Letter: What defines ethical slaughtering?

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Graphic by Lori Deaton

Under normal circumstances, Wild Abundance’s “The Cycles of Life: Humane Slaughtering and Butchery Class” would not inspire me to speak up, but there is a unique twist to what the business is projecting about this specific course. In the course titled “Humane Slaughter,” I see no animal welfare certifications, or certifications of any kind, pertaining to the slaughtering and butchery teachings they offer.

On their website, Wild Abundance does not describe their specific ethics/practices of the all-important step between the pasture and the plate, during slaughter. The use of the term “ethical slaughter” calls into question what ethics, the sacred and humane actually mean to them, so how they define and practice those terms is extremely relevant. What is it specifically about Wild Abundance’s practices that achieve that ethical ideal? Is it a prayer? A song? Does the lamb or sheep sign a waiver? In all seriousness, how did they arrive at this sacred platform?

Personally, I would like to see those words removed from their practices and course description. Wild Abundance has become a part of the trend of claiming one’s animal agriculture methods are of superior ethical standards or that animal agriculture is somehow completely necessary for the basic survival of a farm, a falsehood that warrants detailed explanation.

Having once adhered to plant-based diets, as the minds behind the Wild Abundance slaughter course clearly stated they did, they are likely aware of the stigma, cultural perceptions and biases surrounding individuals who make that choice. Why then did they decide to categorize all vegans together as “bullies” as they chose to do with their continued use of the #stopveganbullying hashtag?

They stated in an online piece that their goals are aligned with vegans and vegetarians, saying “well-intentioned activist groups focus their resources on attacking other like-minded communities, instead of staying focused on the more pressing issues,” yet call vegans out together as one malicious, bullying entity within the same article.

By claiming a humane and ethical method of slaughter, coupled with promoting the #stopveganbullying campaign, Wild Abundance has established a “morally superior — us” versus “extremist vegan — them” scenario, which has been hard to ignore after watching this discussion be revisited both online and in the paper many times over.

To be completely clear, the violence and threats of the obviously deranged individuals who personally threatened them and their families are abhorrent, regardless of their diets, religions, ethnicities, etc. Many have asked why anyone would question the practices of this small, local business instead of just going after large factory farms.

From my own experience, I can say that their vocal stance of being former vegans/vegetarians who have now seen the light, combined with proclaiming their slaughter is ethical and simultaneously promoting the #stopveganbullying campaign, is what finally prompted me to speak up. The average slaughterhouse is unquestionably worse, but they do not claim an ethical slaughter platform and talk about vegan trolls in a local paper year after year.

Additionally, much activism is also often done anonymously or in secret, as the government is historically quick to throw animal and environmental activists on the watch list. I’ve personally tried to adhere to the mentality of “to each their own” regarding dietary choices, but now feel as though Wild Abundance has carried this discussion to the point of being detrimental to the plant-based movement. Ultimately, it is individuals and organizations that are harassing them, not all vegans. It would then logically make more sense to call out those making threats by name, not their personal dietary choices.

In my opinion, it is a privilege to live in a time and place where I can now choose to not support the animal agriculture industry in any capacity, a choice I’ve made despite the fact that I used to work in that industry — and where I saw firsthand that even small, local farms can really miss the mark on animal welfare despite what they intend and project.

It would be quite relevant at this point if Wild Abundance could please describe what ethical, sacred and humane slaughter is specifically, as defined by the business. By not elaborating on the specifics, they are contributing to the misuse of those loaded terms. Of all the forms of animal agriculture, those advocating ethical slaughter practices should probably be the first to truly have glass walls.

As someone who has slaughtered animals in the past in an effort to connect to my food source, I would like to understand how Wild Abundance has gone above and beyond the norm to earn the “ethical, sacred and humane” badge they vocally tout. Being better than the average slaughterhouse is truly commendable, but that does not mean that what is happening there is sacred, ethical or humane.

— Danielle Keeter
Marshall

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted Wild Abundance’s Frank Salzano, who offered the following response to a summary of the letter writer’s points: “My friend, first off, let me say thank you. Thank you for your deep and genuine concern for animal life. In response to your letter, I will say this: We are a small local school and not a farm or commercial meat producer. We don’t know of any organizations that would certify a permaculture school that slaughters two sheep a year. I guess these organizations just have better places to put their time and resources. If you find a certifying body, please put us in touch with them.

“We are personally aware of, inspired by and certainly live up to the humane slaughter standards of traditional, land-based cultural practices, as well as those standards of modern organizations like the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“And thank you to our fellow animal lovers! We need every passionate, caring and courageous soul to stand for justice, healing and renewal in this fragmented and grief-stricken time. Here at Wild Abundance, we have unfortunately spent too much time these last two years dealing with harassment and death threats from animal rights activists all over the world. Yet, we know most animal rights activists are good-natured and nonviolent, and we will always hold a place of compassion, forgiveness and open-heartedness for all well-intentioned lovers of farm animals, even if your misdirected passion finds its way to our humble home or Facebook page. #MakeEmpathyGreatAgain.

“Thanks again, and keep up the good work!

“P.S. Please, please, please leave us alone. Do yourselves a favor and focus your tremendous amount of energy, good intentions and free time on one of the many shady large corporations destroying the world.”

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15 thoughts on “Letter: What defines ethical slaughtering?

  1. Bright

    “Ethical slaughtering” is what the the Holocaust could have been called if the Nazis had been kinder, humane, and considerate…and THEN butchered the Jews! Killing is killing. The interesting label “ethical slaughter” is a bandaid for the consciousness (if they have any) of the living. Sorry.

