In America, a 19-year-old can be arrested for killing a hamster—yet we are allowed to inflict great cruelty on animals kept, not as pets, but for food. That’s because of state laws called “Common Farming Exemptions” that allow the industry, instead of lawmakers, to basically define cruelty by making any common practice legal. “In short, if I keep a pig as a pet, I can’t kick it. If I keep a pig I intend to sell for food, I can pretty much torture it,” writes Mark Bittman in the New York Times.
“We ‘process’ (that means kill) nearly 10 billion animals annually in this country,” Bittman continues. Many of those animals are raised in conditions that have been compared to concentration camps. You can't kick a pet dog, but anyone who raises animals for food can legally castrate calves and piglets with no anesthetic, skin live animals, or put chicks through grinders. “It’s time to take a look at the line between ‘pet’ and ‘animal,’” Bittman writes. “We should be treating animals better and raising fewer of them; this would naturally reduce our consumption. All in all, a better situation for us, the animals, the world.”