Revenge of the Herds!
Author’s Note: This may be hard to read if you are not familiar with the typical conditions on a factory farm and are sensitive to stories of animal abuse, but we implore you to read it anyway to educate yourself about what’s really going on in these facilities and how eating these animals is making us sick.
Life on the Factory Farm
Despite the imagery of happy animals being raised on sunny farms, very few of the animals we eat are bred on open pastures, frolicking with their own kind and raised by hard-working farmers and their families. That image could not be further from the harsh reality of what life is like for the animals that will ultimately become our bacon, chicken cutlet, veal chop, baby back ribs, or Thanksgiving-day bird. The traditional farm has been replaced by the “factory farm” or the “concentrated animal feeding operation or “CAFO.”
Billions (estimated at >52bb) of animals are tortured and killed each year for human consumption after living in horrible factory-like conditions knowing almost nothing other than tremendous physical and emotional suffering. Most never see daylight nor have enough space to even turn around. We eat roughly one million chickens per hour in the U.S.
Most confined animals never even see an animal of the opposite sex as mothers are artificially inseminated. Male animals are solely sperm donors, and sperm extraction is done while they are physically bound by farm workers. The sexual abuse of animals is expressed in the practice of breeding, genetic manipulation, castration, artificial insemination, forced pregnancy, routine rape, and child abuse which all fall under the category of “animal husbandry.”
Female cows chained to a tiny stall with a concrete floor are impregnated. Otherwise, they would not produce milk. Soon after they have just given birth, their calves are taken away. If male, those calves are sent to become veal. Female cows are milked excessively by a machine several times a day. They will be impregnated continuously for about four years. By then, she will be physically debilitated and sent to the slaughterhouse. Most cattle never interact with a single animal of their species in their lifetime. They live in a restrictive, confined state where their limbs are weak due to the excessive weight gain resulting from growth hormones and overfeeding.
As much as 97 percent of American chicken meat is treated with chlorine before being sold due to their being raised in cages full of filth and disease or in large enclosed buildings where they are overcrowded and stand in their own feces.
Cows, pigs, and chickens feel pain, separation anxiety, and fear just like our beloved dogs and cats. Why is it acceptable to treat animals so poorly if they are a part of our food supply? We would never treat our household pets with anything other than love and affection.
Your Food Eats Too!
The massive demand for chicken, beef, pork, turkey, lamb, eggs, and fish fuels lucrative industries that are motivated to produce as much as they can as quickly and efficiently as they can. Unfortunately, fulfilling this “need” is usually to the health detriment of the animals and by extension those of us who eat them. The animals are fed foods they were not intended to eat, mostly genetically modified grains like corn and soy. These grains contain herbicide and pesticide residues that make their way into the meat. Most meat not labeled organic contains growth hormonesand antibioticsthat have been found to be harmful to humans.
Most animals are fed parts of other animals which is referred to as “animal by-product” (remember Mad Cow disease?). Animal by-product containsthe body parts, blood, flesh, skin, feathers, hooves, and fat of animals raised in factory farms (chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows, and fish) that are not produced for human production.
What else do we get from animal products? Lots of saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, artificial colors, nitrates, and dyes (the color of decaying flesh is actually gray not the pinkish red we see in grocery store meats).
A Diet High in Animal Products Comes with Great Consequences
The infographic above is from the Center for Disease Control. It illustrates the epidemic proportions of chronic disease in America with most Americans (6 in 10 adults!) suffering from one or more chronic disease, most of which result from a poor diet. The level of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, cancer and more is directly related to the number of animal products, especially processed meats, we consume.
In addition, more and more recalls are occurring on a weekly basis as meat products are found to contain excess bone fragments, pieces of hard plastic, and even small rocks! Millions of additional tons have been recalled due to foodborne illnesses. Most notably, in October 2018, 6.9 million pounds (3,500 tons) of ground beef were recalled because they were believed to have been tainted with salmonella. Salmonella is bacteria that can be found in the intestines of animals and it is spread through their feces. This outbreak was particularly odd given that most salmonella cases occur in pigs and poultry.
What about the emotions of anger, fear, separation, loneliness, pain, and despair felt by the animals in these conditions, the ones we end up consuming? Do we ingest those as well? Do they contribute to the violence, need to dominate and aggressive nature of the world we live in? Perhaps there’s no way to tell for sure, but we can make some recommendations about how to do your part to help put a stop to the demand for this kind of inhumane treatment of animals:
- Buy meat, eggs, cheese, and fish from animals that were
- Fed organic food that is a part of their natural diet (yes, we are forced to pay more for grass-fed despite the fact that grass is a cow’s main food, but it is what it is!)
- Pasture raised and ethically treated. “Cage-free” and “free-range” are not the same.
- Not administered antibiotics or growth hormones
- Cut down your consumption of animal products significantly, perhaps starting out by substituting a meal a day with pasta, salads, smoothies, trail mixes, veggie burgers, and other alternatives and progressing from there.
- Go vegan and adopt a plant-based diet. We have seen no other dietary and lifestyle change result in more positive benefits to one’s overall health than this one. Substantially all experience weight loss increased energy and improvements in ailments, sleep quality and mental acuity. Less animal cruelty and a reduced environmental footprint also result; a fantastic trifecta for sure!