Monthly Archives: September 2011

I’m Not The Only One Seeing It….

The 6 Most Horrifying Lies The Food Industry is Feeding You, courtesy of Cracked.com.

And there’s “ammonia-infused hamburger”, right there — a direct result of the meat industry soaking your meat with chemicals rather than slow down the lines so it doesn’t get contaminated in the first place.  Below that we have “free range” chickens raised in giant sheds…which is technically “free range” compared to the industry-standard “five birds to a cage” plan, but is still nothing like the wide open fields you’re thinking about when you see the words “free range”.

Just another note to myself, I’m not the only one seeing this thing….

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A Meaty Amusement

image by Sarah Illenberger

Having gone to a slightly less meat-infused lifestyle, I find it more difficult than it used to be to order in restaurants.  I never realized how pervasive meat was until I tried to find a dish without any in it.

Not that any one restaurant seems to be worse than any other, here’s the lunch and dinner menu from Cracker Barrel.  Even just looking at the photos, everything has meat in it, even the salads (and, yes, the baked beans are made the old-fashioned way, with ham).  Only the desserts come without meat!

And here’s the menu from IHOP, one of my other favorites.  They’re a little better because of the preponderance of (generally meat-free) pancakes, but still — sausage, ham, bacon, eggs, steak, and the “Bacon-N-Beef Burger”, burger with bacon mixed in.

Also, when you order an entree without meat from most of my favorite restaurants, the waitress will ask you, as though you may have forgotten, “Did you want any meat with that?”  I know it’s a required upsell — meat is profitable for them — but sometimes it just sounds macabre!

Other times, the menus remind me strongly of the “Spam” Sketch from Monty Python.  “Meat, meat, meat, meat with beans, meat with rice, meat with potatoes, roasted meat, baked meat, boiled meat, sliced meat, curried meat, raw meat, burnt meat, meat salad, meat pie, meat omelet, meat stir fry, meat sandwich, meat fried rice, meat with more meat, meat with eggs, meat with bread, meat with sauce, meat with pasta…or Lobster Thermidor á Crevétte with a mornay sauce served in a Provençale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle paté, brandy and with a fried egg on top and meat.”

Pig or Puppy, the System Still Sucks

I was raised by wolves, or at least by a pack of consummate carnivores.  I find that not a lot of my friends want to talk to me about animal welfare because they think that, by objecting to how we treat our meat and research animals, I’ve become a brainwashed, tree-hugging hippie who’s trying to convert them to veganism.  They like eating their meat, and they get grumpy when they think someone is trying to take it away.

All right.  We all love bacon.  Pigs provide bacon.  You gotta kill pigs to get bacon.  Fine.

Now imagine that there are two ways to get bacon out of a pig (or a puppy).

The first way is an old, slow, traditional way: you raise the pig in a nice big space, let it exercise the muscles you’re going to eat, feed and water it properly, give it love, health care, and shelter, and kill it as humanely as possible.  You clean the carcass carefully, use as much of it as you can, and only keep and slaughter as many pigs as you can kindly handle.  Because you have a lot of time to work with individual animals and to make sure your facilities are clean, this produces clean, fresh bacon — and a lot more of it, off fatter, healthier pigs (or puppies).

The second way is the new, fast, modern way: you raise hundreds of thousands of pigs in small metal boxes in the dark.  You grow them so big, so fast, their legs break.  You fill them to the eyes with antibiotics so they don’t get sick.  You can’t process all the pigs yourself, so you hire (and abuse) minimum-wage workers to do the slaughtering in a partially automated process.  Processing 3,000 pigs an hour (one every two seconds), not all the pigs die before being dismembered.  Something like 20-30% are “legged”, gutted, and dissected alive.  Everything moves so fast there’s no time to clean properly, and carcasses (and everything else) are covered in feces, blood, and other materials.  There’s no time to inspect carcasses properly, either, and diseased animals are packaged up for sale.  When disease is inevitably discovered in your product, instead of slowing down the line, you wash the meat down in chlorine before you package it.

Either way, you end up eating bacon.  But the first way, you’re getting good meat, and the second way, you’re getting meat full of chemical washes, pus, E. coli, and sawdust.

Just for this moment, we’re gonna skip all the animal welfare issues, the worker welfare issues, the adorable little kids dying of E. coli poisoning, and the really cute part where the plants are run and “overseen” by the rich, fat-cat assholes in Washington that you hate, who are even now passing laws to make it easier for them to churn out tainted, sawdust-flavored crap and sell it everywhere.  Boiled down to the basic facts: the current system of food production, which supplies most grocery stores and restaurants, turns out horrible, diseased, scary meat which is doused in chemicals and potentially dangerous for you.

Your status as a carnivore is not in question.  The question is, which pig (or puppy) would you rather eat?

