One of the most common responses to the issue of animal exploitation is that there are still a few farms that practice “humane killing.” So one can get “humanely” killed meat, clothing, etc. The first thing to note is that most “free range” farms are simply factory farms without cages. The conditions are just as crowded and horrific. Yet even on a very small, local farm there are processes of killing that are the same. Transportation of animals between the farm and the slaughterhouse is a distressing, terrifying experience. Chickens for example, are transported in overcrowded crates, stacked on top of each other, leading many to die of suffocation before reaching the slaughterhouse. Cattle, sheep and pigs face equally grueling transportation experiences.
Moreover, at the slaughterhouse, chickens are hung upside down on a conveyor belt while alive, their throats slit while they move down the assembly line. Many are boiled alive to remove their feathers before they are fully bled and dead. The assembly line waits for no death. Likewise, other farm animals face a terrifying experience in the slaughterhouse. The sound alone of cattle, pigs and sheep screaming would make most people’s blood curdle. This type of experience means that there is no such thing as “humane” killing.
Even if one kills the animal on a farm, the act of killing, in and of itself needs justification. To take the life of another living, breathing spirited creature (animal comes from the Latin animus, meaning spirit, soul or mind), needs moral justification. Most people would accept that it is wrong to inflict suffering or death on nonhuman animals for reasons of pleasure, entertainment or convenience. So we have to justify the suffering and death. Yet virtually all of the suffering and death that we inflict on nonhumans animals is only for human pleasure, entertainment or convenience. For example, food. We do not need animal flesh to survive. We eat it because of custom and habituation: pleasure. In other words, we have no good moral reason. So, we have no good Christian reason either. “Humane killing” turns out to be self-interested and not in the interest of the weaker nonhuman animal party.