There are certain truths in this world to which I can no longer keep my eyes closed tightly against. We hear the words “global warming”, “conservation”, and “recycling.” We understand them, or we think we do, but what do we do about them? We hear the terms “vegetarian” or “vegan”, but what do they mean to us? What do they have to do with our environment? What about “animal cruelty?” What vision does that term call to mind? We see pictures of “radical environmentalists” on television and in the papers and the word that many think is “crazy.”
I’ve been thinking about some of these things for quite a while, and I’ve been doing some research for my own benefit, and I’m going to share with you a few of my ideas on the subject. I think of conservation and I think of things like not littering, and recycling. I take my paper and plastics to the recycling bin a few miles from my house. I recycle batteries, cell phones and ink cartridges through the program at my daughter’s school. Other than those things, have I really made any changes to what products I purchase or how I consume? The answer, sadly is that I have not. I have not stopped to think about the fact that my very soap and shampoo are leaching chemicals into the ground water. All this antibacterial stuff we use is also leaching into the ground. I am one person, but I can look for products that are safer to use.
Our planet is changing at a rate more rapid than any of us would like to believe. Our world is dying and we, as consumers, are killing it. Americans are among the biggest culprit, with our desire to consume more and more and our disregard for the consequences. Do you know that if every country in the world consumed the way Americans do, that earth wouldn’t be able to hold us? There would not be enough resources for us. We have a problem, people, and as an American, I am saddened and ashamed.
As I said, the world is dying. We are using it up. The changes are becoming more evident and in as little as thirty years the landscape of earth will be vastly changed. That isn’t some far off fantasy. That is within my child’s lifetime and possibly my own. Global warming is real. It is melting our glaciers and killing our forests. It’s happening. Right now. Here is something I did not know. I blame it on being too lazy to find out. One of the biggest contributing factors to global warming is our meat consumption. Yes, meat consumption. I began looking into eating less meat for health reasons. I know I consume too much meat. A typical American serving of meat would feed several people in some other countries. Like many Americans, I love meat. However, I do not need it in order to be healthy. In fact, I would be healthier with much less of it. It was when I started looking into the production of meat and its impact on the environment that I started to get angry. We are all aware that animals give off methane gas and that gas is harmful to the environment. I don’t have on hand the percentage of methane released on farms and ranches yearly, but it’s a lot. The amount of carbon dioxide released during the slaughter of animals is also a lot. I still never took into consideration the sheer amount of energy in the form of power needed to support the meat industry. From the raising of the animal to the slaughter houses, to the transport of the animals and their meat, the amount of energy used as a result of corporate farming is staggering. Yes, eating meat is killing our planet. Do you know that a person giving up meat for a year would produce the same beneficial effect on the environment as driving an environmentally friendly car?
I’m going to veer off the environment for a moment because I must face something else that my research brought to light. Animal cruelty. Before I begin I want to make two very clear points. I was raised on a farm. Not a corporate, or factory farm, but corn and soybeans mostly. We did have chickens, cows and at times a few pigs. Yes, we ate the eggs and we ate the animals. I don’t feel bad about it. I do not personally feel it is wrong to eat animals. That is just my personal feeling. The second point I want to make is how much respect I have for Vegans. The choice to consume no animal products in any way is an admirable one, and a decision I highly respect. I do think the choice to eat meat, or to be vegetarian, or to be vegan, are all personal ones, and I believe in respecting the personal choices of others.
I knew animals raised on corporate farms were overly crowded and fed with only the goal of making them as fat as possible. When I started looking into the effects of corporate farming on the environment, I also had to open my eyes to the very real issue of animal cruelty. Yes, I know many believe it is cruel to eat the animal in the first place, but I’m only talking about the treatment of the livestock before it ends up on someone’s plate. The Federal laws that protect animals from abuse do NOT apply to farm animals. Apparently you can do whatever you wish to a farm animal and it is quite acceptable by Federal law. The example I will use is chickens. I use chickens because even the couple of laws that do mandate how farm animals are to be treated, do NOT include birds. Sorry chickens.
