Say What?

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

In earlier societies, humans raised animals with enough room to move and live a relatively natural life. Today, this is not the case. Factory farms, in the pursuit of efficiency, profit, and economically competitive products, raise animals in horrible conditions. Carnegie Mellon University, like most American businesses, uses factory-farmed meat, eggs, and dairy products. This money could be used to support alternatives to factory farming, such as Certified Humane farms, which may be able to provide animals with a much higher quality of life.

Factory-farmed animals are often kept in cramped and filthy conditions for their entire lives. They get very little medical care and undergo mutilation without anesthesia. Slaughterhouses often do not properly render the animals unconscious before cutting their throats, boiling them, or cutting them apart.

For example, chickens are raised in stacked “battery cages” with four to seven chickens packed in a cage scarcely big enough for one chicken to flap its wings. In order to keep chickens from pecking each other to death, their beaks are seared off without anesthesia. Feces from higher cages are allowed to fall to lower cages. Disease is rampant. They are given growth hormones, antibiotics, and other “additives” without regard to their (or our) health.

On the other hand, in Certified Humane facilities, cage-free chickens are raised in warehouses, not in cages, and they are given room to nest, dust-bathe, scratch, and perch. Certified Humane seems to be a promising way to start improving animal conditions, although at the same time it is not an endpoint.

Is there any reason why billions of animals should be forced to endure lives of confinement, denial of natural instincts, and suffering? Animals may think differently than humans, but they are both conscious and aware. They dislike pain and confinement. Is a human’s right to not be abused based on his or her intelligence or ability to think? Brain-damaged or comatose humans still deserve to be treated decently, and abusing them is still immoral and illegal. The abuses of factory farming are justified by saying that we’re “saving money,” but in raising animals, part of the cost entailed is in treating them decently. Factory farming tries to cut corners that should not be cut.

The European Union has resolved to phase out battery cages for chickens by 2012. Until the U.S. follows its lead, we can support more ethical farming practices with our money and clearly tell the American animal agriculture industry what we want. The Humane Society reports that over 80 universities have implemented “a more humane policy” for their eggs. With support from the student body, Carnegie Mellon could join them. Additionally, a cheap and immediate way of decreasing animal abuse is to reduce the amount of meat and eggs our school serves — even a percent or two less meat on the menu could make a big difference over time.

Dining Services is discussing Certified Humane eggs. However, change doesn’t happen if no one is willing to help make it happen, if everyone lets someone else sort it out. Students have to step up and work for change, for that is the first step, and change must be ongoing. Carnegie Mellon considers itself a leading university. However, this is only the truth insofar as each of our actions leads us forward, and it is only meaningful if we are moving toward worthy goals.