally a positive experience for animals, as long as suffering is minimized. If we didn’t eat production animals, most of them simply wouldn’t exist, because breeding and raising them would not be economically feasible. If we didn’t eat them, tens of millions of lives wouldn’t be lived. However, this means the ethical system that allows us to slaughter animals hinges on our ability to provide them with a humane existence. That’s partly my job as a veterinarian, and it’s where this topic gets sticky.

On the emotionally charged subject of animal welfare, facts and misinformation can be frantically jumbled. The media is rife with allegations of animal abuse and the horrors of factory farming, but exemplary animal husbandry doesn’t make headlines. It’s easy to believe that inhumane practices are the norm; many of my colleagues came to vet school with this tragically skewed perception of the industry. But now, having spent countless hours evaluating patients in a variety of production animal facilities, we have the training and experience to know better. For example, cows at Cornell’s teaching dairy have deep sand beds, ample room to move around and socialize and even automatic back scratchers. Happy animals are productive animals, and productive animals make farmers money.

When stress does occur in production animals, it is not only a welfare concern, but also an economic one. Stress induces cortisol production, a hormone that reduces immunity, inhibits growth and shuts down non-essential functions like meat and milk production. Cornell research demonstrates that dairy cattle with lameness show a 20-liter average drop in milk production in the two weeks following their diagnosis. Heeding the obvious financial consequences of stress, animal husbandry research is largely focused on increasing animal comfort, spearheaded by animal welfare experts such as Temple Grandin.

Be careful not to apply anthropomorphic standards to animal husbandry. Activists often cite indoor confinement of dairy cows as an example of abuse, but studies show that when given a choice, cows often prefer to stay inside, where they can escape the elements and the irritation of biting flies. Farrowing crates for pigs are vilified in the media, but in free stalls, sows will routinely crush their piglets. Examples of misperceptions abound and are too numerous to debunk in one op ed. Animal welfare is a science, and in the eyes of this veterinary student, it has made leaps and bounds in recent decades. Our production animals are happier, healthier and more efficient than ever before.

As veterinarians, we are often reminded that what matters is not the length of an animal’s life, but its quality. In exchange for what they provide, we give production animals food, water, shelter and veterinary care — not to mention comfortable lives largely free from predation, parasitism and disease. So don’t feel guilty the next time you buy a pair of shoes, brush your teeth or chow down on a Five Guys burger. You helped sponsor an animal life. If you’re an animal lover like me, that’s a good thing.

Alexander Thomson graduated in 2013 and is currently a DVM candidate in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Comments may be sent to associate-editor@cornellsun.com. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.

17 thoughts on “GUEST ROOM | Why I Eat Meat

  1. A bullshit article. Yes, it expounds on the surface of animal used as meat. Beyond that nothing. As the world populations explode, billions of animals are slaughtered and hoarded in the most inhuman methods and ways.

    • Your comment doesn’t make a lot of sense, and you haven’t convinced me why you know more about animal welfare than a vet…

    • you ever seen a animal right douches face when you tell him you dont feel bad about eating animals becuase animals eat other animals?

      its like watching him see an anomaly.

      • Animal rights douche here! I am truly shocked and devastated to learn that other animals routinely eat each other. I honestly assumed that the natural world was a peaceful vegan empire until you blew my mind with this revelation. Thank you for opening my eyes to this bloodbath we call “life”.

        Just to be sure though: according to this logic, you wouldn’t mind being locked in a cage with a hungry lion, right? And you wouldn’t hold a grudge if onlookers ignored your screams of agony as you are mauled to death by a top predator? I mean, it’s only natural, after all.

  2. In the meantime, scientists already found out that animals have consciousness and feelings, they can form bonds of friendship and value their freedom as much as we value ours. It is still a mystery to me why so many people in the 21st century still insist in treating them as commodities. Keep in mind that 100 years ago people of colour were also treated as product. Here is an excerpt from the The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness (link below)
    “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”
    http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf

  3. It’s not really sponsoring an animal’s life, though, is it? It’s sponsoring the bringing into the world of an animal that would otherwise not have existed, and then sponsoring its brutal death at a very young age.

