By Annie Kim
In the United States, over 23 million chickens are killed every day. 4,000 cows are slaughtered every hour. 112 million pigs are turned to bacon annually. “… we process more than 9 billion animals each year — hundreds per second,” noted New York Times writer, Mark Bittman in his article, “The Human Cost of Animal Suffering.”
Workers commonly stuff ten chickens or more into a small barb wired cage, leaving them to starve and rot. Workers would go down the long aisle of lined up pigs, ruthlessly slitting their throats. The head of baby calves would be stepped, stomped and balanced on by the hard shoes of workers, just because they felt like it. The dead bodies of beaten, weak and sick cows are thrown into a pile, some still conscious, waiting to be processed and later grilled into a juicy piece of steak slid right onto your dinner plate. .
Humans and animals are different in ethically considerable ways, which is why we should not treat animals and children as the same. But we both do share an important common ground — knowing the feeling of pain and wanting to avoid suffering. This universal interest between humans and animals needs to be respected for the sake of humanity’s moral system; it is what makes today’s brutal meat industry inhumane and wrong.
Jeremy Bentham, 18th century utilitarian philosopher writes, “A full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant. The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”
It’s true, of course, that we need protein in our diet. It is not wrong to have animals as part of our diets but the cruel process before the gourmet meal holds the moral dilemma. The human race seems to have lost our connection with nature and other species. Cows can spend their whole lives not ever given the chance to see the green on grass, yet alone eat it. Corporate owners of animal factories only care about their net profit of how much paper greens are coming in. As long as they are producing money, they could care less about what happens behind the closed doors of their factory. They “grow meat.”
“The Human Cost of Animal Suffering,” Bittman writes, “If we want a not-too-damaged planet to live on, and we want to live here in a way that’s also not too damaged, we’re better off eating less meat. But if we also want a not-too-damaged psyche, we have to look at how we treat animals and begin to change it.”
At a selected factory farm in Kamrar, Iowa, it is not uncommon to see pigs drenched in their own blood as they are restrained to metal crates barely larger than their own physical mass. Bodies of pigs with their purple and red, inflamed intestines and bleeding insides spew out, decorating the floor of the slaughterhouse. Mother pigs suffer from swollen and bleeding detrimental uterine prolapses as they are physically overused and drained from forced continuous birthing. Workers cold-bloodedly rip out the testicles, slice or wrench off the tails of conscious piglets with dull clippers, without any painkillers. This factory farm is constantly filled with the screaming squeals of piglets and pigs as they suffer a lifetime of atrocious abuse.
Piglets are nonchalantly thrown across the room at walls, between the assembly line of worker to worker and in to metal barrels. Quite often, a piglet’s head is caught between the bars of the barrels and the workers release the piglet by relentlessly yanking them by their legs. A MFA (Mercy For Animals) undercover investigator expressed his concern to Brooke Albertsen, the Farrowing Department Head of the factory, asking if throwing these piglets would “mess them up.” Albertsen casually responded saying, “Oh no, they’re fine. […] Pigs are very bouncy. It’s like a roller coaster ride for piglets.” She says this over the cries of countless squealing piglets in the background as they are riding the “roller coaster” to their deaths.
After seeing secretly filmed clips by Mercy For Animals’ (MFA) undercover investigators, the same questions will repeatedly dawn on one’s heart of why do these workers treat animals in such unnecessary malicious ways before their death. Why do we as a society continue to allow it?
In the article “Profiles in Courage on Animal Welfare,” journalist Michael Pollan explains, “Some of the best-organized and most widely dispersed political interests in America — factory farmers, feedlot owners, meat processors and the restaurant industry — will not yield without a fight for their freedom to abuse animals as they see fit … In fact, the abuse is protected by law: Most federal animal cruelty laws specifically exempt agriculture where most of the animals are … meat comes from the grocery store, where it is cut and packaged to look as little like parts of animals as possible. The disappearance of animals from our lives has opened a space in which there’s no reality check, either on the sentiment or the brutality.”
The question is, why should we be concerned about what goes on behind the walls of factory farms? After all, they are only animals. As far as we can date back, their job is to cater to our needs and provide a deliciously grilled and flavorful piece of marinated meat. But there is a dire consequence to each bite you consume from that juicy slice of meat. With each mouthful, you are not only contributing to the lies and greed produced by the meat corporations, but you may be eating your way to your grave.
The famous phrase, “you are what you eat,” speaks truth. Such health concerns significantly shortens a meat eater’s lifespan. In a recently published New York Times article “Risks: More Red Meat, More Mortality,” Nicholas Bakalar writes, “Researchers found that each daily increase of three ounces of red meat was associated with a 12 percent greater risk of dying over all … The increased risks linked to processed meat, like bacon, were even greater: 20 percent over all.”
When it comes to what and how we eat, we have a choice that may help sustain our health in the long run.
Josh Sandoval, former Division II soccer star at Cal State LA recently became a devoted vegetarian. “Being an athlete all my life, I personally look at my body as I would a car engine. Both are complex systems that rely on multiple parts in sync with each other. You get out what you put in. I will however, say with confidence that mentally I feel sharper, and my energy levels throughout the day are higher.
“When I used to eat meat, I would laugh at vegetarians. I would give my vegetarian friends a hard time because I thought that they were crazy for making such a drastic lifestyle change. When they would try to tell me about the benefits of vegetarianism, I would shoot down their arguments and do anything I could to keep my peace of mind as a meat eater. It wasn’t until I took the initiative to educate myself on what goes on with our food system and where and how our food is processed in the United States that I decided I too should go the vegetarian route.”
Two months ago, I was an avid meat eater. My so-far-short journey as a vegetarian has been an eye-opening experience, especially as a college student struggling financially. Whereas the 99-cent menu was up for grabs during any time of the night, I was now confined to trail mix, cereal, granola bars, egg sandwiches, fruits and veggies. The first week was a struggle because I constantly felt hungry. As my will power and body adjusted to my dietary changes, I began to feel more energized as I went about my day. After investing my emotions in this piece, I have come to a realization balanced again my old meat-eating habits and tastes, the cruel ways animals are being treated in the meat industry make it not worth eating meat.
If one person becomes vegetarian, it doesn’t do much but as more and more leave off meat-eating, it begins to add up. Vegetarians are fighting this battle for the lives of these animals coupled with bettering the heart of the human race, physically, mentally and emotionally. As long as I can maintain my health, I vow to take my place in this battle and be a vegetarian for life.