But what is cruel food?
Meat in general? Even those that are raised sustainably on their natural diets? Or Kosher or Halal slaughter which requires the fastest and most painless death for the subject animal as well as offering prayers to the god and thanks to the animal for the gift of its life.
What about eating animals that we consider beautiful or live with as pets? Guinea pigs were raised as food in the Andes. Horses are eaten in France. Rabbits are consumed world wide. Is their cruelty based on our sense of the cuteness of the animal or true cruelty?
Is it formula fed veal raised in boxes? What about veal fed grain and hay (which Julia Child felt should be more appropriately called calf), what about milk fed veal that live in pens instead of crates?
And foie gras, which is currently banned here in Chicago? This is an ancient method employed as far back as 2500 BCE to prepare fowl. Of course the process for creating foie gras isn't performed over the entire lifespan of the goose or duck, but rather the last 12-18 days before slaughter.. so does that make foie gras less cruel than veal?
Or what about the traditional method for preparing ortolan? Ortolan or French Buntings are caught and either raised in the dark or blinded, force fed oats, millet and figs until they reach four times their normal size. At that point they are drowned in armagnac (or cognac), roasted whole for 6-8 minutes then eaten whole, bones and all. The eater covers his head with a cloth, most likely his or her napkin in order to preserve the aroma, or as is believed by some to hide their cruelty from the sight of god.
But who is to say that vegetarianism is without its cruelty?
Jains believe that they must protect plants from harm and as a result eat only plant products that will not kill the plant by their use. You may harvest a 1,000 oranges without killing the tree, but eating one carrot will uproot and kill the entire plant. As a result Jains abstain from root vegetables.
As for myself, I am content with the knowledge that I am not separate or superior to the world around me. I am an animal and will work to meet my own needs for food in the most efficient manner possible. As a thinking being, however, I will do what I can to lessen the pain of those beings that I consume, but pain is indeed part of life. As is death. Animals would certainly do to us, what we do to them if they had the understanding or capacity to do so.