Profit vs. ethics: Saving livestock from the slaughterhouse

Published on September 18, 2021 by

Dairy cows are calculated to be profitable for only six years in industrial farming. After that, the long-suffering dairy cows get sent to the slaughterhouse. An association in Germany is working to save as many animals as possible from this fate.

Matthias Obenhack runs a family farm in central Germany. But he is in serious financial trouble. His cows and pigs are no longer turning him a profit. An animal rights activist and an agricultural economist come to his aid. But, initially, he can barely get his head around what they are proposing. Julya Dünzl and Timo Geuß want to save Obenhack’s livestock from the slaughterhouse and help the young farmer transform his farm into a place where animals can live without serving a human need. He has long had ethical doubts about modern livestock farming methods. Nevertheless, he at first finds it difficult to wrap his head around the notion that a dairy cow shouldn’t have to produce milk, that pigs should be left to live their lives, and that laying hens shouldn’t have to provide a regularly supply of eggs. Instead, Dünzl and Geuß propose making the farm organic and vegan – supported through donations and adopt-an-animal schemes that the German association Initiative Lebenstiere organizes. Farmers like Matthias Obenhack who join the program receive a fixed monthly income, which enables them to stay afloat without the need for livestock farming.

This new approach is the brainchild of Swiss philosopher Sarah Heiligtag, who runs a vegan farm and farm animal sanctuary near Zurich. People looking for alternatives to existing agriculture methods visit Heiligtag’s farm for inspiration, and she has already coached more than 40 farms through the process of conversion into a ‘farm of life’. These ‘transfarmations‘ are not just about protecting animal welfare, but also about finding ethically acceptable solutions to the climate crisis and feeding the world.

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