According to a study by Vegetarian times, 54% of vegetarians cite animal welfare as a reason for becoming vegetarian. A report by the FDA, that meat sold contains up to 27% contamination from salmonella and 87% E. Coli.
Many of us don’t know where our food comes from and we can’t advocate for it. I bring to you the following compendium of how meat is raised.
An interesting video created in 2003 follows the life of a pig called Leo who thinks he lives in a family farm but discovers he is really living in an industrial farm system. A link to video here.
Baby pigs are castrated without anesthesia because the “boar’s taint” creates a foul odor for the meat. The pigs are cramped into small spaces where they can barely turn around and are pumped of growth hormones in order to be processed faster.
If you want to hear more of the story, you can visit The Peta Website for more views on pig treatment and slaughter.
As most of us know, cows eat grass; but in farms, cows are fed unnatural grain-based diets, which have been linked to health and digestive problems for them. In recent years, there has been more experimentation in animal feed, so the grains are mixed with soy, corn and animal products such as chicken. Mad cow disease was the result of this experimentation with cow’s own meat, and caused the cow’s central nervous system collapse and death. The variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) is the human equivalent and is believed to be caused from eating cattle infected with mad cow disease.
Cattle raised for food are also regularly dosed with drugs such as antibiotics to make them grow faster and keep them alive in these conditions. This creates antibiotic resistant bacteria, and in humans to be less defensive against E.Coli. us to develop resistance against them.
They go into the slaughter-house where they are tasered and put on an assembly line. An instructional video of how cows are slaughtered declares that the animal must be tasered in order for it to be a painless and humane death. However, there have been reports of animals being conscious when they are processed, and it’s natural to assume that it happens under such fast-paced factory conditions. For an instructional video of how cows are killed:
The movie Food Inc. goes in depth in the food production system and interviews the owner of one of the slaughterhouses. An excerpt below:
It is estimated that one burger contains the meat of hundreds of cows. The documentary also follows the story of a woman called Barbara whose 2 year old son died after eating a burger infected with E.Coli. In a PBS interview she explains how she is very active for better food safety laws, including the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention.
Baby chick eggs are incubated in incubators and after that they are placed on an assembly line where they separate female chicks from male chicks. The .gif on the left is a cut from the movie Baraka.
Male chickens, are either left to die or killed in a grinder. The female chicks are either separated into egg-laying chickens or chickens raised for meat where they live their enclosed cells. The following excerpt from Food Inc. follows one of the chicken farmers who exposes these terrible conditions and details how she became allergic to antibiotics after handling the chickens.
Poultry make the highest percentage of animals raised for food in the US; and also have the highest concentration of salmonella and E coli bacteria from all the meat types.
Many people choose to eat fish as a healthy alternative and somewhat a stance on other types of meat and their production. Although this alternative could be better; there is still a magic bubble as to where farmed fish and wild-caught fish comes from.
Farmed fish form around 38% of fish consumption in developed countries according to a report by the World bank. It’s expected that this will grow to 62% by 2030. Less than 7% of farmed fish eaten in the US is produced in the US; according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, 62% of all farmed seafood in the world is produced in China, 26% in Asia outside of China, 4.5% from Europe, and 4.5 percent from the Americas. Fish are farmed much like chickens and other animals. They’re cramped in very close spaces and given food unlike what they could find in the wild, like soybeans and other crops.
“In some cases, more than fifty thousand fish are kept in a two-acre area
.With all the fish cramped in a small space, fish waste turns into pollution very quickly. And when the fish rub against each other and bump against their holding tanks, it can cause disease and infection.”
–Aquaculture @ How Stuff Works.com
Many health sites recommend wild caught fish over farmed fish due to its nutrient content, and in some cases the animal’s treatment. However, at least 17% of all the wild caught fish around the world is accidental. This means for every fish caught intended for consumption, there are many more that perish unnecessarily. This exploits resources and places species in danger. The World Wildlife Federation estimates that over 300,000 small whales, dolphins, and porpoises die from entanglement in fishing nets each year, making this the single largest cause of mortality for small cetaceans.
The World Wildlife Federation is working to help identify new ways to fish and reduce impact of bycatch on marine species’ populations; but it is still a reality.
An excerpt from the book Eating Animals posts an interesting reflection:
” What if there were labeling on our food letting us know how many animals were killed to bring our desired animal to our plate? So, with trawled shrimp from Indonesia, for example, the label might read: 26 pounds of other sea animals were killed and tossed back into the ocean for every 1 pound of this shrimp.”
-Jonathan Safran Foer
Independently of whether we eat meat or not, I believe we all have the right to know where our food comes from and decide if we want to eat it. I hope that’s what I’ve done with this article. Although many of us don’t have access or resources to healthier meat, we can take a stance by looking for more humane options such as locally produced or hunting/fishing your own. In order to reduce the risk of contamination by E-Coli, cooking meat thoroughly is imperative. A way to protect yourself in areas with little access to alternative produced meat would be to reduce meat consumption and advocate for better animal rights laws and better food quality laws. The choice I made for myself was to stop eating meat altogether and find healthier ways to obtain the nutrients I need. It can be difficult to adjust to a new diet, but you can find in this blog more information on vegetarian diet and recipes.