“Unfortunately, this trend of mass production has resulted in incredible pain and suffering for the animals. Animals today raised on factory farms have had their genes manipulated and pumped full of antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals to encourage high productivity. In the food industry, animals are not considered animals at all; they are food producing machines. They are confined to small cages with metal bars, ammonia-filled air and artificial lighting or no lighting at all. They are subjected to horrible mutilations: beak searing, tail docking, ear cutting and castration. Even the most minimum humane standards proposed are thwarted by the powerful food conglomerates.” (3)
The 9 billion chickens raised each year for their meat are packed into horribly over-crowded, filthy and under-ventilated sheds. Pharmaceuticals and genetic manipulation accelerate their body growth to the extent that their internal organs often fail or they become severely crippled. Denied their natural inclinations to roost, nest, and bathe in the sun, their wretched lives end with a slash of their throats by a mechanical razor (4&5).
85 million cattle die each year to put beef on our tables. Four corporate conglomerates account for 80% of this massive slaughter. Ravaged by diseases and metabolic disorders caused by unnatural diets, over-crowding, and cocktails of growth-enhancing hormones and antibiotics, cattle fare little better than their feathered counter-parts. Branding, castration, waddling, and dehorning are often performed without anesthesia. In spite of the Humane Slaughter Act, many cattle are improperly stunned before their throats are slit to bleed them in preparation for the final mutilation of their remains (6&7).
“Pigs “have the cognitive ability to be quite sophisticated. Even more so than dogs and certainly [more so than] three-year-olds,” says Dr. Donald Broom, Cambridge University professor and former scientific advisor to the Council of Europe.” Yet each year in the United States we torture and kill 100 million of them (8). Factory “farmers” keep sows confined in tiny spaces and in perpetual states of impregnation for several years until they are eventually slaughtered. Hogs are “fortunate” in that their sentence to a life of profound misery is a “mere” six months before they “nobly sacrifice themselves” to provide us with ham, sausage, and bacon. As with cattle, pigs are subjected to multiple mutilations without pain-killers, including tail and tooth removal. Cursed by their own intellect, the porcine “farm” experience is perhaps the cruelest. Packing them into claustrophobic enclosures causes them serious mental distress, often leading to cannibalism, self-mutilation, and repetitive, compulsive behaviors.
Commercial fishing has decimated fish populations to the extent that nearly 30% of the seafood we consume now needs to be raised on aquafarms. Aside from driving some varieties of fish to near extinction, commercial fishing techniques cause the deaths of over 100,000 marine mammals each year. Fish raised on aquafarms face many of the same horrors as their terrestrial cousins. Over-crowding, disease, and injury kill approximately 40% of farm-raised fish before they reach market. Aquafarming also has disastrous environmental consequences resulting from the release of “tons of fish feces, antibiotic-laden fish feed, and diseased fish carcasses.” (9&10)
What does our overwhelming support for this systematic torment and massacre of millions of our fellow creatures say about our society? Patrice Greanville, board member of Animal People Magazine (11), editor and publisher of Cyrano’s Journal Online (12), and renowned Leftist radical, put it like this:
“This moral blindness is inexcusable for those who rightly see themselves as the moral vanguard of humanity. For the bottom line is that speciesism—a surreptitious form of human fascism applied to animals and nature in general—is by far the oldest and most pervasive form of brutal tyrannization encountered in the sorry annals of human history. I don't use the word "fascism" as hyperbole in this context or for dramatic effect. I wish it were hyperbole. But the fact is that fascism is noted for its unilateral proclamations of superiority by a certain race or breed, endowing said race with the "right" to dominate, exploit, and annihilate at will any group deemed "inferior." If that pretty much doesn't describe eloquently our despicable behavior toward non-human animals, I don't know what does.” (13)
Speciesism is yet another ugly manifestation of the hubristic narcissism that has infected our collective psyche here in the United States. While tormenting and butchering “lesser beings” simply to please our palates is reprehensible behavior, there is a less obvious but equally sinister component to the meat industrial complex. Let’s explore it, shall we?
Consuming meat is a luxury that comes with an extremely high human cost. While dated, agricultural economist Rene Dumont’s observation rings even more true in 2007 than when he made it in 1974:
"The overconsumption of meat by the rich means hunger for the poor. This wasteful agriculture must be changed - by the suppression of feedlots where beef are fattened on grains, and even a massive reduction of beef cattle." (14)
Dr. Aaron Altshul, author of Proteins: Their Chemistry and Politics, concluded that the foods cultivated to sustain a vegetarian diet provide enough calories per acre to support twenty times more people than the meat produced by raising livestock. Altshul further observed that the Earth could support up to 20 billion people if available agricultural land was devoted to cultivating vegetarian sustenance (15).
So while we savor our succulent T-bones, relish our tender pork loin, and feast upon our marinated chicken breasts, over 35,000 of our fellow human beings starve to death EACH DAY. 30,000 of them are CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF FIVE. (16)
Consider these disturbing facts (17, 18, and 19):
--80% of starving children live in countries where there is actually a grain surplus, but farmers use the grain to feed livestock in order to sell meat to wealthier nations
--Due to its profitability, cattle ranching is rapidly replacing the cultivation of essential crops in Central and South America (where millions of people are malnourished or starving). Deforestation to create cattle pasture is also occurring at an alarming rate.