Killing Me Softly

In my years as a non-judgemental vegetarian, and more recently vegan, I have often heard people voluntarily defend their right to eat meat. The most common quote being: “But farmed animals are slaughtered humanely”.

For some reason this statement has always completely and utterly baffled me.

How can the words ‘humane’ and ‘slaughter’ ever be used in the same sentence?

Do people really believe that animals ‘give’ their lives to become someone’s dinner? If they do, then perhaps they would not mind visiting a slaughterhouse and taking their kids along too, for a fun and educational family day out.

Perhaps they would be able to stomach the sight of the struggling, terrified animal being forced along the chute towards his death, with the blood of his friend trickling past his feet and the smell of fear and death in his nostrils.  Perhaps they wouldn’t mind sharing a ride with the other animals on the filthy, overcrowded slaughter truck. “All aboard the slaughter truck! Such a happy place!”

There is a very good reason why, in most cases, you cannot get permission to watch the slaughter process. It would completely destroy your image of happy farm animals receiving a quick and painless death and might interfere with the enjoyment of your next meal.

But I digress. I do NOT believe that meat eaters are bad people. I used to be one myself and my own family eats meat and I love them dearly. But would they still eat meat if they had been forced to watch the killing, let alone carry it out themselves? I know for a fact that many couldn’t. So why are we happy to pay other people to do the dirty work for us? Doesn’t this mean we are condoning animal suffering? Supporting it? And for what? Something that we happen to like the taste of?

We all accept that animals are capable of pain, fear and suffering. Why else would we happily pay the huge vet bills that come with having companion animals? Why, then, do we choose to pamper some animals while turning a blind eye to the suffering of the animals destined for our dinner plate?

When faced with this question I have often heard the reply, “But farm animals are bred for that purpose and don’t know any better”. Imagine breeding dogs for food and attempting to use the same logic.

In New Zealand alone we slaughter around 318,000 animals EVERY SINGLE DAY.

That’s not counting fish and the three million day-old male chicks we mince alive every year simply because they were born the wrong sex and cannot produce eggs. If we were caught mincing alive a day-old puppy or kitten we would be prosecuted! And rightfully so! But for farmers it seems there is a different set of rules.

It’s all too easy to forget that the neatly packaged, cellophane-wrapped chicken breast from the supermarket was ever part of a living, breathing animal. In New Zealand alone we slaughter nearly 90 million broilers (meat chickens) every single year. That’s a big chicken habit!

“Next” by Jackson Thilenius.

The fact is that humans don’t need meat for good health and we choose to eat animals predominantly because we like the taste of them.

I know there will be hunters and hobby farmers reading this who will no doubt defend their choice to kill animals for food, using the logic that the animals lead a happy life and were slaughtered ‘humanely’.

But if killing animals is a choice, aren’t we forgetting someone?

The only truly cruelty-free option is to go vegan, or start by going meat-free. Check out our 30 day Go Veg challenge to find just how tasty it can be.

Laura Gentle

National Volunteer Coordinator


15 Comments Add yours

  1. Ailsa says:

    Stop this horrible act it’s Discusting

  2. Tony says:

    Well said Laura, I couldn’t have put it any better myself.

  3. Bella Rae says:

    While I do agree with the sentiments in this article, most of the people I know who eat “humanely killed meat” DON’T buy their meat from the supermarket – the meat they eat is not slaughtered at the freezing works, it is home-kill. This means the animal is killed quickly in its home environment, not trucked off somewhere. It dies peacefully, without stress. While I accept that to some people that is still cruel, it is a lot less cruel than store-bought meat, and the kindest way of eating meat that there is.
    I am working on becoming vegetarian, with a goal to be vegan eventually, but it is very hard!

  4. Hayden b says:

    Hard to argue with that. Well said!

    I often think of the hypocrisy, imagine if instead of animals, they killed humans in abattoirs. If children were taken advantage of and treated in the same manner, how would that reflect on our “humanity”? I can’t help but draw similarities to the holocaust. Our apparent darkness chapter in history has roots in every NZ town, killing at repugnant proportions. Taste is a poor excuse for such actions.
    With great power comes great responsibility. Sadly humans are self serving and short sited. I’m sure if the shoe was on the other foot they would appeal to their captors moral conscious.

  5. Hayden b says:


    I often think of the hypocrisy, imagine if instead of animals, they killed humans in abattoirs. If children were taken advantage of and treated in the same manner, how would that reflect on our “humanity”? I can’t help but draw parallels to the holocaust. Our apparent darkest chapter in history has roots in every NZ town, killing at repugnant proportions. Taste is a poor excuse for such actions.
    With great power comes great responsibility. Sadly humans are self serving and short sited. I’m sure if the shoe was on the other foot they would appeal to their captors moral conscious.

  6. Fee says:

    What you say is perfectly correct, most meat eaters have no idea, and don’t want to know, the “process” that happens to chicken breast or beef fillet as they reach into the market shelf to get that cellophane-wrapped packet. But, if we keep educating, it will change. Besides – it’s unsustainable and the world is having to wake up to that fact.
    What I find encouraging is that more and more people are adopting meat free days. Even just one day a week is a step in the right direction.

  7. Ross says:

    Firstly I am a supporter of S.A.F.E and the work you are doing. I am disgusted with my own race at times, with the treatment of animals.
    ALL animals eat other life forms to survive, we call it “humane” because, of all of the animals on earth, man has the cognitive ability to empathise with the pain he is inflicting upon the animal he is eating to survive. I think this should be as minimal as possible for the animal.

    I’m an omnivore and have watched a home kill, because I felt that, if I am going to eat meat, it is important to see its journey. We have no understanding of any other animals ability to comprehend their fate, only our own capacity for imagining ourselves in that position. For all we know, plants share an equal degree of anguish in their death.

