Meat… Such a varied subject when it comes to consumption and such a controversial subject when it comes to conversation.
When we are talking about meat, we are essentially describing flesh that comes from an animal that once walked (or swam) the earth.
At one point in their lives, each piece of meat that is consumed once belonged to a living creature with a heartbeat.
The question of “what is the most humane meat to eat” can actually have multiple answers depending on who you ask!
For instance, if you ask a pescatarian the question, they will say there is no humane meat but believe that fish is fine, mainly because they don’t believe in eating the flesh from a living land animal.
If you ask a vegan, they will likely say there is no such thing as humane meat; hence they live a vegan lifestyle.
However, if you ask a carnivore, “what is the most humane meat” you may well get a varied hierarchical breakdown of which meats they believe are more humane than others.
I think the most important answer is, however, the one which most people will understand, and that is that all meat comes from the flesh of an animal that has been killed for the purpose of consumption.
That’s the factual bottom line, but is there any humane meat or meat that is cruelty-free?
Let’s investigate a little more:
Is There Any Humane Meat?
Firstly, let’s break down what humane actually means before we pick apart the hierarchy of humane meat.
So, what does the word “humane” actually mean?
Showing kindness, care and sympathy towards others, especially those who are sufferingCambridge Dictionary
When we use the word humane in the context of meat, we are looking towards the meat that is treated the best way it can be when it is still part of the living animal it comes from.
Even further, we are talking about how it is killed for the consumer food chain.
Of course, we can only give opinions about humane meat by the experiences and knowledge of the overall care and slaughter process that we as individuals possess, which shapes our opinions and core values.
To that end, what is best and what is not?
Just from general research within the UK, we have found that lamb is potentially top of the chart regarding humane meat. Their levels of care are similar to what they would choose if they were in the wild.
They have open space roaming, free grazing as communities, and are fed (generally) out in their pastures.
Although they do not really need to be indoors at any particular time, they often have sheds and shelters provided as part of their wider environment to give them some protection when and if needed.
Regarding slaughtering the sheep, the process can be a bit of a conveyor belt of sheep. Still, many sheep are well trained to listen to commands, so there is often no caging or capturing necessary.
The process is swift to ensure no excessive suffering to the animals.
Humanity Rating: 7/10
Beef is still one of those meats that can be either as humane as possible within the parameters of organic standards, for instance, or farmed on the line of what may be considered cruel, but still above the animal welfare standard set in law (but not much above).
Beef is still considered luxury meat within the UK.
However, there is still a lot of intensive farming with cattle which drives the price of beef down to a more affordable level; as you can imagine, this may be to the detriment of the animal welfare considerations itself.
So while humanity considerations of the beef you buy can almost be detected by the price you pay for the meat itself, you may be best off heading for the organic labelled products or direct from butchers and farm shops.
These options are more likely to have better standards of welfare and more humane slaughtering conditions than the more giant commercial farms that rear and produce meat for mass consumption.
Humanity Rating: 3/10 to 6/10
Pigs are still sadly one of those animals reared en-masse for the consumer market.
While some exceptions in the UK really do make significant exceptions to the generalisation and rear the animals with love, care, and the best of their wild environment, commercial farms still do, unfortunately, operate only just above welfare standards for the pigs involved.
Pork can be the most controversial of all meat when it comes to talking about humanity, many standards have been implemented in the UK to ensure that at least some of their living welfare standards are met and complied with inside the law – unfortunately, the same can’t be said outside of the UK.
However, they are still slaughtered and often (apart from the organic and more minor farm exceptions) housed in poor conditions.
Humanity Rating: 3/10 to 6/10
Chicken is certainly one of the most popular and attainable meats in the UK.
It is also one of those meats that offer the most comprehensive variations to the consumer market.
The rearing of chickens has come under immense scrutiny over the last 20 years, primarily centred around thousands of chickens kept in “battery” conditions for all of their life before being killed for substandard meat.
Times have moved on somewhat from this, although in some cases, not by much.
Hens raised for commercial purposes, whether that’s eggs or for their meat, are often raised in their thousands in smaller-than-desirable spaces, fed on-demand and with minimal natural lighting or environmental contact.
Again, there are exceptions to these commercial farms.
They often provide more humane areas of welfare such as organic standard free-range and corn-fed chicken, amongst other varieties that attract a better standard of care to the living animal.
Regardless, the chickens are all still slaughtered for their meat, so the humane standards wholly lie in the life they led up until they meet their demise.
Humanity Rating: 2/10 to 6/10
Is There Cruelty-Free Meat?
The most straightforward answer to this fundamental question is no, there is no meat without cruelty, as the animal is slaughtered for that reason – to provide meat.
However, animals can still be provided with a cruelty-free life before the day comes when their role in the consumer food chain is forced on them.
In our eyes, cruelty-free means that the animals should live a life free of abuse, mistreatment and have a life as close to the life they would live themselves beyond an enforced choice.
Animals, regardless of their life purpose, should be provided with a safe and happy life while they are living.
Their welfare standards should be as high as possible to ensure that they do not live a life of cruelty.
However, the production of any means always means an element of cruelty simply to get the meat itself.
Of course, the answer you may give or get regarding humane meat is entirely subjective and weighted on people’s individual beliefs and understandings; a carnivore and a vegetarian will NOT give you the same answer!