Can Meat Be Humanely Produced?

                        A Review of Hope Bohanec’s Book, “The Humane Hoax”

         Hope Botanec’s wonderful book, “The Humane Hoax: Exposing the Myth of Happy Meat , Humane Dairy, and Ethical Eggs,” which  exposes the many lies and misrepresentation of these industries, is essential reading today for many reasons.

     Most importantly, it is urgent that there be a societal shift toward vegan diets because there is very little, if any, chance to avert a climate catastrophe without a major shift toward animal-free diets. Two reasons: 

     First, cows and other ruminants emit methane, a greenhouse gas over 80 times. as potent per unit weight as CO2 in heating up the atmosphere. Second, and even more importantly, over 40% of the world’s ice-free land is used for grazing and growing feed crops for animals. Because of the huge decrease in carbon-sequencing trees – from six trillion to three trillion – atmospheric CO2 has risen to very dangerous levels, causing many severe climate effects.

      Climate experts are issuing dire warnings that the world may soon reach a tipping point when climate spins out of control with disastrous effects and there has been a major increase in the frequency and severity of climate events.

     In addition to their contribution to climate threats, animal-based diets and agriculture involve the massive mistreatment of animals, are major factors behind the current epidemic of life threatening diseases and the very inefficient use of land, energy sources, and water, and make future pandemics far more likely.

      Because of the great importance of shifts to animal-free diets, it is essential to counter arguments of those who find rationalizations to continue to eat meat, such as that they only eat animals that are humanely raised.

     The engaging and thought-provoking18 essays in Hope Botanec’s book effectively demolish such  arguments. She is superbly qualified to edit her book since she has been an animal protection and environmental activist for 30 years and is author of the acclaimed book, The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat? In addition, .she is the Executive Director of Compassionate Living, host of the Hope for the Animals Podcast, co-founder of the Humane Hoax Project, the Ahimsa Living Project, and  a worker for the national non-profits United Poultry Concerns and In Defense of Animals. Importantly, she has personally seen and documented the many examples of animal cruelty and marketing lies exposed in this book.

     The 18 essay authors feature leading, very knowledgeable vegan activists including Bohanec; Karen Davis, founder and president of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization promoting the respectful treatment of domestic fowl, and author of several books, including Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry and For the Birds: From Exploitation to Liberation; Sailesh Rao, founder and director of Climate Healers, an organization dedicated to reducing climate threats; Carol J. Adams, author of several books, including The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, and Never Too Late To Go Vegan: The Over-50 Guide o Adopting. And Thriving On a Vegan Diet; and Joanne. Kong,  author of If You’ve Ever Loved An Animal, Go Vegan and editor of Vegan Voices: Essays By Inspiring Changemakers.

       Botanec’s book counters the many marketing lies by convincingly showing that “humane “meat is far from humane, that it is not.healthier, and it is not better for the environment. In her introduction, Hope. Bohanec points out., “There are countless inherent cruelties that are ubiquitous in the production of meat, milk, and eggs –  no matter the label or the size of the farm.”   She very eloquently exposes the “the animal industry’s marketing efforts that employ euphemistic rhetoric conveying fraudulent narrative of the purported  ‘humane’ treatment and ‘sustainable’ management of farmed animal operations.

     Are “cage-free” chickens better off than those raised in battery cages where they are crammed into spaces so small that they can’t raise even one wing? Only slightly if at all. Male chicks are still killed at the egg laying hatcheries because they can’t lay eggs  and have.not been genetically programmed as the chickens. Bred for meat are to produce much flesh. Most chickens in cage-free egg facilities live  in miserable, filthy , overcrowded conditions in massive windowless buildings. Their throats and eyes still burn from the ammonia from their wastes that they are forced to live with.  they never feel the sun nor have their basic desires fulfilled, like satisfying dust baths. And they still go to a brutal death at a very young age, far younger than is natural. So the perception that. “cage free“ hens are significantly better off is a false one.

     The cost to the environment from “humane” meat is often greater than from conventionally produced meat. For example, cattle raised from eating grass contribute more climate-warming greenhouse gases than cattle kept in conventional “concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)” because they emit more methane when fed on grass than grain; it can take twice as long to reach profitable slaughter weight, so they live longer and therefore emit methane over a longer period of time; and, most importantly, they occupy more land that could otherwise be reforested or used to grow food for humans. Also, more cows would be needed, since grass-fed cattle are slaughtered at a lower weight and therefore feed less people, another factor increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

     Many  more examples are provided in the book about the negative effects on animals, the environment, and society in general from so-called humane, free-range,  cage free, grass-fed, organic, and other supposedly better approaches to raising animals.

     Among the many valuable conclusions in the book are the following:

*. For the animal-food industry to maintain an adequate profit margin, only minimum ‘improvements” are possible.

* Perpetuating the “humane hoax” is he only hope of the animal food companies for survival.

  • The animal-based industries treat animals as mere property, inanimate beings that exist only as means to human ends, no matter the size if the farm.
  • The “norm” for animals is  a culture of violence that begins with baby animals being dragged from their mother’s love and comfort to a life of incredible stress and misery, no matter the label.

* Animal agriculture, no matter how it is done, has a massive ecological footprint.

  • Killing an animal who doesn’t want to die can never be done humanely,

     The lack of improvements from “humane meat” is summarized by a statement by one of the essayists, Robert Grillo: “Many of the worst cruelties inflicted on animals on large industrial farms are also common practices on small. free=range farms. These include sexual violations and the. exploitation of reproductive systems, the destruction of motherhood and families, routine mutilation without anesthetic, denial of the most fundamental behaviors and preferences, and brutal transportation and slaughter conditions.”

      The arguments in the 18 essays are extremely well documented, with a total of 634 end notes, an average of 35 per essay.

       In summary, Bohanec’s book is truly a much needed wake-up call with the potential to be transformative, It is especially needed today because, as it points out,  a Sentience Institute 2017 report indicated that 75% of the people it surveyed assumed that the animal products they. purchased came from “animals that are treated humanely.”

     I strongly recommend the book because it has the potential to help shift 

our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path, leaving a habitable, healthy world for future generations, This is essential because there is no Planet B.

       Warning: reading Bohanec’s splendid book is likely to make you very angry, as it did me, when you recognize the extent the animal-based food corporations have gone to in order to mislead consumers so that they can continue to make huge profits from their very harmful products. But it is important to know the truth behind the labels and to turn your anger into action. Please live vegan. 

The Humane Hoax: Essays Exposing the Myths of Happy Meat, Humane Dairy, and Ethical Eggs

Hope Bohanec, editor

Lantern Publishing and Media

ISBN: 978-1=59056-688-6 (paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-59056-689-3 (epub)


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