Descended from the forest-dwelling wild boars of Central Asia, pigs are considered 'smarter' by some biologists today than all other domesticated animals. Yes…including dogs. Highly social, playful and communicative beings, their ability to solve complex problems has been well-documented. It's hardly fair to rank the intelligence of different species on the basis of human-centric criteria - every creature can only act within the realm of possibility for their own kind. But for better or worse we do tend to be impressed by, and more often feel empathy towards, those who exhibit cognitive abilities and emotional states we can relate to. Pigs have been known to save human lives, and they've saved their own lives by jumping off of trucks bound for slaughterhouses!
|Esther and friends at their new home- wanting back in from the cold!|
|98% of Canadian pork if from pigs kept in gestation crates|
It is in the shadow of factory farm cruelty that the lure of so-called 'humane meat' exists. No matter the scale of operation, animal agribusiness is always faced with the issues of death and 'disposal.' Case
in point: on a recent walk, I came across a gathering of corvids
and young eagles jockeying for position around a carcass in the field
on a small-scale farm where animals are raised for human consumption.
A couple of resident pigs had already established seniority, but one
clever crow managed to grab a strip of flesh for himself and fly off
with it to dine in a more private location. It was then that I
spotted an identifying body part on the side of the road – no doubt
dropped by another avian scavenger. The sign on the farm gate says
'grass-fed', but those pigs were engaged in cannibalism.
Death is a fact of life in all animal husbandry operations, and timely disposal of 'on-farm mortalities' (either by rendering, composting or burial) is mandatory under the province of BC's Environmental Management Act. Allowing the consumption of one animal by another can lead to the spread of disease. Wildlife of all kinds are also at risk when attracted by the fetid promise of a free lunch. There is really no excuse for any farmer (not least of all those who claim to provide proper care and attention for the animals they raise for the locavore market) to miss - or neglect - what I witnessed. Days later the problem had yet to be resolved.
It bears remembering that labels like 'grass-fed' and 'free range' are primarily marketing tools. They don't tell us much more about the quality of a pig's life than 'grain-fed' and 'fenced-in' would reveal about a dog's. Use of the word 'humane' within the world of meat marketing is even more deficient. As former animal farmer turned animal advocate Howard Brown pointed out in a recent presentation, any standard dictionary includes kindness, compassion - and mercy - in its definition of 'humane.' How well an animal may or may not have been cared for up until that moment of ultimate betrayal is beside the point. The act of extinguishing a sentient life stands in stark contrast to what it means to show mercy. 'Humane meat' is an oxymoron.
Human omnivores with the privilege of choice can easily meet all our protein and other nutritional needs on a well-balanced 100% plant-based diet. You can chow down on this hearty kale salad as a meal in itself. I'm sure Esther would approve!
Fireweed's Winter Kale Salad (serves 2 or more)
6-8 large leaves of curly kale
(with thick stalks removed)
4 brown mushrooms
3 or more sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup raw hulled sunflower seeds
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. olive oil
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Agave syrup
salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1 T. Hemp hearts
Toast the sunflower seeds in a non-stick or oiled skillet over medium heat, then remove to cool. Tear your de-stalked kale into BIG pieces. Steam lightly in a steamer or with a wee bit of water in the bottom of a lidded pot until only barely wilted. Sure, you could leave your kale completely raw, but gentle steaming changes the texture and volume…a great way to pack more nutritious greens into your diet! Remove from the steamer and when cool to the touch lightly squeeze out any H20. 'Spread' out the wilted leaves and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Now chop into bite-size pieces. Combine dressing ingredients, and toss HALF of that mix well with the kale. Season with salt and pepper. Thinly slice cleaned, firm brown organic mushrooms (I like crimini mushrooms in this dish). Finely chop your sun-dried tomatoes. Mix all ingredients together now, reserving avocado wedges and hemp hearts to add on top. Add extra dressing as required. Bon appetit!
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