This little piggy went to McDonald’s…
Okay, on Monday I had a BLT for lunch.
But I’m only a couple of helpings of meat per month away from being a vegetarian.
Yes, I would miss the occasional chicken soup, the odd filet mignon, the yummy BLT.
But, while vegan is out of the realm of possibility, it would be pretty easy for me to go vegetarian (especially if I allowed myself a once in a blue moon fish exemption). I am, more or less, what one of my friends calls being a practitioner of at-home vegetarianism. About 99% of my meat consumption is when I’m out.
Which is not to say that, if I went full-out veggie, I wouldn’t miss those rare stops at McDonald’s.
So, even though I don’t tend to order anything porkish when I eat there, I was pleased to see the news - “applauded by the Humane Society of the United States” – that McDonald’s will require its pork suppliers to stop using pigskin-tight cages to confine pregnant sows.
"Confining pigs in gestation crates is arguably the cruelest practice in factory farming," said Josh Balk, spokesman for the Humane Society of the U.S. "These are iron maidens that are barely larger than the pigs' own bodies." (Source: Money/CNN.)
Well, iron maiden may not be quite the right analogy…
Anyway, now these not-so-little piggies will be able to, if not exactly free-range, then at least hang around in pig pens where they can socialize with their fellow pig beings. Given where their piglets will end up, I’m not so sure the camaraderie of the pen will make porcine life all that much more pleasant but, let’s face it, most animals that are part of the food supply wouldn’t exist at all if it weren’t for our desire to have them on our plates. And, thus, we must grapple with the Big Philosophical Question: is it better to have had some existence, even if it’s short term, entirely under the control of The Man, and subject to the death sentence, than never to have lived at all. (Oh, being a quasi-vegetarian is so darned difficult.)
Not surprisingly, the pork industry says that claims that the pen is mightier than the gestation cage are hogwash.
"Pens have some real problems," [Dave Warner, spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council] said. "Let's say you put ten pregnant sows in a pen. They get mean."
And that meanness, according to the pork-ers, translates into the pigs (fat) backbiting, and danger for factory farm workers. They’re also (pork) belly-aching that the the cost of switching to the pen will put some small farms out of business.
Further, they say that studies have shown that, whether it’s the pen or the gestation cage, the quality of life for the pigs is pretty much the same. And that, I guess, means nasty, brutish, and short. (Oh, wait, Hobbes was referring to humans, not pigs…)
The pork industry does, however, acknowledge that the perception is better if the sows get to do a little snuffling around, rather than do time in gestational jail cells.
Whether it’s perception or reality, McDonald’s does seem to have come down on the side of humanity, or, at minimum, perceptual humanity.
And that seems to be providing us with a tiny ray of sunshine on what was otherwise a fairly standard, i.e., fairly grim, news day.
But just having to think about how the critters we rely on to fill our lunch boxes actually live has made me regret, at least a bit, Monday’s BLT. Just not enough to make me go full-bore vegetarian. Not yet, anyway. Maybe the next article on chicken factories will get me there.