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Livestock Farmer’s Surprising Admission: “What I Do Is Wrong: I Know It in My Bones”

Livestock Farmer’s Surprising Admission: “What I Do Is Wrong: I Know It in My Bones”

In 2011, a pig farmer named Bob Comis posted a rather surprising, and short, entry on the Stony Brook Farm blog. He said, “This morning, as I look out the window at a pasture quickly growing full of frolicking lambs, I am feeling very much that it might be wrong to eat meat, and that I might indeed be a very bad person for killing animals for a living.”

Comis raises perhaps 500 pigs every year on his farm in rural New York. He does not run an industrialized operation. Rather, he strives to treat the pigs as well as possible, raising them in a pasture-based manner. They can go outside, root around, play and socialize together, rest inside shelters or shady wooded areas, and wallow in mud to stay cool.

They live happy piggy lives, right up to the day they take their final truck ride to the slaughterhouse. There, of course, things are not so rosy.

“One morning, I woke up absolutely certain that killing animals to eat their meat was wrong,” Comis told Modern Farmer in 2014. “So it might seem like I’ve sided with animal rights advocates, but the long view that I’m taking on this makes my position more complicated than that.”

We Have an Obligation to Eat Otherwise

These are amazing words from someone who makes his living providing animal meat for human consumption:

What I do is wrong, in spite of its acceptance by nearly 95 percent of the American population. I know it in my bones — even if I cannot yet act on it. Someday it must stop. Somehow we need to become the sort of beings who can see what we are doing when we look head on, the sort of beings who don’t weave dark, damning shrouds to sustain, with acceptance and celebration, the grossly unethical. Deeper, much deeper, we have an obligation to eat otherwise.

It might take incalculable generations of being hooked by and grappling with the ethics of slaughter to get there. But we really do need to get there — because again, what I am doing, what we are doing, is wrong, even terribly so.

Taking Baby Steps Toward The Day We Dont Keep Livestock At All

Comis believes that we need to stop raising and slaughtering animals for food. He also knows this happy animal-friendly future won’t happen in one fell swoop. It’s going to require a shift in cultural thinking.

“I think a lot of animal farmers have the same ethical struggles me, although I’m not sure how many struggle as intensely as I do,” Comis told Modern Farmer. “I believe this is likely the case with even non-corporate factory farmers. Feeling nothing strikes me as mildly sociopathic.”

Pigs outside

Pasture raised pigs outside on a sunny day. Photo credit: Thinkstock

Those who believe in the “all or nothing” approach will not like Bob Comis or what he has to say. He continues to raise pigs for slaughter, and no matter how well those pigs live until the day they die, the abolitionist proponents won’t be fans.

For those who believe progress must sometimes be gained in increments, Comis’ non-intensive livestock farming approach may find favor.

“For now, I justify non-industrial farming as a necessary compromise that will gradually shift how we think about using animals as food,” he said.

“By raising animals the way I do, I offer a way out of the industrial farming system, which is worse by orders of magnitude than the way I farm, and should be abandoned immediately,” Comis told Modern Farmer. ”That’s how I rationalize my farming. I know that on the macro level, my small farm does not change much. But on the micro level, I do make a difference in the lives – and deaths – of individual pigs.”

Comis is different than those who espouse a continuation of the “sustainable humane meat” industry. Instead, he advocates for a future in which his type of farming serves only as a stepping stone toward the day we don’t eat animals at all. He wants to treat the animals decently until we can get society to the point where we don’t eat them at all.

An Unethical Life Shrouded in the Justificatory Trappings of Social Acceptance

“As a pig farmer, I live an unethical life shrouded in the justificatory trappings of social acceptance.” Comis wrote for The Huffington Post in January 2014. “There is more, even, than simple acceptance. There is actually celebration of the way I raise the pigs. Because I give the pigs lives that are as close to natural as is possible in an unnatural system, I am honorable, I am just, I am humane — while all the while behind the shroud, I am a slaveholder and a murderer.”

Realizations such as this, discussed publicly by individuals in the livestock trade, are the first nuggets that will lead to the end of animal farming. Comis isn’t the only livestock rancher to express horror at industrialized animal farming. Howard Lyman, the “Mad Cowboy,” was a fourth generation cattle rancher and dairy farmer until health concerns turned him vegan and caused him to lobby hard against the very industry he’d once embraced.

