The moral cost of cheaper chicken
Francis Schaeffer, in Pollution and the Death of Man, wrote that “we should treat each thing with integrity because it is the way God has made it” (chapter 4, p. 54). He went on to write about trees:
“The tree in the field is to be treated with respect. It is not to be romanticized… When you drive the axe into the tree when you need firewood, you are not cutting down a person; you are cutting down a tree. But while we should not romanticize the tree, we must realize God made it and it deserves respect because He made it as a tree.”
So how do we treat a chicken with respect? Or a pig? Eat them, but also treat them in a way consistent with how God has made them.
Leslie Leyland Fields writes about The Grim Realities of Factory Farms in Christianity Today:
Factory farms, also known as CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations), contain half of the nation’s meat, egg, and dairy animal populations, operating on a scale inconceivable to previous generations of farmers. Sanderson Farms, the fourth largest chicken producer in the United States, annually processes 397 million chickens. Circle Four Farms in Utah annually raises more than 1 million hogs for slaughter. CAFOs are characterized by the following conditions:
Confinement: Animals are strictly confined to prevent any unwanted, energy-wasting movement. Chickens are kept in “battery cages” so small (50 square inches) that they cannot turn around or open their wings. Calves raised for veal are kept in “veal crates” that prevent turning around during their 16- to 18-week lives. During pregnancy, hogs are kept in “gestation crates” typically 2 feet wide. Just before birth, they are moved to “farrowing crates” that are equally small.
She continues with a description of drugs, unfit feed, and disease in these massive meat factories.
The motive behind having chickens spend their entire lives in a cage no larger than your dinner plate is simple: cheaper chicken. However, “cheaper chicken” is not a very strong moral argument.
Treating each part of creation with the respect it deserves, on the other hand, ought to be compelling to us as believers.
My personal moral decision on this has been to purchase cage free eggs and chickens when I can. I haven’t done anything about pork yet.
Grace and Peace