This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture

January-February 2012

Is there a way to stop animal suffering—and still enjoy that burger?

Marisa Baratta

Ilustration by Dave Donald

Yes, we must stop killing and eating animals.

Vegetarians give up meat for various reasons—out of compassion for animals, to be healthy or to be more environmentally friendly. And now vegetarianism is more accessible than ever, says David Alexander, Executive Director of the Toronto Vegetarian Association. “There’s simply no compelling reason,” he believes, “for vegetarians to embrace meat of any origin.”

When animals are treated like products, he says, who gets to decide what’s humane? Even our best intentions can become murky in the pursuit of cost-cutting, marketing, and making money. Take free-run eggs: some egg producers who use the free-run label don’t keep their chickens in battery cages, but still de-beak them and pump them full of antibiotics—making the eggs far removed from the higher-priced ethical product consumers think they’re buying. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to tell which companies are doing the bare minimum. “What’s a more realistic avenue for social change: putting our faith in the corporations that profit from animal slaughter to live up to consumer concerns, or putting our energy into building a movement that shows people how to stop the suffering altogether?” Alexander asks. “We believe it’s the latter.”

No, we must adopt an ethical approach to animal farming.

Mario Fiorucci, Co-President of The Healthy Butcher, is a vegetarian-turned-meat-eater. For him, it’s all about the practice of procuring ethical meat. And yes, he says, there is such a thing—and it actually parallels the principles of vegetarianism. Both, proponents argue, spare animals pain and unfair or inhumane treatment. The one difference, of course, is you get to eat the hamburger. For many who love chowing down, but hate being part of the corporate mystery chain, ethical meat shops are an appealing choice.

“The animals we sell have lived happy, healthy lives,” says Fiorucci. Like other ethical meat shops, the Healthy Butcher only sells meat from farms that are certified organic, which means the farmers follow strict federal guidelines that address everything from humane treatment and happy lives to good food. Fiorucci can tell customers the farmer, the location of that farm, the feed, the water source and the kill date of the meat they’re buying. Everything in the shop is labeled in detail. And, the farmers aren’t just suppliers—they’re trusted partners who don’t cut corners. In other words, ethical meat shops offer a place to ask questions and get real, truthful answers. “It is surprising,” Fiorucci admits, “how many butchers don’t feel the need to have this level of transparency.”

Show Comments