Last week, I went out with someone that a friend of mine thought I should meet. As we drank beers and discussed which restaurant to ONE VERB, he mentioned that he did not eat meat and went on to describe the abuses of caged, pregnant pigs. As he spoke, I cringed inwardly. I wanted to immediately interrupt him so I wouldn’t have to hear more about the poor pigs, but I didn’t. I waited until enough time had passed so that I wouldn’t appear impolite, cut in, and informed him that I was well aware of such practices and babbled on how I was mostly vegetarian for about ten years (I ate dairy and fish) but that now I greatly enjoy eating meat because it allows for so much variety when eating. We ended up at an Italian place, and I ordered salmon. I don’t think the topic came up again, but I kept thinking about the pigs.
Since I began eating meat again in 2004, I’ve tried to keep informed of campaigns to improve conditions for factory farm animals, always vowing to donate money to organizations such as The Humane Society (HSUS) and the Humane Farming Association (HSA). Over the years, I’ve responded to the emails the HSUS sends out and, when applicable, sent out the email faxes to whomever they asked me to: corporations, my state officials, etc. I became excited when I received the update that Burger King, of all companies, was proudly phasing out the purchase of pigs and other animals from slaughterhouses that treated them inhumanely. However, it was not until this week that I handed over some cash: $35 to each organization. It’s not a lot, but every little bit helps. Now, if you care about the animals, you should do the same. Yes, YOU! I’m speaking directly to my readers, and not only the meat eaters. In fact, the vegetarians, especially those who may be preachy about it, must act as well.
Vegetarians must stop believing that they are making a huge impact by refusing to eat meat, ESPECIALLY if they consume healthy quantities of dairy. Why? Obviously, most dairy products come from cows who live miserable lives, and too many people still eat meat and will continue to eat meat until they depart this earth. The statistics don’t lie: Last year, Vegetarian Times magazine reported that about 3.2% of adults are vegetarian and %.05 percent are vegan. Of course there are large margins of error when conducting polls and studies, but after searching the web for a bit, it looks as if the general consensus is that there vegetarians make up between 2% to 4%
of the United States’ population, which means over 95% of people eat at least some meat.
That accounts for A LOT of factory farmed animals. HSUS reports that an estimated 10 billion animals are slaughtered per year and that 95% of those animals are chickens. Clearly, the few million people who abstain from eating meat are not doing much to alleviate the suffering of animals: it’s still occurring. As HSUS states, “no federal law protects animals from cruelty on the farm, and the majority of states exempt customary agricultural practices--no matter how abusive--from the scope of their animal cruelty statues.” Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is supposed to “oversee” slaughterhouses’ operations, but if the FDA can’t manage to oversee peanut butter production, it’s not too surprising that the USDA doesn’t do much for animals. Their lack of actions and/or lack of resources allow factory farms to get away with confining pigs, birds, cattle, and calves into tiny crates and/or crushing them and/or generally treating them worse than any living creature deserves. Those who are very sensitive, brace yourselves when reading on:
The HSUS also contends that “millions [of chickens] each year are gassed, crushed or thrown into garbage bins to die from dehydration or asphyxiation…most female chicks are painfully mutilated without any anesthesia…and the tips of their sensitive beaks are sliced off with a hot blade, making it difficult for them to grasp food.” If that weren’t bad enough, since people work so quickly at slaughterhouses, of course there can be accidents, and sometimes “Birds are still conscious as they enter tanks of scalding water intended to loosen their feathers.”
In terms of the pigs, the so-called “’meat pigs’” are castrated and have their tails docked without anesthesia, they are confined into sheds and the females who become pregnant are forced to lie mostly dormant in crates. In most cases, they can not turn over or stand up. And, of course, oversights occur when pigs are handled; some “are still conscious as they are hung upside down and their throats are slit.”
For the cows, well, most people have heard of how quickly calves are taken from their mothers and confined in tiny, inhumane crates, just like the gestating sows. A lot of dairy cows are artificially inseminated and force fed hormones, which may not necessarily be safe for humans or the cows. Being filled with all of these drugs makes the cow work very hard to deliver their milk. The HSUS quotes a Dr. John Webster, who says the work they do equals six hours of jogging a day for a human.
Finally, let’s discuss the ducks. Foie gras has become immensely controversial over the years, leading many cities and/or restaurants to ban it. In case you are unfamiliar, producing foie gras involves force-feeding ducks and geese “unnaturally large quantities of food through a metal tube that is shoved down their throats and into their stomachs two or three times each day….The livers become enlarged up to ten times their normal size, making it difficult for the birds to move comfortably and, for some, even walk. The practice of force-feeding can cause painful bruising, lacerations, sores, and even organ rupture.” Such abuse is clearly unnecessary in any case, but especially in this one, since foie gras is considered a delicacy of the upper class as opposed to an every day staple of the masses.
