As children, one of the first things we learn is to recognize the friendly barnyard animals. We easily can spot the furry cow with the gentle eyes, the feathery chickens who run wildly about, and the pink pigs that roll in the mud. We may also sing about that nice farmer, Old McDonald, and all of his nice animals. The truth is that Old McDonald with a straw hat has been replaced by a business man in the hard hat. Ninety-five percent of the meat we eat does not come from Old McDonald’s farm. Hens, chickens, turkeys, and over half of beef cattle, dairy cows, and pigs come from an “animal factory” (Sussman, 95) which is a mechanized environment. This new farming method finds blue skies, tall silos, and grassy hillsides good for calendars but, bad for business. Those pictures are not cost effective. Animals are not treated with the loving care of a farmer but, are treated like inmates on death row. Poultry, pigs, and calves are forced to live in total confinement never to see the light of day until they head to the slaughter house. Hens are frequently crowded into small cages which they may not leave for a year or two. Pregnant sows are often put in stalls that are their homes for three months at a time.
After having her piglets, a sow may be pinned to the floor for four to seven weeks in order to keep the sow from rolling over on her babies. Cows may be fed steady diet of molasses laced saw dust, shredded newspaper, plastic pellets, poultry manure, and processed slaughter house wastes in order to gain weight faster. Confinement is so complete that the animals do not have room to move (206). Not only are the animals forced to live in this unnatural environment, they are also pumped full off antibiotics, hormones, steroids, and are dipped in pesticides. Over half the cattle and nearly all pigs, calves, and poultry are fed a steady diet of antibiotics and related Jarboe 2 medications to help control diseases. No one is sure what the long term side effects may be for people who consume these meat and dairy products (145). Have you ever seen a big rig driving down a highway hauling cattle? A trucker hauling livestock can legally drive two to three days nonstop leaving the creatures without food or water. Truckers who do stop to rest or water their cargo do so because they choose to, not because the law requires it . It is not surprising that much livestock is driven through days of suffocating heat and below zero nights uncared for, crowded, and sometimes literally frightened to death. Some of the animals arriving alive at the slaughter house have broken limbs or other injuries due to crowding and piling.
At the journey’s end the cattle are already confused and frightened at their treatment and strange surroundings. Now they must be sent through such procedures such as castration, dehorning, branding, and injections and various chemicals (Null, 86-87). The four slaughtering methods the government has declared humane are captive bolt, carbon dioxide, electrical stunning, and gunshot. The methods were devised from the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958. The Act says that all livestock must be unconscience before slaughtering. Unfortunately, the act has not provisions for punishment of those who choose to use an inhumane slaughtering technique (Sussman, 223). Captive bolt gun, which is usually used on cattle, uses compressed air or blank cartridges. The device fires a thick bolt into the animals’ forehead. Some bolts are designed to stun the animal by concussion rather than penetration of the skull. Carbon dioxide is used on swine and sometimes sheep and calves. The animals ride on a conveyor belt into a pit filled with 65-75% concentration on carbon dioxide.
The gas causes the animals to become unconscience. The electric stunner is handled by a packing house worker on any kind of animal. The stunners are shoved against the animal, shocking it into insensibility. If not handled correctly, the electical stunner can cause temporary paralyzation. Jarboe 3 The gunshot method is preferred among small operations and most farmers. A .22 or .38 caliber bullet is shot into the animals brain. Unfortunately, if the animal moves it’s head at the wrong time, the bullet can miss the desired spot causing the animal to bleed in agony until another bullet is fired (224-226). Chickens continue to be treated like dumb birds. In large poultry packing houses, birds are attached by their feet to a moving belt or chain. Conscience birds are moved along upside down to a motorized revolving blade that slices their neck just short of decapitation. Some operations force a knife blade into the birds mouth, piercing the base of the skull, and causing a fatal hemorrhage (Null, 136). Foodborne illnesses are the most common non-fatal diseases in the United States according to the U.S. Public Health Service.
Food poisoning, with symptoms like those of the 24 hour flu, often goes unreported or undetected. Although not that harmful to a healthy adult, a mild case of food poisoning can be fatal for an elderly person, a baby, or someone who is already ill (245). Bacteria are easily transferred from raw meat to other foods. Unwashed utensils, cutting surfaces, sloppy meat markets, and restaurants may spread salmonella and other food poisonings. People who eat raw meat may also ingest beef tape worms. When barbecuing, the drops of fat dripping off of the juicy steak onto the burning charcoal and become superheated causing the fat’s chemical properties to change to the form of a carcinogen. A grilled steak coated with greasy smoke can contain as much carcinogens as thirty packs of cigarettes (232). Dr. Michael Jacobson, the co-director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, calls bacon “the most dangerous food in the supermarket.” Bacon, sausage, and lunch meat contain sodium nitrate which, when hitting the human gut, form nitrosamines, the deadliest family of carcinogens (234).
Jarboe 4 If a group of health educators, home economists, and average individuals were asked the question, “What is the most important nutrient to a person’s diet?” most of the responses would be “protein.” Most people associate protein with meat cheese, milk, and eggs. Due to a person’s need for protein, the USDA says that the average American annually consumes 93 pounds of beef, 57 pounds of pork, 45 pounds of chicken, nine pounds of turkey, and 12 pounds of seafood. Dr. Mervyn Hardinge, a medical physician with degrees from Harvard and Stanford Universities, says that the animals you are eating did not get their protein from eating other animals. If we think about it logically, the animals received their protein from the green or leave portions of the plant. Therefore, we should also get our protein by eating vegetables. The essential amino acids that make protein complete can only be received through plants (Sussman, 12).
Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Desk Dictionary defines “healthy” as having good health and having characteristics of a sound condition (296). Some people consider “healthy” to mean eating right and being at a “correct” weight. With planning to meet the requirements for calcium, iron, and B12, a vegetarian diet can be perfectly healthy and will reduce obesity and cholesterol. The use of whole grains, vegetables, and fruit will cover the recommended daily allowance for the nutrients found in meat without the heavy cholesterol count. Vegetarians take in fewer calories and fat and more complex carbohydrates and fiber (Interview,Kevin Vance).
Although calcium and riboflavin tend to be lower, the vegetarian diet is closer to the diet recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture than the average American diet which consists of Big Macs, chicken nuggets, and Oscar Meyer wieners. Vegetarian diets depend heavily on four groups of plant foods; grains and cereals, legumes (including beans and peas), fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds. Including something from each of these four “vegetarian” food groups at every meal guarantees maximum nutrition (Interview,Kevin Vance). Jarboe 5 Besides the nutritional benefits of the vegetarian diet, the human body is not suited for meat.
For example, our teeth structures are those of herbivorous, or plant eating, animals. Although our bodies are designed to rely on vegetarian foods, modern man has changed his dietary habits to those of the carnivore, or meat eater. We may think of ourselves as carnivores but, our flat teeth are not designed to tear through hide, flesh, and bones. Tenderizer is put on meat so that it will be more easily chewed. Furthermore, the digestive system of the carnivore is designed to get rid of the meat it eats before it decays. The human digestive system is designed to break down complex carbohydrates and fibers like those of the herbivore (Sussman, 300). Taking a look past the cruel treatment of animals and the nutritional value of the vegetarian diet, maybe God did not intend for us to eat meat at all. In Genesis 1:29-30 God said: I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be your for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every plant for food. And it was so.