  4. Sponsoring a life? How good is that? Life expectancy of a broiler chicken, 6 to 8 weeks, life expectancy of an egg layer, approx 18 months, life expectancy of a pig, 6 months, life expectancy of beef cattle, 24 months, life expectancy of a milked cow , 4 to 5 years plus 4 or 5 calves killed or put back into the system depending on gender, motherhood denied and forcibly impregnated. You poor fool if you think this is OK. Humane slaughter is an oxymoron, it’s a bit like saying Temple Grandin cares for animals, she just cares about production.

  5. Pingback: Educate your non-farm cousins | Morning Ag Clips

  6. Veterinarians should be vegans, if they really claim to care for animals and are just not doing it for the money. I sure as hell wouldn’t issue this person a veterinary license.

    • Yea, we are totally just in it for the money…. Especially that whole $20,000 a year as an intern while working solid 80 hour work weeks, as we attempt to pay off our $200,000+ debt from vet school. Love hearing how “in it for the money” we are.

      • What else would you be doing it for? Your compassion for animals? If you have so much compassion for animals, why kill them for fun?

  7. Sows will crush their piglets if not in a gestation crate? How on earth have pigs survived? Why are they the most likely of all the domestic creatures to go feral and successfully reproduce? Maybe they build themselves crates? I don’t buy your reasoning for any of the species you mention since your facts on pigs are incorrect. Re; your belief that if in fact your meat production is humane, it’s fine. What about the issue of trust? Is it not the first step on the path to justification of all kinds of killing to believe it’s OK to hug a pig then put a bolt gun to it’s head? If you must eat meat, be honest about it and hunt your own…the deer understands the game. The pig you have cuddled in your humane meat production is being betrayed.

  8. I am a senior retired vegan vet who had been in small animal practice for over 30 years. You should be ashamed to call yourself a vet. Your reasoning may go down well with some others but not with me and please do not tell me I do not know anything about factory farm methods or climate change due to animal agriculture. I been too long on the industry . Please reconsider your options to remain a non vegan vet. Remember animals are sentient creatures. Maybe you should go for a course in telepathic animal communication. Then you will get to peep into their world and their feelings and their need to be free.

  9. Would you be quite so arrogantly smug if you were on the receiving end?

    Aliens for the Ethical Treatment of People – AETP
    52 mins ·

    I am a fourth year veterinary student on my home planet. This month, I’m rotating through Cloevierx’s Farm Hominine Hospital, where I care for food humans like women, men and even babies. The approach is different from treating the family pet human, but the goals are often the same — to quote part of the Intergalactic Veterinarian’s Oath, “the protection of human health and welfare, the prevention and relief of human suffering.” The apparent paradox is not lost on me. Though I’ll wake up at 2 a.m. and rush to the hospital for a human with a uterine torsion, I have no qualms going to Five Aliens for a humanburger at the end of the day.

    As veterinarians, we are the only health professionals who eat our patients.

    I enjoy eating human meat. Whether or not you choose to eat human yourself, production humans are absolutely vital to the intergalactic economy, enhancing quality of life for billions of aliens. Aside from food and fiber, vaccines are often derived from women’s ovulation, and many common pharmaceuticals are derived from men and babies. Practically every medical product used today was tested in human models during its development. Human-derived ingredients are in your electronics, your trosyltpaste, your cosmetics — in the modern galaxy, it’s ubiquitous.

    However, the end does not necessarily justify the means. So how do I — having dedicated my career to their welfare and the relief of their suffering — justify eating and using humans?

    The galaxy is home to a massive number of farm humans – over 90 googolplexian of them, to be exact. The vast majority of this human is raised in production systems and slaughtered at maturity for food. However, a woman doesn’t know she will be slaughtered — she exists in the past, present, and future, experiencing life as any other human would, as opposed to our alien species’ far advanced state of being in which space-time is a block universe where the past, present and future all exist together. I’m no philosopher, but here’s my nod to Buok’yhq’s utilitarianism: life is generally a positive experience for humans, as long as suffering is minimized. If we aliens didn’t eat production humans, most of them simply wouldn’t exist, because breeding and raising them would not be economically feasible. If we didn’t eat them, tens of millions of lives wouldn’t be lived. However, this means the ethical system that allows us to slaughter humans hinges on our ability to provide them with an aliane existence. That’s partly my job as a veterinarian, and it’s where this topic gets sticky.