Someone Else Can See It

It’s not that the scientists are lying, exactly, about what they’re doing.  It’s not that they’re hiding it, either, really.  Everything they do is written down as a proposal, approved by various subcommittees, recorded as results, and stored in case someone wants to look at it.  The problem is more one of communication:

“Yes, [I found it],” said Arthur.  “Yes, I did.  It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

Like the plans to demolish Arthur Dent’s house, the descriptions of what people are doing in laboratory experiments are there — just very, very difficult to find.  Most people don’t bother, or aren’t even aware that there are any descriptions out there to find.

For example, you can find, if you search online, some perfectly ordinary “rodent guillotines“.  You may be able to find a page, as well, explaining why some research animals might need to be euthanized via guillotine (it allows the researchers to collect samples uncontaminated by euthanasia chemicals).  Here’s a page describing research reassuring scientists that decapitation is painless (notice that it’s in response to research saying decapitation isn’t painless, and that it corroborates the original findings, but simply chooses to interpret them differently).  You can find masses of pages describing the euthanasia techniques, including decapitation, used by different facilities (look at all those colleges!  Did you know that your college tuition funded this kind of thing?  Would you have gone to that college if you’d known?)

…how would you know to look for this if you hadn’t worked in one of these facilities?  I wouldn’t have been able to come up with the search terms (“decapitation”, “euthanasia”, “rodent”, and “SOP”, if you’re wondering).  It wouldn’t have occurred to me that this even went on.  What other practices do we just need to know the search terms to find?  (Try “cervical dislocation”, “neonates” and “scissors”, “captive bolt”, “hog stunner”, and finish up with “AVMA guidelines euthanasia” to see the full list.)  It’s not like the information isn’t out there…it’s just that nobody is calling it to our attention.

What triggered this today was a random blog post from someone else mentioning that, hey, we’re not really saying a lot about this, are we?  Has anyone else noticed that people are being really quiet about this?  Why?

“No Nonsense Guide” Contains Nonsense

In my search for What The Hell Is Going On I have been reading a lot of different books from a variety of sources.  Today I was leafing through a copy of The No Nonsense Guide to Animal Rights, by Catharine Grant, which has a foreword by Ingrid Newkirk of PETA and a definite animal-liberation bias.  I tend to avoid such books not because I entirely disagree with them, but because they tend to prefer emotional arguments over logical ones.  In their search for a black and white view of the world, they also occasionally take logic a little too far: Following a description of a visit to a pretty much idyllic little English farm, wherein the animals all had enough space, affection, shelter, food, water, and medical care, with owners who knew them all by name, the book immediately adds: “However, even organically reared animals are raised to be killed…[and so] many animal rightists believe that all husbandry is inherently unjust.”  Take that, caring and affectionate farmers who put so much time and work into your animals!

Anyway, the part that got me was in the book’s description of the farming of sheep for wool:  “Most sheep…live outside.  Free-roaming sheep are a common sight in many parts of Britain, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.  The sheep are largely left to themselves until they are herded for shearing.”  Sounds as good as sheep can have it, doesn’t it?  So what’s wrong with this hands-off approach to sheep husbandry?  The book notes that, because the sheep are left to themselves, “many sheep die of exposure or neglect every year.”

Where is the happy ground here?  If the farmers provide good (but barn- and pasture-based) care for their sheep (or cows), the sheep are healthy and protected from harm but are still captives in thrall to their evil human overlords, which is Wrong.  But if the farmers let the sheep loose to graze freely and without interference over the countryside, they are abandoning the poor defenseless sheep to the cruel vagaries of nature.

Assuming we stopped all human use of animals tomorrow, and we could just let all domestic species loose and they would be able to fend for themselves…aren’t we just abandoning them to whatever horrible death nature has in store?  Is living for 7-10 years well loved, well fed, warm, and healthy in a barn, under the care of humans, really less preferable to being eaten by a mountain lion or starving to death when one’s teeth wear down with age?  Nature does not offer a guarantee of a peaceful death.  Neither do humans right now (although such a guarantee should be a part of humans taking responsibility for an animal) — however, living with humans, even under current conditions, gives a much greater probability of a humane death than does living in the wild.

If the issue is about freedom, and freedom of choice, for the animal…would (at least some) animals not choose warmth, safety and protection with humans if given the opportunity?  Feral cats and dogs choose this option all the time, as do rats, cockroaches, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, and all the myriad species who live in close contact with human habitation.

It sounds like letting animals loose to roam and not protecting them is just as horrible as keeping them in barns and pastures.  Are we required by this book’s extra-compassionate moral code to not only stop using animals but also then to spend the rest of our lives following around the wild animals and protecting them from harm?  We are all fighting together against the big, scary thing that is the universe, life, and death.  Why not do it literally?