Moving to a humane/ethical diet

So my wife recently got on this kick where she’s been looking into slaughtering practices and animal living conditions, as well as animal testing and whatnot. Needless to say it’s all pretty appalling, and we’ve decided to make better decisions about the meat, eggs, etc. that we buy. At the same time we’re also trying to choose household/cosmetic products from companies that don’t engage in animal testing (it’s amazing how many companies do!).

Anyone else done this sort of thing? It feels to me like we’re one step away from vegetarianism… but how hard is it to find products that fit our criteria? In terms of food I suspect it’ll be fairly difficult; it’s not just a matter of buying organic meats, eggs, dairy, etc. but also finding specific products that raise and slaughter animals in a humane way.

The local farmer’s market is a great place to start. You have to look into it still, of course, but most people there are organic farmers who do the right things.

Do you have an iPhone? I heard one of my hippy friends mention the “Be Nice to Bunnies” app, which pulls from PETA’s database of cruelty free companies. No idea if it’ll help you on the food side, but it could be a big aid in choosing things like cosmetics and shoes. Without the app you can just search the database on the web.

On the food side, since you’re still planning to eat meat I think PETA might be too hardcore a resource for you. From a quick search, it looks like the buzzword to use to identify what you’re going for is “humane omnivore.” This article seems to give a good overview of how to do it, and it has a bunch of links to other resources to help you make choices to support your goals.

If it’s possible, finding a local (small-scale) farm where you can meet the people who run it and see their operation is the best way to do this. A farmer’s market is a good place to start.

My guess is the biggest problems will come from sourcing meat. I know there are some people here who order free-range grass-fed beef on-line, so maybe one of them will pop up and you can look into their sources to ensure they’re humane. Chickens are easier to raise than you might expect, so there’s probably more small scale egg / chicken farms in your area than you’d think. I don’t know how to locate them though.

There is a good chance that people in the farmer’s market belong to a local farmer’s association, or something like that, so be sure to ask them even if they don’t sell the products you’re looking for (ask a veggie guy about meat, eggs, etc if there’s no meat guy).

Nah, no iPhone, but we are going by the PETA list of cruelty-free products – works well enough for non-foodstuffs, but the challenge is actually to find all of the stuff we need/use. Almost everything seems to be in one way or another related to a company that tests on animals (i.e. while one branch of, say Procter & Gamble, doesn’t test on animals, another does…)

Thanks for that link; I’ll check it out. I have thought about the farmer’s market and will probably check it out – we have a pretty tiny one here in town, but it’s closer than the organic shop.

I did find a farm that’s somewhat local (~200km away) that sells its products at the organic market here. They seem great, and who knows… might actually head down there sometime to check things out.

It’s strange that I’ve always looked past the crap that goes on, just so I can eat some cheap chicken or whatever. Now I’m actually somewhat excited about the prospect of “doing my part.”

There are some products in a regular supermarket that are reasonable as well. The US has a Certified Humane label on some products. The label seems to be given by a non-profit, rather than the FDA, so I expect it isn’t total bullshit (the way the FDA’s “organic” label is).

It doesn’t sound like the non-profit operates in Canada, but maybe some of their products are available to you. There’s a list of all their suppliers, so you could track some down and ask them about availability (many are located in the NE US). There’s only one Canadian supplier on that list, but maybe you could start your search there (duBreton Natural Pork).

Edit: since my grasp of Canadian Geography is shit, I’ll note that there are a few in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Washington, which may be more relevant to your location.

If you are a beef eater, look around at local farms. Once a year I split a cow with some friends. We each get half of the cow (a few hundred pounds, various cuts), so of course you would need a large chest freezer. The beef is some of the best quality and way less expensive than buying at any sort of market. The farmer also does pigs but I have yet to go in on that as I tend to eat way less pork products outside of bacon.

That kinda goes without saying, doesn’t it?

I was an incredibly strict vegetarian before moving to Japan, where I gave up after about three days.

I basically think it’s a really good thing to do if it doesn’t negatively impact your life - when living in the UK, for example, I felt it was super-easy and pretty much universally positive. The only good food in Britain is Indian anyway.

