We soundly reject the notion of "animal rights"; animals don't have rights, because they don't have responsibilities or duties. However, we as humans do have a duty to treat animals with dignity and good stewardship. A chicken gives glory to God by being a chicken; if I stuff that chicken in a cage with four other chickens and turn it into an egg-laying machine, I do not allow it glorify God as the chicken he created it to be.
The shorthand word for this is "stewardship," or perhaps "husbandry." We are firm believers in it, and practice it here on our farm. Interestingly, treating animals humanely yields much better produce after slaughter. And the praise and demand for our free range eggs is astounding. You simply cannot produce something this good without allowing animals to behave in the way God designed them to behave.
An interesting story in today's New York Times gives some insights into how the "animal rights" movement, by shifting its focus in recent years, has contributed to the public's newfound appreciation for the kinds of farming techniques we practice:
But all of these believers have learned that with less stridency comes more respect and influence in food politics. So they no longer concentrate their energy on burning effigies of Colonel Sanders and stealing chickens. They don’t demonize meat — with the exception of foie gras and veal — or the people who produce it. Instead, they use softer rhetoric, focusing on a campaign even committed carnivores can get behind: better conditions for farm animals.
In some ways, it’s simply a matter of style.
The broader-umbrella approach is working. Take the case of Wolfgang Puck. In March, he announced that he would stop serving foie gras and buy eggs only from chickens not confined to small cages. Veal, pork and poultry suppliers will have to abide by stricter standards, too.
For five years before the announcement, Mr. Baur’s group had been pressuring Mr. Puck to change his meaty ways. Mr. Puck, in an interview in March, said that had nothing to do with his new policies. He simply came to the conclusion that better standards were the best thing for his customers, his food and the animals. But he did credit the Humane Society for his education.
The full story has much more about the interplay between the activists and professional food producers and chefs.
The gap between animal lovers and animal lovers who love to eat them is exactly what Mr. Baur, a man who eats noodles with margarine, soy sauce and brewer’s yeast and has only barely heard of Chez Panisse, would like to close.
“We’re not really in philosophical alignment,” he said. “But I like to think we’re in strategic alliance.”