09/11/2013 12:18 pm ET Updated Nov 11, 2013

The Ethical Meat Fallacy

Video footage released last week which shows sickening scenes of cruelty to pigs reportedly taken at a Freedom Food-certified farm in Cheshire is deeply jarring and makes it clear, yet again, that the notion of ethical meat is a myth.

In case you missed it, the secret filming shows partially paralysed pigs left to suffer, unable to reach water, lying helplessly in their own waste, on a farm which supplies McDonald's and supermarkets with meat through the RSPCA's Freedom Food scheme -- a labelling scheme which boasts that it offers consumers an "ethical" choice. If this is ethical, my name is Jemima Puddle-Duck.

This is but the latest exposé in a string of investigations that prove that when it comes to raising and killing animals on an industrial scale, any measure of kindness, respect or decency goes out the window. Claims of horrendous cruelty to animals were also levied against a Soil Association-approved abattoir in 2012. Undercover video footage shows pigs and sheep being kicked, hit, thrown and even decapitated.

And despite the fact that Fortnum & Mason holds two Royal warrants and claims to source its foie gras from farms with only the most stringent welfare standards, a joke if ever there was one, PETA UK revealed shocking undercover footage of geese panting constantly, struggling to breathe as their grotesquely enlarged livers pressed against their lungs, and geese being stabbed in the neck whilst fully conscious, all taken at the farms and abattoir from which Fortnum's distributor obtains foie gras.

And this is not all. Last year, two farm workers were given jail sentences for cruelty to pigs on Harling Farm in Norfolk, where one worker beat pigs to death on camera. The farm had been certified by the Red Tractor food quality scheme, whose website states: "The Red Tractor certifies that food has been produced to independently inspected standards right across the food chain -- from farm to pack". Despite this "quality assurance", the case in Norfolk was described by a district judge at Norwich Magistrates' Court as "among the worst cases of animal cruelty I have seen". As revealed last year, the Red Tractor stamp -- Britain's largest food labelling scheme -- is not worth the plastic packaging it is written on.

Whether it's the goose whose throat is slit without first being stunned or the pig who is left convulsing after being beaten with an iron rod, wherever there's a financial incentive, corners will be cut and animals will pay the price -- dearly. And it is not just the bored or sadistic farm workers who deliberately abuse animals who are responsible for most of the suffering which takes place on farms. That's just the highlight -- or rather the lowlight -- reel. The vast majority of suffering stems from gross negligence, which comes from mass production.

Old habits die hard but not as hard as the animals do. There is one label you can trust absolutely to have caused no animal to suffer, and that's the one that reads "vegan." Readers can click here, or visit