    On the emotionally charged subject of human welfare, facts and misinformation can be frantically jumbled. The media is rife with allegations of human abuse and the horrors of factory farming, but exemplary human husbandry doesn’t make headlines. It’s easy to believe that inaliane practices are the norm; many of my colleagues came to vet school with this tragically skewed perception of the industry. But now, having spent countless hours evaluating patients in a variety of production human facilities, we have the training and experience to know better. For example, women at Cloevierx’s teaching humandairy have deep sand beds, ample room to move around and socialize and even automatic back scratchers. Happy humans are productive humans, and productive humans make farmers money.

    When stress does occur in production humans, it is not only a welfare concern, but also an economic one. Stress induces cortisol production, a hormone that reduces immunity, inhibits growth and shuts down non-essential functions like meat and breastmilk production. Cloevierx research demonstrates that women with lameness show a 20-liter average drop in breastmilk production in the two weeks following their diagnosis. Heeding the obvious financial consequences of stress, human husbandry research is largely focused on increasing human comfort, spearheaded by human welfare experts such as Trixxle Glaebin.

    Be careful not to apply alienthropomorphic standards to human husbandry. Activists often cite indoor confinement of breastmilk women as an example of abuse, but studies show that when given a choice, women often prefer to stay inside, where they can escape the elements and the irritation of biting feffyrks. Farrowing crates for breeding women are vilified in the media, but in free stalls, women will routinely crush their babies. Examples of misperceptions abound and are too numerous to debunk in one op ed. Human welfare is a science, and in the eyes of this veterinary student, it has made leaps and bounds in recent decades. Our planet’s production humans are happier, healthier and more efficient than ever before.

    As veterinarians, we are often reminded that what matters is not the length of a human’s life, but its quality. In exchange for what they provide, we give production humans food, water, shelter and veterinary care — not to mention comfortable lives largely free from predation, parasitism and disease. So don’t feel guilty the next time you buy a pair of human leather shoes, brush your teeth using human-derived ingredients, or chow down on a Five Aliens humanburger. You helped sponsor a human life. If you’re a human lover like me, that’s a good thing.

    Auqrywth Trozzehn graduated in 2013 and is currently a DVM candidate in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

  10. There are so many flaws in this article. Strange to think that any media organisation would discredit itself by publishing it.

    Thomson claims “…a cow doesn’t know she will be slaughtered — she exists in the present, experiencing life as any other animal would.” Does this mean that if you kill another human and they didn’t see it coming, then it’s ethical to take another life for your own purposes?

    This vet student / graduate / whatever, doesn’t appear to understand that technically he is an animal (biology 101, I would have thought). He seems to perceive himself as sitting above the animal kingdom.

    Thomson (not so humbly) states “…having dedicated my career to their welfare and the relief of their suffering…” Actually I think he’s made it abundantly clear that he’s really there for the economy and for those wishing to exploit animals.

    Thomson cautions readers with the old chestnut “Be careful not to apply anthropomorphic standards to animal husbandry.” Then he goes on to say “Our production animals are happier…” Hmmmm.

    It’s interesting that those who caution others against the perceived evil of anthropomorphism and try to wrap up any attempt to care for an animal as anthropomorphic, usually subscribe to the philosophy of anthropocentrism – a personality trait that seems to be necessary for those involved in the systematic exploitation of non-human animals.

    Thomson states “If we didn’t eat them, tens of millions of lives wouldn’t be lived.” No this is incorrect – in fact the opposite is true. If grain fed to these animals was instead distributed to starving people it would keep many more people alive and be much better for the planet.

    He uses a common approach to subtly try to discredit anyone without a science degree (and to discredit those with a science degree but with a different perspective to his), he hauls out the over-used but predictable line: “On the emotionally charged subject of animal welfare”. It might be more accurate (and still non-emotive to say “On the subject of jobs, industries and the general economy of animal exploitation”.

    In an attempt to justify institutionalised cruelty, Thomson states “Animal-derived ingredients are in your electronics, your toothpaste, your cosmetics — in the modern world, it’s ubiquitous.” So ‘ubiquity’ is the new standard for morality, ethics and science? On this basis, crime must be a good thing for the world then.

    In attempt to absolve himself from any perceptions of wrongdoing and subtly position himself with the worlds best known thinkers, he states “I’m no philosopher, but here’s my nod to Bentham’s utilitarianism…” Correct on one hand – Thomson, is no philosopher, however rather than Bentham’s utilitarianism (which is not a high standard to strive for) I see him as giving his nod to Hitler’s Nazism.

