In last week's Citybeat ["Meat to Go" by Cari Wade Gervin, Aug. 2, 2012], Cari Wade Gervin writes of beef farmer Chris Burger's trips to the Chattanooga slaughterhouse: "It's inconvenient, it's expensive, and it's completely at odds with Burger's locavore ethics."
But what ethics are really in play when it comes to local meat production? Operations, rather than transportation, account for most of food's greenhouse emissions (and you'd still have to transport the mobile slaughterhouse). And in the competition for land use, animal agriculture is unbelievably greedy. While it sounds appealing to support all things local, small-scale animal agriculture requires so many more resources than eating plants that what we're ultimately endorsing isn't local accessibility, but boutique food that encourages waste.
Then there's the slaughter itself. Gervin writes, "And as only one animal can be slaughtered at a time in the unit, due to the size constrictions, Burger says the killing is generally a more humane process."
Yet the killing process itself is exactly the same as it would be in a large-scale slaughterhouse. That the entire slaughterhouse is only a little larger than the gate a cow would enter at a high-capacity facility doesn't amount to a great generosity. Let's not congratulate ourselves for refraining from outright abuse of farm animals (by the grace of logistics, no less), especially when we continue to indulge in the larger, more fundamental manipulation of deciding when and how they live, reproduce, and die. Forcing a cow to endure a stressful ride to slaughter is certainly cruel, but it's important to remember that bringing the slaughterhouse to her doesn't change the fact that we're killing an animal that doesn't want to die.
The merits of supporting Knoxville businesses shouldn't be bound to unnecessary violence. Rather than looking to a mobile slaughterhouse to "change the face of local meat production," we should consider the faces belonging to the animals killed for the whims of our tastes. And the walk to the slaughterhouse, whether 100 miles or 100 yards, is one that no animal willingly makes.
Ed. Note: Mohney is also an editorial contributor to Metro Pulse, and the partner of A&E Editor Matthew Everett.