Philosophy / Factory Farms
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Autor: anton 03 November 2010
Words: 1445 | Pages: 6
Tortured, Wasteful, Diseased, Antibiotic Laden Animal Corpse: It's what's for Dinner
"So you don't eat meat? Why not? You know plants have feelings too!" Yes I've actually heard thatÐ’â€¦ more than once. And regardless of whether or not that comment was made as a joke, it still implies complete ignorance of the global meat industry. "Most of us don't know Ð’â€“ or choose not to know Ð’â€“ how meat is made because intensive production systems allow us the luxury of not thinking about the implications of factory farming" (State of the World, Rethinking the Global Meat Industry, pg. 25). It almost seems like humans refuse to accept the fact that the process of making meat is not only harmful to the animals, but it's bad for the environment and for human health. In trying to get people motivated to make changes, Danielle Nierenberg's Rethinking the Global Meat Industry addresses these issues. However, in my opinion she didn't give enough attention to the mistreatment of the animals. This paper will begin with brief overview of the negative aspects of the global meat industry to the environment and human health with reference to Rethinking the Global Meat Industry. I will then devote a section to the animals themselves (the part I think Nierenberg left out). I'll conclude with a critique on Nierenberg's documentation of some solutions to the "problem" while including a number of other ways people can make a difference.
So what's the root cause of mass producing meat? It's simple: people eat a lot of it. In 2004, 258 million tons of meats were produced. All that meat has to come from somewhere. And unfortunately it comes from factory farms. So what does that mean? Well for starters, factory farms have a negative impact on the environment. "Even the most cursory exam of modern meat production indicates serious environmental problems" (pg. 30). For example, an 8 ounce portion of beef can use 25,000 liters of water. "In Hong Kong, one slaughterhouse generates 5 million liters of waste water per day" (pg. 31). Another environmental concern is oil usage. A lot more oil is used in the modern production of meat versus the oil used for other types of food such as potatoes. Waste from the animals is also an issue. "Livestock produce more than 600 million tons of waste annually on factory farms... [a lot of which] ends up polluting air, water, and the soil itself" (pg. 31).
In terms of health, factory farmed meat is bad in a number of ways. Both the process of making the meat, and the meat itself, cause serious health problems that could potentially lead to death. One reason for this is that "factory farms provide the perfect conditions for disease to spread from livestock to people" (pg. 32). "Because meat is a globalized productÐ’â€¦ disease like avian flu, BSE, and foot-and-mouth (FMD) can become global phenomena" (pg. 32). Mad cow disease, caused by factory farming practices, is also a huge health concern that affects the brain and eventually leads to death. Foodborne illnesses, such as campylobacter, listeria, salmonella, cryptosporidium, and pathogenic Escherichia coli, are yet another serious health issue that comes from factory farming. "Every year, the United States recalls millions of tons of chicken, beef and pork products because of potential food safety concerns" (pg. 34). Ok, that's more than enough to make me never want to touch factory farmed meat ever again. And still there's more. Factory farm methods include the use of "antibiotics in animal agriculture [which] is making it harder to fight foodborne infections and other human diseases" (pg. 34). This is because the types of the antibiotics that the animals are given are a lot like the ones humans take when they are sick or to fight disease.
It's obvious from all the reasons I've given that the global meat industry needs to be changed. But the part that really gets me emotionally is the inhumane treatment of the animals. It is outright disgusting what people will do just to make a profit. Leonardo Da Vinci once said that in the future, society will look back on what we are doing to other animals today with the same incredulity and revulsion that we presently reserve for what people did to other humans in the past. I think most people would agree with this if they knew what the factory farmed animals go through. Chickens have their beaks cut off, they crammed in tiny cages, and sometimes they are boiled alive. Cows are castrated, crammed together, branded, and dehorned. Pigs have their tails cut off to prevent them from chewing them off each other out of frustration and crammed living conditions. They live, eat and sleep in there own waste as the ammonia produces sores and burns all over their bodies. When they are transported often they don't receive food or water for days at time. Many will die from the heat, starvation, or freeze to death. In a sense, animals on factory farms are treated like anything else made in a factory. Meat is a product, and the objective of the factory is to produce it cheaper and faster. How the animals are treated in the process is irrelevant. This makes sense from an economical standpoint, but is in no way justified morally. Owning slaves was beneficial economically, but today we are mortified by it.
I think the reason why Nierenberg chooses not to focus her article on the treatment of animals is that a lot of times people don't care about things they aren't exposed to. When I try to make people aware of what goes on, I'm not asking them to change their diets. I just hope to get a reaction. And sadly a lot of times that doesn't happen. Some people are in denial of what goes on. And "DENIAL [is what] the meat business finds indispensable" (John Robbins "Diet for a new America").
Another reason people don't care about the animals is because they think farm animals are dumb and unfeeling. They're "just" animals. Anytime I hear that, it reminds me of a line from Dr. Seuss's Yertle the TurtleÐ’â€¦ "I know at the top you are seeing great sights, but down at the bottom we too should have rights". Animals raised for meat are not dumb and unfeeling. If they are it's brought on by factory farms. In fact, chickens score better than cats and dogs on cognitive functioning tests. Pigs play video games better than some primates and interact with each other in ways similar to primates. And "Fish are sensitive, they have personalities, they hurt when they're wounded" (Dr. Sylvia Earle, marine biologist- commenting on factory farmed fish).
At the end of Rethinking the Global Meat Industry, Nierenberg offers some solutions to the "problem". She proposes genetically engineering the animals, using biotechnology, introducing genes into animals etc. "But [these solutions] do not address the real problem" (pg. 36). In my opinion these "solutions" will only aid in postponing our dealing with the real problem. We need to start making some changes both individually and as a society, and we need to do it now.
One option is to become vegetarian or vegan. This is an obvious solution to directly related health problems that come from eating factory farmed meat. "Vegetarians have the best diet. They have the lowest rates of coronary disease of any group in the countryÐ’â€¦ they haveÐ’â€¦ only 40 percent of our cancer rate" (William Castelli, M.D., director. Framingham Heart Study). And beyond personal health, the average vegetarian saves about 100 animals per year (www.PETA.org). Another option is to buy meat and dairy products from local farms, or purchase organic/free range products. However, it should be made clear the "labels advertising Ð’â€˜organic' or even Ð’â€˜free-range' products do not necessarily mean the animals were treated well" (pg. 38). Another option is to support legislation and policies that will regulate the way meat is to be produced. And if nothing else, we can continue to educate others about factory farms and their negative impact on animals, human health, and overall the environment.
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