Clearly, fishing is problematic, too. Fish are sensitive, and if they do not die instantly, they suffer. Imagine how it would feel to have a hook in your cheek or lip! Additionally, other animals besides fish get caught in nets and perish. I’m sure many people recall the controversy involving tuna and dolphins. Currently, the sea turtle is effected by poor fishing practices, and whales and other sea creatures are as well. Apparently, no one has the time to come up with less invasive and potentially threatening ways of fishing.
In addition, workers are also affected. According to one article I read, people who become injured on the “line” (yes, the animals parts fly down the assembly line; think of Laverne and Shirley removing cow hocks instead of bottling beer) often have no recourse. According to goveg.com, “In Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser writes, “The annual bonuses of plant foremen and supervisors are often based in part on the injury rate of their workers. Instead of creating a safer workplace, these bonus schemes encourage slaughterhouse managers to make sure that accidents and injuries go unreported.” Again, this is not surprising, but it is another reason to involve yourself in campaigns to improve factory farm conditions.
The big question someone might ask is, “Are these campaigns doing any good?” From the HSUS’s standpoint, they are. So far, Florida and Oregon have banned gestation crates, and Arizona, Colorado, and California have banned both gestation and veal crates. Big time franchises like Burger King, Wendy’s, McDonals’s and Chipotle will not use pork that comes from crate pigs. Smithfield and Cargill, two of the main pork producers, are in the process of eliminate crate use.
Additionally, Wolfgang Puck does not use crate pig pork or eggs from confined chickens. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s also do not sell cage eggs (Whole Foods is not down with crate pork, either). Burger King, Hardee’s and Denny’s are starting to phase out use of cage eggs.
One of the major successes that HFA can report has occurred under Schwarzenegger in California. He “has just signed into law the nation’s most comprehensive legislation to protect sick and injured farm animals…[the law] will prohibit the transport and marketing of downed animals and will allow prosecutors to file criminal charges against any slaughterhouse that butchers downed animals for human consumption.” Also, “the marketing of other diseased and disabled farm animals, including pigs, sheep, and goats” will be prohibited.”
Clearly, gains are being made. Working to improve conditions for animals (and workers) of factory farms is a winnable battle. It’s an important battle. It’s worth a few bucks a few times a year, and it’s worth a few seconds of your time every now and then. Vegetarians: If you’re not doing something to help these farm animals, start. I can not emphasize enough that going vegetarian is not the solution. It only appeases one’s moral sensibilities. It’s a harsh criticism, but I can make it since I was guilty of the same type of thinking. Meat eaters: If you care about these animals you eat at all, please do something. It will make eating the meat more enjoyable for you. I know a lot of meat eaters who constantly advocate fair treatment of dogs, but what about the pigs and chickens and turkeys that land on your plate? Don’t they deserve better lives, too?
As I said, it’s easy and fast to get started: simply visit the web sites below, get on their email lists, and maybe donate a little cash. And please, if you useful information, please comment and share it with the rest of us.
Bald Chick: Learning to Live with Alopecia Areata
- Chicago, Illinois,
- December 23
- I am a college writing instructor who loves birds, being outdoors, watching film and keeping up on pop culture in general. I have recently learned that I have alopecia and want to write about my experiences with hair loss. However, I am a socially aware person, so sometimes I may choose to write about other topics besides hair loss.
MY RECENT POSTS
- Cause of Alopecia discovered;
Miss Delaware and Kriss Kross
July 05, 2010 09:01PM
- I'd rather shave than have
June 05, 2010 05:09PM
- Buying my first wig
June 05, 2010 04:46PM
- "Good for you!" I'm not sick!
June 05, 2010 04:32PM
- Tiny baby steps
May 04, 2010 09:45PM
MY RECENT COMMENTS
- “Thank you both for the
May 05, 2010 10:09PM
- “Thank you for the
Brie, I hope your event
went well! It's
April 25, 2010 08:12PM
- “Thanks Amanda! I might
be checking out the wigs soon.
just been dealing
April 19, 2010 10:35PM
- “Thanks! I am sorry you
can not just go completely
think bald guys
April 18, 2010 10:18PM
- “Wow, thanks for all of
the comments. I didn't think
would even see, let
March 14, 2009 11:25AM