Concerns around the treatment and use of farm animals has been steadily growing in the last two decades, partly due to the Internet and the growth of social media, which has empowered courageous activists to shine a spotlight on the dark realities of animal agriculture. In addition, increasing awareness about the environmental impact of factory farming, as well as health concerns surrounding the consumption of meat, dairy and eggs is leading consumers to seek better alternatives.
This growing concern for better treatment of farm animals and more sustainable and healthy animal products has inspired a shift in the way farmed animals are being raised, labeled, and presented to consumers. Small-scale organic farms are the latest trend; local is the new black, and various methods of “alternative” animal farming with feel-good labels are all the rage. It is now fashionable to buy products with labels like “cage-free,” “animal welfare approved,” “humane,” and “organic,” but is this fad really the answer to the plentiful problems of raising animals for food? What do the labels really mean? Are these new products actually ethical? Environmentally friendly? Sustainable?
An important and timely new book called “The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat?” (by Hope Bohanec, a long-time animal and environmental activist) draws upon peer-reviewed research, worker and rescuer testimony, and meeting the farmed animals themselves to answer these questions.
The book does a great job of taking a critical look into the so-called “sustainable” and “humane” alternatives to factory farming and how language is used to manipulate consumers’ perceptions about sustainability, humane treatment, and what is truly healthy. For example, Hope writes:
“As a society we tend to consider the lesser infraction of animal cruelty to be a much greater moral wrong than the greater transgression of killing, and somehow find it acceptable to condone the killing of animals that are marketed as “humanely” raised. Labeling killing ‘humane’ is as contradictory as calling the lifeless remains “happy”. In addition, the book illustrates how shifting to a diet with local animal products has the potential to increase the damage to biodiversity, as more communities’ open spaces would be required for free-ranging animals to meet our society’s demand for animal-derived foods.”
The book is not only well-researched, but also provides a heart-felt and honest look into the realities of the business of animal farming and the failure of misleading buzzwords that are largely designed to maximize profit.
The Ultimate Betrayal is a must-read for anyone that’s trying to be more conscious about their food choices.
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