The recent story on the Hawkesbury Valley Abattoir and allegations of animal cruelty brings up a deeper issue than whether the abattoir in question has violated animal cruelty laws. This is the question of whether we as a society have chosen to tolerate a certain level of cruelty to the animals we breed for consumption, a certain inevitable cruelty, in order to satisfy production demands.
There are several levels to this question, even if you believe that it is acceptable on an ethical basis to consume animal products (i.e. you do not believe it is unethical to kill an animal for human consumption), then you may choose to do so only on the basis that the animal is treated ethically and humanely. If this means that the animal is caused little or no pain during its handling and slaughter there is no question that in today’s market, this would severely restrict your choice of products to consume. The other choice is that you accept a level of inevitable cruelty as the most affordable and practical way of producing meat for human consumption. This has already been referred to in the media reports on the Hawkesbury Valley abattoir matter where industry representatives have been cited as saying that a lot of the footage is standard procedure and that often there is no choice for the mistreatment of animals (e.g. hitting pigs over the head with an iron bar was the only choice for restraining a pig who had escaped onto the killing room floor).
This is where the explanations are confused. There is a choice, it is just an expensive and for most people impractical choice, but there is a choice. The benefits about drawing attention to these issues is that it informs our choices as consumers. We can no longer live under the veil of ignorance and pretend to ourselves that the meat we consume has been produced ethically. Animals have been slaughtered, animals have been mistreated and have been in pain….what is your choice?