Resist the urge to dismiss what Comis has to say because he’s still farming pigs. I wanted to do that, too. It’s the easy and understandable reaction. We want to say “If you think it’s so wrong, stop doing it!”

The fact that any livestock farmer feels this way — and encourages public discussion about it — is monumental. I’m impressed Comis gave voice to his worries, even if he’s a failed vegan, still a meat eater and still a livestock farmer. He’s thinking and writing about the issue. He’s deeply bothered. He’s stirring the pot. He’s making noise. That’s how change begins.

Care2 readers, what do you think?

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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270 comments

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5:02AM PDT on May 15, 2014

Bob Comis pig farms like my uncle used to. He was always melancholy when he took them to slaughter (especially if I had named one of them).

12:05PM PDT on Apr 27, 2014

Livestock animals can all be neutered and spayed to cut down their billions of numbers.. no more bacon, chicken, veal, lamb, beef and leather for you.. deal with it.

12:00PM PDT on Apr 27, 2014

humans need sterilization and I would support engineering a virus that would sterilize most of them.

11:58AM PDT on Apr 27, 2014

I don't eat any meat whatsoever and I don't have a problem and haven't had one. Vegetarian, meaning not junk food vegetarian, or GMO vegetables. Eggs, yes, The hens are allotted a pasture. Dairy it's difficult to determine that the cows are treated well, but possible. That will give you plenty of protein if you crave it.

6:04PM PDT on Apr 8, 2014

its a step in the right direction ,at least hes honest and does actually look after his animals.if it wasnt for intensive farming i dont think there would be as many vegetarians and vegans as there are .its the reason i became vegetarian,hopefully itll be the death of the meat trade

6:41PM PDT on Mar 31, 2014

I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat when I read Bob Comis's words. I could feel his moral struggle and predicament. His is the voice we need speaking up about ending factory farming. For those that advocate an abolishonist approach only.......your voices are needed here too. Change requires steps, change requires patience and chance requires everybody to speak up. We will not experience a world of people eating only a plant based diet unless we first experience a world without factory farms, intensive farming and inhumane farming practices. Bob's voice shoud be celebrated and echoed around the globe, how brave he is to speak up, I hope he continues sharing his message. He knows not how special and chosen he truly is. God Bless Mr Comis..........and his pigs.

3:46PM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

Feel like don´t eat any pig... they taught a pig to play computer games!!!
Besides they are intelligent as a 3-yrs old human!
You don´t eat your dog, do you, and he has an intellect as a 2-yrs old child.

12:18AM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

I am very moved by Mr. Comis' writings. He risks a great deal within his industry, where the 'mildly psychopathic' norm is to see animals as nothing but profit and expense. One rancher in my area recently called cows 'factories'. You can bet he'll rabidly dislike what Mr. Comis is saying. 4H kids raise an animal from babyhood, taking care of its every need, just to sell it for slaughter. Their parents and community are all in favor, so the kids have to squash any feelings of compassion and grief. The only ones who don't feel for the animals truly are psychopaths. But obviously you can train that trademark psychopathic lack of emotion into a child, a young soldier, a butcher...

At least Mr. Comis is kind to them in life, though he recognizes that as a livestock farmer, he is still a slave owner and murderer. I understand his dilemma: it took me three years to go fully vegetarian, then another 15 to go vegan, though I knew that eating meat is wrong. Wrong like the Nazi holocaust, in my opinion, though I don't mean to upset anyone and realize that some would see that statement as scandalous - comparing likestock to the 'undesirable' people of Nazi Germany: homosexuals, disabled, Roma, Jewish - people. But I consider kosher slaughter to be murder. So it's an intractable issue. Bravo to Mr. Comis. You are right.

12:17AM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

I am very moved by what Mr. Comis is saying.

12:46AM PDT on Mar 11, 2014

If everyone would just have one extra, completely meat-free meal per week, it would make a huge difference. After a year of this, we'd be fine- healthier even. Then could take it to 2 completely meat-free, meals per week. In just a cpl yrs, even if we still had some meat, we'd be sending a HUGE mssg to evil corporations & their hear-no-evil, evil, see-no evil, speak-no-evil, BS that put's massive amounts of pain & suffering on millions (possibly BILLIONS) oif sentient beings who deserve much better!

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