• [In] a recent survey of 116 U.S. cities, there was an average of 42 tanning salons per city. This means that tanning salons are more prevalent than Starbuck’s or McDonald’s.

    Paige Goedde
  • Males today have become much too obsessed with maintaining a masculine image in order to be constantly climbing higher on the social ladder

    Sarah Pierce
  • If the TV industry really wants to give these teens hope, they need to portray gay teens as they are—uncertainty and all. 

    Ashley Davidson
  • If we were all to just put down our devices for a short while and pull our eyes away from our phones and television screens, we might save some lives, treat everyone a little nicer, pay attention to the things that really matter, and succeed more in schoolwork and in life.

    Jillian Leedy
  • Pro-life supporters believe those who are pro-choice think that fetuses are not human, while pro-choice supporters actually think that fetuses are not human beings, a distinction that clearly needs to be made and clarified. 

    Todd Testerman

Our (Dis)Connection with Meat

By Emily Fox

 

A few years ago, I was reading a cookbook in which the vegan author described beef as “decaying flesh.” The phrase kept running through my head, and I could only think back to the cows of my family farm in eastern Ohio surrounding our family’s car when we drove up to see them. From that point on, after reading the words “decaying flesh” and associating them with the cows I loved visiting every summer of my childhood, beef completely lost its appeal for me. This wasn’t an animal rights statement—it was the fact that eating the cows I almost considered to be pets seemed repulsive. When I tried to explain to my friend why I stopped eating beef, she said that for her, there was no connection between animals and the meat she eats. Until reading the phrase “decaying flesh,” I hadn’t ever made this connection either, but I finally did when it came to beef. However, like my friend, for me the psychological connection between other animals and the meat I was eating did not exist, and to be honest, I didn’t really care that when I was eating chicken, it was from a chicken. I had always been kind to animals, but I never really considered myself an animal person, and I didn’t really care about the origin of my food.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was not alone in disconnecting meat from its source. While I knew a few people who were vegetarians, I realized that dissociation between meat and animals seems to be a common trend in American culture. With the exception of those who have seen Food, Inc., a documentary that unveils several hidden aspects of our food, and people who advocate “going organic,” typical Americans do not really talk about where meat comes from. No one seems to mention the process of how meat starts with an animal and ends with a package in the grocery store, an ingredient in a recipe, an item on a menu, or a salad topping at a restaurant.

Not only do people tend not to talk about meat, but they tend not to know about the meat industry as a whole. Because the industry’s primary focus is economic success, they maintain a level of secrecy from the American public. In Food, Inc, Eric Schlosser refers to this effort as a “deliberate veil…that’s dropped between us and where our food is coming from.” Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals, mentions that of the seven letters he wrote to Tyson foods requesting a visit, every single one was ignored. Other companies, too, ignored him. When he finally snuck into a factory farm in the middle of the night to try to investigate, he found the doors locked. There were twenty sheds, with the typical dimensions of 45 feet wide by 490 feet long, each containing 33,000 birds, and each with a locked door. It’s no wonder people are disconnected to their food when even an effort as strong as Foer’s is futile in learning about the way the industry works.

This is not only cruel, but it’s wasteful of life.

The reason the industry shuts people out is because it knows that the conditions that lead to economic success would sicken the public. This is not only because the animals are treated inhumanely, but because the means to economic success is almost inhuman. For example, the chicken, despite being a creature in and of itself, has been genetically modified to appeal to the needs of the public, and ultimately, to draw in a greater profit. People prefer white meat, so the chicken has been genetically redesigned to have large breasts. Since 250 million male offspring of chickens designed to lay eggs, also referred to as layers, do not serve a purpose to the public, they are disposed of by being sucked through pipes onto an electrified plate. This is not only cruel, but it’s wasteful of life. Many species of sea animals are endangered, even, because the practice of catching fish used for food tends to bring in many other kinds of fish by accident. Foer also mentions that specifically with shrimp trawling, 80-90% of the sea animals that are brought in are caught by accident, and most end up dying.

There are numerous examples of people in this industry simply not caring about creatures other than themselves when they produce food for the public. Since people in the industry are not concerned about the welfare of these potential food sources, they treat these animals inhumanely. Because exposure to this treatment might convince the public to care, the industry purposely shuts out the public in order to continue to be successful economically. As a result of the industry concealing their practices, the American public is not worried about where their food is coming from. This overwhelming amount of apathy stemming from the industry is concerning. In many cases, people are eating animals not so different from themselves, so there should be a level of respect between people and the food they put into their bodies. Joel Salatin, mentioned in Food, Inc. as the owner of Polyface Farms, suggests that “a culture that just views a pig as a pile of protoplasmic inanimate structure to be manipulated…will probably view individuals within its community and other cultures…with the same type of disdain and disrespect and controlling-type mentality.” Here Salatin acknowledges the danger of this disconnect between Americans and meat. The way that food is processed in America and the way Americans regard their food is about more than just the need to survive; it’s about the identity of Americans as people and as a culture, and the way they regard others.

Of course economic success is a concern for all, and people especially need to maximize their profits in this economy; however, there needs to be a balance between producing profit and staying in touch with humanity. If we respect ourselves, and we use animals to sustain ourselves, we should respect them during their lives as other creatures that live on this earth. As long as I know that the vast majority of animals used for meat are mistreated, I cannot excuse the industry for their means to economic success. Exposure to the industry’s practices has established for me the psychological connection that was previously absent. I have always loved eating meat, but I value life more, and I respect the lives of other people and animals. People need to know where their food comes from, and the meat industry needs to comply with the most basic human principle of respecting others, even if that means greater costs for the company. Caring about creatures other than ourselves mirrors caring about people other than ourselves, and speaks to who we are as people, and who we are as a culture.

As individuals and as a culture, we have the ability to choose our food. While educated consumers might feel powerless in the face of the huge companies in the meat industry, it is perhaps the consumer who holds the most power. Knowing how many of these animals are treated, we have a few different options. We can seek out and purchase meat from companies that treat their animals properly, or we can choose to avoid meat entirely. We can try to forget ever having learned about America’s meat industry, or we can be conscious to remember. At the very least, it is important to consider the meat we eat, and the life that was sacrificed to sustain another’s. In order to be a culture that values life, remembering where our meat comes from is at least a step in the right direction.

 

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