But it is a very big deal, ethically, to consider the massive amount of animal death and suffering that occurs so that we can eat meat. And so for those of us who still choose to eat meat, I think we owe to the animals to at least minimize the suffering involved.
There is a whole fascinating story about how Temple Grandin, revolutionized the practices around the slaughter of cows. Before her, the sort of people that love animals, as she does, simply couldn't talk with people who make a living turning them into food. But Temple was able able to do tremendous good by showing hard-nosed business-first types that being compassionate and humane to animals is simply the best way to do things.
So now chickens may be next. The New York Times reports that two large poultry producers, Bell & Evans of Pennsylvania and Mary's Chickens in California, are preparing to switch slaughter methods to one that appears much more humane. Instead of simply hanging the chickens upside down and slitting their throats, they are going to "gently" put them to sleep with Carbon Dioxide first.
Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and a prominent livestock expert, consulted with Bell & Evans as the company worked with Anglia to design its system. She said it was better because the chickens were not aware of what was happening to them. “Birds don’t like being hung upside down,” Dr. Grandin said. “They get really stressed out by that.” (source)
Now they are trying to figure out how to market this concept. "Humanely Handled" seems like the best euphemism I've heard so far! Anyway, I see this as a sort of progress...