Sometimes I question how much I want to tell my children about the way we treat the creatures we use for food. How far do I go into the details of factory farming? Do I explain the terror these animals are born into and die in? Would they understand, or would I just be scarring them for life?
There is no doubt in my mind that animals have feelings. There are endless examples of animals showing love for their offspring, for other species and for their human companions. Most people would agree that animals feel pain, fear, and sadness. My own experiences as an animal guardian confirms to me that there is a depth of consciousness within every creature.
The Line Between Pets and “Food” Animals
For those animals designated as companions, all manners of luxuries are showered upon them. We love them like our children, and they return a love only an animal can give. But for those that are seen as food, another set of criteria are found to be acceptable. As the higher species, we have become responsible for their lives. And throughout the years, the concept that compassion should be a consideration has been left behind, and replaced by a series of lies told in order to make us feel a little bit better about doing something that otherwise might not feel quite right.
Most of us first learned the lies from our parents. The lie of the happy farm life. A reality that may have once been the norm, but which has long ago been replaced by an unnatural and overcrowded factory experience. The lie that those who run the factory farms are acting responsibly in providing a humane life. The lie that these creatures aren’t even intelligent enough to process their life experiences as good or bad. The lies that were told to us as children gained strength when those around us maintained the lies and passed them on to their own children.
What began as a parent’s desire to protect their children from upsetting images has grown to a very real ignorance of the farming practices of today. People are disconnected from the process of how our meat gets to the store, and so it is easy for them to ignore what they know intellectually is going on. That way they can avoid the feelings that would surely surface if they were forced to face the disturbing realities.
Sharing the Truth With Our Children
But in this attempt to “protect” our children, I fear that we are desensitizing them to their natural feelings of compassion. A child inherently feels sympathetic to animals for a reason. It’s only when we direct them otherwise that they question their instincts in favor of the adults instruction. We condone the disregarding of animal welfare, solidifying the concept that cruelties to other species is an acceptable practice, or that the kinds of mistreatment that exist in food production are a necessary part of the process. It’s not okay. Children know it, and we know it.
So what do you do?
Face the truth. Take a moment to learn for yourself what is really going. If you agree that changes need to happen, then the change can start with you. As consumers, we have the incredible power of choice. Rather than continuing to buy into the lies that our parents told us, we can set new standards. With the incredible variety of plant-based alternatives to virtually every animal product on the market, we can start moving towards a more compassionate future for our children.
For me, it’s also important to end the lie. Just like having the “sex talk” there are ways to introduce delicate subjects without lying. And while children don’t always listen to what their parents say, they certainly watch what we do.It’s never too late to change. To re-evaluate. To look inside and make sure you are ok with what you are doing, and more importantly what you are allowing to be done. There is no shame in messing up.
Lead image source: Giang Hồ Thị Hoàng/Flickr