  2. Danielle

    Well, as expected, the wait to read Wild Abundance’s full response (without the edits of the print version) still provided no specific answer to the question of how they define ethical slaughter. The question was clearly asking about the physical steps that take the sheep from the field to the plate. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals webpage yielded no further explanation of what ethical slaughter is either, so I am no closer to understanding what that term means to the business.

    Wild Abundance did take the time to state that my passion is misdirected and ask me to “please, please, please leave us alone.” Just because others have made this a difficult and sensitive topic for the business does not mean I cannot ask a valid question about the ethics of slaughter practices. I very carefully crafted my questions and concerns to be about the one specific aspect of their program- not the program as a whole, which I believe provides many wonderful courses and resources for the community.

    I must say that I do not appreciate being told my “passion is being misdirected” when I intentionally directed it toward understanding a simple point about local slaughter practices.

    It is never easy to follow being emphatically asked to “leave us alone” but I wanted to take a moment to share that dialogue about a local businesses ethics seems like it should be welcome if done respectfully. Even if others have made this really horrendous for the business in the past, it does not mean the conversation can be permanently deferred.

    So, I will say it again, I believe that the qualifier of “ethical, sacred or humane” should be detached from the slaughter. The moral qualifier is a bizarre and unnecessary addition to this practice. Particularly when the definition of what that specifically means to the business is vague.

    I noticed that Wild Abundance’s response did not refer to all plant based advocates/vegans as extremist bullies, and I did appreciate that point. However, I feel deflated after being asked to leave them alone. It felt like a dismissal of what I perceived to be fair and very specific questions and points. Perhaps time will make this topic less sensitive, with balanced dialogue and actual answers easier to come by.

    • SDD

      The further humans stray from traditional land based practices as stewards/hunters, to agriculture to urbanization to industrialization, the further sacred recedes.

  3. Robert Grillo

    Wild Abundance and the sympathetic media who have come to their rescue against what they cast as the real villain here, the animal activists who question the oxymoron of “humane” violence or “humane” killing, are using the same tactics that the corporate ag PR people are using to shoot the messenger. It’s always a bad sign when instead of addressing the actual issue, the response is simply an attack of the messenger instead. I recently published a book called Farm to Fable which explores the many fictions that society uses to justify the unnecessary harm and killing of animals as well as a recent article on how the ag. industry is attacking their adversaries and attempting to turn the public against them. For those interested in exploring the subject, please see https://freefromharm.org/animal-advocacy/post-truth-farm-age-trump/. Here is an excerpt:

    “For years we’ve been on the receiving end of anti-vegan “fake news,” “alternative facts,” misrepresentations, misinformation and lies about who we are, who farmed animals really are, the vegan “agenda,” as well as countless conspiracy theories about the dire consequences for our health, the economy, communities, farmers, workers and the planet if, God forbid, we ended our sacred traditions of exploiting animals. This experience has prepared us all too well to confront the so-called post-truth era.”

    The anti-activist narrative that we are seeing from the media covering this issue with Wild Abundance is an abomination of basic journalistic standards of representing at least both major sides of this story instead of just reinforcing existing cultural beliefs held by their audience. That is not journalism; it is just pandering.

    • Danielle

      Thank you Robert, for your voice and perspective, it was a refreshing contribution. The article you shared was perfectly on point, and I am grateful it led me to the organization Free From Harm.

  4. SpareChange

    Looking forward to the day when the vegan “ethos” extends to the world of metaphors so that they can stop this cruel and needless flogging of dead horses.

    • NFB

      And that will be as long a wait as expecting the vegan police to condemn death threats made against those at Wild Abundance. But since Wild Abundance = the Holocaust per one of the posters here I guess both of those hopes are pointless.

  5. GMS

    Yea, everyone should just hop on the “radical” vegan band wagon, which relies heavily on fossil fuels and large scale mono crops that continuously rapes top soil and our water supply from fragile ecosystems. If we all stop consuming animals, we can all just ascend to the 4th dimension where we can instantly escape our own human contribution to death on this planet.

    Animal rights activists and vegans seem to forget the notion that their practice is absolutely not exempt from or free of harm and suffering. It’s ignorant to believe that an agricultural diet of solely annual monoculture is sustainable and death-free, when in fact it is inherently destructive and saturated with death. If everyone were to adopt a vegan or “free of harm” diet, it would require us to grow massive scale annual crops that requires an extermination of ecosystems. It destroys top soil because the soil is bared and it has to be bared to grow annuals. In areas with inadequate rainfall, agriculture demands irrigation, which drains rivers to death and salinizes the soil. Requiring intense physical labor for nutrient void food. It has destroyed civilizations, leaving slavery, class stratification, colonialism, militarism, increased population, and imperialism. The more detached humans are from the natural order of world, the further we dive into agricultural demanding society, which is just a continuation of the patriarchal society that is killing this planet.

  6. Enlightened Enigma

    hey Danielle…how ’bout you do what YOU want to do in YOUR life and let THEM do what THEY want in their lives and go about your chores as you were … humans have been killing animals for food for
    since dinousaurs … get over yourself and STOP judging OTHERS…remember you are a progressive first and they do NOT judge. ever.

    • Jeremy

      If your “choice” to eat animals didn’t have a victim, we would not say a thing. However, it does. By eating animals bodies, you are paying to have someone’s life taken. Just because humans did something at one point, it doesn’t mean we still should. The ancient humans you’re talking about (who did not live alongside dinosaurs) lived in caves, died at 20 and had no technology and limited tools. We have advanced a great deal since then, and no longer need to kill to survive.

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