If you don’t want to go vegetarian, then properly sourcing meat is also cool. I never thought meat was wrong per se, but I think the mass consumption of meat as a commodity is kind of fucked up, so I went vegetarian because it seemed like the least hypocritical thing to do - I don’t really know where to draw the line between an awesome organic steak and a Big Mac.

Sam, you’re the kind of vegetarian I can respect. Kudos.

I assume you gave it up in Japan after the 3rd “it’s not meat, it’s just fish!” conversation in as many meals? That’s what happened to a friend of my wife’s when she studied there.

I have a friend who won’t eat anything “cute.” Sorry, denizens of the sea, but despite what PETA says, you’re all ugly as hell. Maybe if you got makeovers, my friend would feel more guilty about devouring you.

Not even that (I got enough of that in England, though…) - I actually came here with the expectation that I’d probably have to at least eat fish at some point (and that I’d be missing out on a lot if I didn’t (I definitely would have)), but it’s more the way that red meat is an incidental ingredient in a whole lot of things here.

I basically figured that the Japanese eat a bunch of rice and noodles and vegetables - and hey, so did I back home! Thing is, though, the default state for things like noodle dishes usually involves meat somehow, whether it’s little bits of pork in ramen or the super-meaty broth it’s all cooked in. I was the kind of guy that’d check the back of crisp packets for rennet content, and as my whole reason for being veggie in the first place was all-or-nothing dogma I thought I’d better pack the whole thing in.

I’m glad I did, though! Yakiniku is gooood stuff. And I’d really be a pain in the neck for friends when going out to eat.

No idea what I’d do if I ever went home, though. I think continuing to eat meat and returning to vegetarianism would both feel really weird.

I’m honestly a bit surprised by that. I thought Japan was a vegetarian-friendly culture. Maybe not on the scale of, say, India, but as plentiful/popular as tofu is I’d think there would be lots of meat-free dishes.

The cows still die no matter how “humanely” they are treated. I’m sure some treatments improve the taste though.

It’s perfectly reasonable to have no qualms about killing cows but being somewhat troubled about how we treat the animal up untill that final breath.

I try to do the same to some extent and respect those who go all the way (except PETA-types who’s over the top. Meat isn’t murder - it’s nature). I’m perfectly happy with killing animals for food and other products but draw the line at mistreating animals - the problem of course lies in defining exactly where that line is.

And if you manage to avoid the toxic pools of manure with run-off into rivers, it’s all the better.

Right – there are certainly those who go as far as thinking that eating any kind of meat is mistreating an animal, but that’s really not the issue here. We’re top dog on the food chain (except if you thrust us barehanded into nature with a lion or a wolf or a badger or a moderately-sized hawk of some sort)… so it’s only natural that we eat meat. But forcing a cow to live its entire existence jammed in a cage where it can’t even turn around… or electrocuting chickens by the thousands then scalding their feathers off in a big vat as their bowels release… nevermind those that don’t die from one of those treatments and just get discarded because their meat’s “no good”… that’s the problem.

If I can instead eat meat from an animal that’s lived “free” in a field, eating a delicious diet of grass, spending time with its calf, etc. I’ll take it.

The only companies that don’t to testing for household/cosmetic products are those that pay other companies to do it for them. Its a legal requirement, which is the only reason anyone does it.

The statement that a cosmetic company (or others) doesn’t test on animals is marketing. Not to say that they lie, but they may be using products that have already been tested and are certified. No matter which company you buy from their key ingrediants have been tested on animals at some point.

Its like refusing to buy foreign cars, but being okay with buying foreign cars from an american car dealer.

If you are against animal testing your battle should be with the FDA who requires it. If the animal testing requirement was dropped our products would become less safe, you would see death and disease (such as cancer) increase (i know someone who works in an animal testing lab, the results of some of the tests on seemingly harmless substances are terrifying).

Not to say which side is right or wrong. It boils down to “how many animal lives is a human life worth”. But there is a human life factor in the formula.

Actually, you can find lots of products that are guaranteed to not contain any ingredients that were tested on animals or contain animal ingredients. Those PETA folks don’t fuck around with their endorsement of cruelty-free products :)

As for the much larger question of how many animals a human life is worth… well, I’d say about ten humans to one animal now… we’re overpopulating the world, and killing off everything in our path. We need to get knocked down a peg or two! And I’m not even one of those aforementioned crazy PETA people.