The Current

Is 'ethical meat' helping pigs or salving consciences?

Not long ago, the biggest moral dilemma would-be meat eaters faced, was whether or not to put meat on their forks. Today, with the proliferation of options like "humanely raised," "grass fed," "free range," and on and on, there's a lot more to chew on.
Julia Smith is a pig farmer in Burnaby, B.C. She believes her pigs should have a good - albeit short - life and ensures right until slaughter that her pigs are happy. (Julia Smith)

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* Some listeners may find material in this documentary disturbing *

Julia Smith loves her pigs. She hopes to grow 200 pigs for the market next year on her new 21-acre property. (Julia Smith)

"I'm the best pig belly rubber in Burnaby!" says Julia Smith who calls herself a different breed of pig farmer.

Smith gives her hogs about 10 times the space recommended by Canada's National Farm Care Council and insists on providing them with organic food — like veggie scraps. She also worries about her pigs well being and this often means offering cuddling time to each animal. 

Pig farmer Julia Smith and her hero Temple Grandin, one of the world's leading experts on animal behaviour. (Julia Smith)

Julia belongs to a movement of farmers, chefs, and consumers — who share the belief that there's a moral imperative to ensure - before slaughter — livestock has the best life possible.

There are different names for Julia's approach — slow meat, ethical meat, cruelty free meat, humanely raised meat, even happy meat.

It wasn't so long ago that the biggest moral dilemma when it comes to eating meat was whether to put it on your fork. Eating meat, or choosing not to, was more or less black and white. But now meat eaters have questions about how animals are treated before reaching their plate. 

The CBC's Elaine Chau has been biting into these questions for her documentary, The Pig Eater's Dilemma, and introduces us to farmers who take pride in giving their livestock a happy life, and a peaceful death. 

Mike Downey use to be a meat-eater. But then he got two pot-belly pigs as pets and says they introduced him to a whole new world into respect for animals. (Robyn Burns/CBC)

What ethical lines do you have when it comes to the food you eat?

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The Current's documentary editor is Joan Webber.