    It seems that the powerful interests that influence universities can cause students to become victims of systematic desensitisation and propaganda, and ultimately puppets – products of the industry. In turn these puppets brainwash the next generation. And so it continues.

  11. I am a fourth year veterinary student on my home planet. This month, I’m rotating through Cloevierx’s Farm Hominine Hospital, where I care for food humans like women, men and even babies. The approach is different from treating the family pet human, but the goals are often the same — to quote part of the Intergalactic Veterinarian’s Oath, “the protection of human health and welfare, the prevention and relief of human suffering.” The apparent paradox is not lost on me. Though I’ll wake up at 2 a.m. and rush to the hospital for a human with a uterine torsion, I have no qualms going to Five Aliens for a humanburger at the end of the day.
    As veterinarians, we are the only health professionals who eat our patients.
    I enjoy eating human meat. Whether or not you choose to eat human yourself, production humans are absolutely vital to the intergalactic economy, enhancing quality of life for billions of aliens. Aside from food and fiber, vaccines are often derived from women’s ovulation, and many common pharmaceuticals are derived from men and babies. Practically every medical product used today was tested in human models during its development. Human-derived ingredients are in your electronics, your trosyltpaste, your cosmetics — in the modern galaxy, it’s ubiquitous.
    However, the end does not necessarily justify the means. So how do I — having dedicated my career to their welfare and the relief of their suffering — justify eating and using humans?
    The galaxy is home to a massive number of farm humans – over 90 googolplexian of them, to be exact. The vast majority of this human is raised in production systems and slaughtered at maturity for food. However, a woman doesn’t know she will be slaughtered — she exists in the past, present, and future, experiencing life as any other human would, as opposed to our alien species’ far advanced state of being in which space-time is a block universe where the past, present and future all exist together. I’m no philosopher, but here’s my nod to Buok’yhq’s utilitarianism: life is generally a positive experience for humans, as long as suffering is minimized. If we aliens didn’t eat production humans, most of them simply wouldn’t exist, because breeding and raising them would not be economically feasible. If we didn’t eat them, tens of millions of lives wouldn’t be lived. However, this means the ethical system that allows us to slaughter humans hinges on our ability to provide them with an aliane existence. That’s partly my job as a veterinarian, and it’s where this topic gets sticky.
    On the emotionally charged subject of human welfare, facts and misinformation can be frantically jumbled. The media is rife with allegations of human abuse and the horrors of factory farming, but exemplary human husbandry doesn’t make headlines. It’s easy to believe that inaliane practices are the norm; many of my colleagues came to vet school with this tragically skewed perception of the industry. But now, having spent countless hours evaluating patients in a variety of production human facilities, we have the training and experience to know better. For example, women at Cloevierx’s teaching humandairy have deep sand beds, ample room to move around and socialize and even automatic back scratchers. Happy humans are productive humans, and productive humans make farmers money.
    When stress does occur in production humans, it is not only a welfare concern, but also an economic one. Stress induces cortisol production, a hormone that reduces immunity, inhibits growth and shuts down non-essential functions like meat and breastmilk production. Cloevierx research demonstrates that women with lameness show a 20-liter average drop in breastmilk production in the two weeks following their diagnosis. Heeding the obvious financial consequences of stress, human husbandry research is largely focused on increasing human comfort, spearheaded by human welfare experts such as Trixxle Glaebin.
    Be careful not to apply alienthropomorphic standards to human husbandry. Activists often cite indoor confinement of breastmilk women as an example of abuse, but studies show that when given a choice, women often prefer to stay inside, where they can escape the elements and the irritation of biting feffyrks. Farrowing crates for breeding women are vilified in the media, but in free stalls, women will routinely crush their babies. Examples of misperceptions abound and are too numerous to debunk in one op ed. Human welfare is a science, and in the eyes of this veterinary student, it has made leaps and bounds in recent decades. Our planet’s production humans are happier, healthier and more efficient than ever before.
    As veterinarians, we are often reminded that what matters is not the length of a human’s life, but its quality. In exchange for what they provide, we give production humans food, water, shelter and veterinary care — not to mention comfortable lives largely free from predation, parasitism and disease. So don’t feel guilty the next time you buy a pair of human leather shoes, brush your teeth using human-derived ingredients, or chow down on a Five Aliens humanburger. You helped sponsor a human life. If you’re a human lover like me, that’s a good thing.
    Auqrywth Trozzehn graduated in 2013 and is currently a DVM candidate in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

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