I love chicken. I eat a lot of chicken. I knew there were questions about their treatment. I looked for labels claiming the company didn’t feed the chickens feed containing other chickens or labels stating “free range.” I had visions of chickens clucking happily in a chicken yard. Realistically, baby chicks are hatched in overcrowded drawers. When they are bigger they are snatched up, their combs are cut off, their beaks get seared partially off and they are shoved in a cage with no room to move. Sometimes they are “hobbled”, their legs broken so all they can do is eat and grow abnormally large breast meat. Those “free range” chickens? Those have the luxury of being not in cages, but crowded onto an open floor. One big mass of chickens. I could be wrong, but I believe three square foot of floor space per chicken is considered substantial. When it’s time to slaughter chickens, their heads are dunked in water and an electrical current is run through. I haven’t checked to see if that is standard practice on every chicken farm, but even if a few are doing it, that’s enough. And what happens to those adorable, yellow, fuzzy chicks on an egg farm if they have the unfortunate luck to be born male? They are tossed alive into a meat grinder to become food or fertilizer. Just picture that for a minute.
When pigs are slaughtered they are still alive when they are hoisted into a vat of boiling water. Oh, wait — there IS a federal law requiring humane methods of slaughter, that says livestock must be quickly rendered insensible to pain before being slaughtered. Before the pigs are chained by their leg to be hoisted into the water, they are hit with a taser. Oh. O.K. That makes it all better. Again, what laws there are, do not apply to birds. Never mind that once hitting the scalding water the pig is very much “sensible” and is sometimes seen trying to swim out of the vat before succumbing to death.
I could go on and on. I haven’t said anything about the dairy or beef industry, but I won’t. A little research will tell you I’m not making this up. A little research will tell you I’ve only scratched the surface of animal cruelty. What do we, as consumers, do about it? Even if I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to eat animals or animal products, I cannot look at meat in the store the same way. I can’t condone this just so I can eat chicken and dumplings or pork chops. I can’t buy a dozen eggs at the store without wondering how many baby birds were fed into a meat grinder.
As a consumer i have to make the conscious choice of how I spend my money (as little as I have). I have to decide what my dollars support. I can’t personally ignore that meat consumption is killing the planet, or the deplorable conditions of factory farms. My choice, for myself, is to greatly reduce my meat consumption. I won’t say, right now, that I will never eat meat again, but as of right now, I also cannot in good conscience purchase meat at the store. I don’t use much dairy as it is, but I’ve switched to soy products, mostly. I’m going to keep a few laying hens for eggs. In the last two weeks I have had meat once, and I haven’t missed it. There is now none in my freezer. I do respect Vegans and their choices, but I think we all have to come to terms with things in our own way. Vegetarianism, I believe, is a way of life I could follow. That’s my opinion at the time.
Those “radical environmentalists” aren’t so crazy after all. This is not propaganda, folks. Do some people go to extremes? Sure they do. Still, there is a greater message here. As individuals we have to take a stand to ensure our children and grandchildren still have earth to call home. We also have to decide whether or not we are “okay” with the fact that there are no Federal animal cruelty acts protecting farm animals. ( I uncovered two — the law that stated the animal had to be rendered insensible to pain before slaughter, and the 28 hour law stating animals being transported were to be given a “break” every 28 hours for exercise, food and water – – a law that is rarely enforced and also does not apply to birds). Most states have also not adopted laws to end cruelty to livestock. I’m just one person, but I can do my part to not make this existing mess any worse than it already is.
I’m not an expert and the above are only my opinions and thoughts on what I have been reading about. No, I did not include facts and figures in this post, I chose to only talk about my opinion. I conducted simple internet searches for my personal use and am simply sharing my thoughts on what I found. There is much on the internet about environmental protection and animal cruelty — it is up to each of us to interpret it for ourselves. These are some of the terms I searched.
“Do animal cruelty laws apply to farm animals?” — I got results from aldf.org, the animal legal defense fund, and aspca.org. There are links on the aspca website to explore the treatment of farm animals in greater detail. I also looked at animalcoalition.com, and articles in the Huffington Post, particularly by John Robbins.
“How does meat consumption affect global warming?” — I got results from timeforchange.org, the guardian.com, articles at Forbes.com by Michelle Maisto, and articles on Huffington Post by Bruce Friedrich. There was an article at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-greenhouse-hamburger
I looked at the PETA website also. Each of these searches brought many results. I also searched single words like “global warming”, “environment”, “conservation”, “corporate farming” and “factory farming.”
I’ve barely scratched the surface and I invite you to do your own research and come to your own conclusions.
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