This is another thing I struggle with. If I had to kill an animal or bird to eat I would be a vegetarian. A lot more people would be. I'm not sure that most urban kids ever think of it any further than that meat comes from the grocery store.
We did butcher a hog here once, many years ago now. Never again. Paul McCartney has a video out called If slaughterhouses had glass walls everyone would be a vegetarian. It is ghastly. I became aware just how bad it has gotten due to a magazine called Orion, several years ago. Conditions in these houses of death have become much worse since the unions were broken, probably back in Reagan's era. Unless an inspector comes to the plant, which is known ahead of time, animals are pushed through hurriedly. If one isn't stunned properly there is no time to do it over. Throats are cut when they are kicking and screaming. Some are scalded alive to remove hair or feathers. Often workers are illegal immigrants who work in dangerous conditions for low pay.
The whole meat business in the USA is disgusting, except for the few who are raising animals the old way on pasture and are not being run through these big packing houses. These animals are treated humanely and not pumped full of concentrated feed, growth hormones and antibiotics. But we have become accustomed to relatively cheap meat. Buying it from these humane producers is significantly more expensive. Odd that doing things the old way, without concentrated feed and drugs, is now more costly. It takes significantly longer. It takes more land. It takes more work.
So in order to have our cheap meat animals and birds are raised in concentration camps under abysmal conditions, often tended by low-paid workers who abuse them during their pitiful lives. They are neither recognized as living, feeling creatures nor treated as such.
Just writing this makes me want to opt out and go back to being a vegetarian. One problem. My husband has no desire to give up meat. I was a vegetarian for 2-3 years, back 15-18 years ago, while my husband and son were not. I still had to deal with meat for them and after a while I gave up the hassle.
We have about 50 acres here. We could raise our own animals for food in a humane manner, but as I mentioned earlier, they would die of old age if we had to kill creatures that we have come to know. I know, this is absolutely cowardly. The best compromise I can come up with at present is to buy from the few producers who raise animals humanely.
Totally on the other side of the issue, I would not begrudge myself being the meal of some predatory animal. This is unlikely to happen in Iowa, so I guess I am pretty safe making that statement. I do wish that we had the choice of something like an air burial though when we die. This is where Buddhist monks who die in monasteries in the Himalayas are put out on ledges for the vultures. I definitely think we should have the choice to give back to nature in this way. I have buried my son, my mother and my father, and all of them were in caskets, inside of vaults. This strikes me not only as selfish and bizarre, but downright creepy. These were their wishes, which had to be honored. I will be cremated and ashes spread. On this, my husband is with me.
I still have seen enough to suspect that plants are sentient in their own way. I do hope they don't feel physical pain, but do they have some sort of psychological pain at being uprooted or cut? There is a book out there called The Secret Lives of Plants that I feel I must read. This makes the subject of vegetarianism somewhat dissatisfying as well, which is why I have opted for the more Native American or animistic view that life feeds on life and there really isn't a way around that, so the best one can do is to be very respectful and thankful at how you go about it. The amount of waste we have in this country is just overwhelming, and treating food animals or fruits and vegetables, and all natural resources, as existing solely for our needs and pleasure is a symptom of that. I have read that if the whole world were to come up to the level of usage and waste of we Americans it would take two more planet Earths to sustain us, which is downright shameful.
I saw a program on Bhutan the other day. Their national priorities are happiness and preservation of their natural world. If only Americans were so wise.