  8. Emily McDonald says:

    Great article. You have articulated my thoughts exactly. It’s infuriating how we vegetarians still face such prejudice
    It’s all about money, but alas violence is so engrained in the human psyche

  9. Gerald Midgley says:

    You ask the question, “But would they still eat meat if they had been forced to watch the killing, let alone carry it out themselves?” I can give an answer to this, but as a fellow vegetarian, I was a little challenged by the answer. Research in the UK (unfortunately I can no longer remember the reference) took classes of 16-18 year old school students to a slaughterhouse and then followed them up. 20% became vegetarian or vegan through the experience. I expected it to be a lot higher. Unfortunately, there seems to be a substantial portion of the population that simply doesn’t care about what we see as horrific. Perhaps they are so hierarchical in their classifications of animals (humans as legitimately exploiting ‘lower’ animals) that they can’t feel there is a problem. Or perhaps they just don’t identify with other sentient beings in the way that (I hope) they do with humans. This leaves me rather disturbed, wondering if we can ever move to a situation where we are a majority.

    1. Kathryn says:

      When I was 13 (back in 1992) my step Dad decided to take us kids to the Tomoana freezing works during the school holidays. He must have thought it would be educational or interesting or something, Im not sure, but he took 5 of us between the ages of 9 and 15. We were taken on a tour through the place and saw what happened to sheep, cows and pigs. We saw the animals killed, pulled to pieces on production lines, strung up, skulls cracked open, bits of bodies divided up and packaged to be sent off off shore. I felt sick and terrified the entire time and was told off for crying. I have never forgotten the smell and the feeling of fear and sadness inside that building. We were told that the animals didn’t feel any pain as they had their throats slit or had a bolt shot into their brains because they were kindly stunned with electricity first. But standing there seeing a pig enclosed in a cage, and having what looked like electroshock therapy through a pair of headphones before being shot with the bolt gun did not look pain free. I will never forget it. No one else seemed bothered by what they were seeing. And then when we got outside the others went straight over to pet the bobby calves waiting in pens as though the connection between what we had just seen and where these animals were headed had simply not been made by them.
      Anyway, what I meant to say was that of the 5 of us kids who went through that same experience of seeing exactly what happens, I am the only one who became a vegetarian. The moment we left that place I barely ate meat again and became a committed vegetarian at age 21. But the others who went through with me still give me a hard time about not eating meat. So why weren’t they affected like me? I have no idea.

  10. Phil Walker says:

    This article is very concise and clear. The whole concept of ‘human slaughter’ is an oxymoron. No living being wants to die so shouldn’t have to unless in enduring pain to make death a better option. Bella Rae you mention home kill but sorry that is still as wrong although not as painful. To kill a sentient being is the ultimate act of cruelty regardless of how quickly or humanely it is done. If you extrapolate to a human no one would think it to be maybe okay for an innocent human to be murdered in one way rather than another. It is the act of murder itself which is morally incorrect.

    1. Bella Rae says:

      Phil Walker – you are right, home kill is still wrong. I would have strongly disagreed with you just six months ago – I was a staunch meat-eater then. As my father used to be a butcher I used to assist him doing home kills for ourselves and others – and I still happily ate the meat – that’s what animals were for, after all – eating. Now I am very glad to say that my perception has changed radically. While my father (including husband and children) still eat meat, I am now 90% vegetarian, and I have a goal to be completely vegan within a year – my biggest challenge will be cheese.
      Personally, I don’t think watching an animal be killed for meat is going to turn anyone vegetarian – unless it was their pet, or they actually had no idea that animals had to be killed for them to eat meat (and these people do exist). It takes a complete turn-around in attitude, the recognition that killing animals for food is wrong and unnecessary. And for me, this epiphany came completely out of the blue one day, while I was having a conversation with a vegetarian friend. I hope others will also come to realise the same thing that I have. And if it’s possible for me – a butchers daughter, staunch meat-eater – it’s possible for anyone!

  11. I’m 78 and regret being a meat “addict.” I hate the thought of the agonies of all the animals that have had to suffer in order to indulge my dietary and clothing “habits” (think leather and furs). Lately I’ve reached the inescapable conclusion that anything that moves (even a plant) is demonstrating a relationship to a universal life force, often perceiving realities that we cannot access. How can we justify our contention that other creatures’ feelings are irrelevant? I recently played hide-and-seek with a very clever spider and became so aware of its dynamic consciousness that I got rid of the spray I’d regularly used to kill its brothers! I’m aware of the justification that is often put forward to excuse our exploitation of other creatures, that this is simply being part of life’s pattern, and every creature is dependent in some way upon obtaining nutrition from others. But I still agonize over the rationale we put forward – that we do millions of animals a favor, since they would not exist if we didn’t “farm” them! Can we find the strength to halt their breeding programs and treat the few beef animals remaining as pets? Being 78 – and finding that I’m often excused from routine duties and expectations – it is easy for me to say that it is now too late to change anything. The new awareness of a universal life force, however, makes me think such a response seem inadequate. If in death our perceptions are broadened to better integrate us and our individual qualities within the larger ‘spiritual’ reality, I can only guess fearfully at the nature of the new roles I might find myself being fit to perform.

  12. Hazel says:

    Hmmm, if your comments were true how is it video is still being released showing barbaric slaughter in these modern day plants? These workers might be being filmed but what does that matter if no-one is reporting these barbaric events and releasing the video? So what does that say about these inspectors? Either they’re not checking the video or they’re just not doing anything about it? No faith what so ever in our animal industry while it is all so secret and behind closed doors. It shouldn’t be up to animal “activists” to raise the alarm, the industry should be doing that itself.

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