From my headline, I’m sure you will understand my annoyance at this Newsweek piece written by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, whose recent “happy meat” proclamation has the media all aflutter. There’s little doubt that animals raised in accordance with Puck’s “humane” program requirements will experience varying degrees of improved welfare conditions before their untimely demise–solely to appear on the menu of Puck’s more than 100 restaurants–but most of these improvements will be relatively minor.
When one considers that not eating animal-derived products in the first place completely eliminates the intentional, avoidable suffering of individual animals, the most straightforward and effective way to reduce animal suffering overall (and end your contribution to it) is simply not to eat them or their eggs and milk. Now that is taking the interests of animals into account. Instead, this allegedly benevolent “culinary philosophy” deceives the public into believing that there is a humane way to eat from the animal world. The whole thing is really a PR campaign masquerading as a show of compassion, and this article is probably the clearest proof of that.
As some have pointed out, this emphasis on “happy meat” is actually promoting an ethos that would have us believe that it’s perfectly acceptable (and, in fact good) to eat animals in the first place, as long as they’re treated better before they’re slaughtered. As Puck says, “Yes, they’ll be killed for food—but until then, they should have a nice stay on Earth.” Of course, this also promulgates the notion that a brief life of easy meals, some small semblance of a “natural” lifestyle and protection from predators is a “nice stay,” and well worth the end result: traumatic transport and slaughter to end up on someone’s plate. Forget what the animals want.
Hammering this point home is a poll that asks, “Would you pay extra for meat from animals raised humanely in a free-roaming environment?” Where’s the option to abstain from animal flesh entirely, Newsweek? Irritating.
Ironically, the cognitive dissonance is evident in Puck’s own words. “As for foie gras, my customers and I can easily live without it.” Total disconnect. He completely neglects to offer the obvious fact that we can easily live without the veal he serves in some of his restaurants, much less pigs, chickens, eggs, and so on.
It’s apparent that activism focusing on the treatment of animals will bring about many more of these frustrating “changes of heart,” a perverse sort of “progress” that makes many people feel even better about eating the products of animal exploitation. Despite Puck’s avowed disdain for veganism, consumers have the power to more meaningfully reduce the overall suffering of animals on this planet by going vegan, and by influencing eateries in their community to incorporate vegan options into their menus.