This is my belated Meatless Monday post. Meatless Monday this week was kind of a flop. It turned out to be too hectic around here and too few people home to cook, so we picked up a couple vegan black bean burgers from our favorite Italian market. They’re the best veggie burgers ever. I put some tomato paste on top and ate it with a seaweed salad, which is random but I love seaweed salad. Doesn’t it look like a real burger? I wish I could make them myself. One day.
As you may be able to gather from the title, I recently saw the movie The Fault In Our Stars. I read the book about a year ago, it broke my heart, and I loved it. I really thought the movie did it justice. In fact, I’ve never cried so much at a movie in my entire life. When I was watching it, I couldn’t bare to see the characters hurt so much.
Now, it occurred to me that it’s strange that fictional suffering can rip us apart emotionally while the very real suffering that goes into the food on our plates goes largely unknown, ignored or, increasingly, intentionally forgotten. Why is it that we can’t turn away from Augustus and Hazel’s tragic love story, but nearly every time we eat meat or dairy or eggs, we are turning away from hundreds of millions of suffering animals?
It’s not unnatural or, in my opinion, inherently immoral, for humans to kill animals for food. But factory farming is unquestionably unnatural, immoral, and by most standards, incredibly cruel. I will not allow you to ignore the truth any longer. For your disgust and dismay, here is an abbreviated list of faults in industrial animal agriculture:
- Cattle are fed a corn diet during the last chunk of their lives, when they have evolved to eat grass. They are fed corn because it’s a lot cheaper and a lot easier to swell a cow to the gigantic sizes that our Western appetites demand on corn than on grass. Just like we now know the wrong diet can make humans sick, the wrong diet definitely makes cows sick. The only way to keep cattle alive and growing on this diet is to pump them with hormones and antibiotics, which creates a whole new set of problems for them and for us. Not only that, but they are also fed parts of other animals, even their own species, which is the practice that led to mad cow disease.
- Pigs and chickens are crowded into barns by the ten thousand and often into cages where they can barely move. Chickens in cages stacked on top of each other urinate and defecate into the cages below them. Regardless of the situation they all sit in their own waste, which is suffocating and unsanitary. Again, only way to keep them alive for slaughter is to feed ’em those trusty (not-so-much) antibiotics. Chickens get so crowded that they get cannibalistic, so the farmers cut off their beaks. And without being able to move and exercise, animals’ bone density worsens and they grow fat and sick just like humans who don’t move.
- Hogs, poultry, and cattle have been bred over several years now to grow as economically efficiently as possible, which means really big in the shortest possible amount of time. Farmers have bred their livestock to grow obese as adolescents by default. I think it’s hardest on the turkeys. They can’t even fly (yes, turkeys used to be able to fly) or have sex. Can you imagine?
- The young are taken from their mothers very prematurely, which is hugely distressing to both mother and calf/chick/lamb/piglet.
- The process of slaughter attempts to be humane, I’ll admit. The procedure is to stun the animals before they’re killed, so that they don’t feel anything. But sometimes the stunning doesn’t work on the first try. Horrifyingly, because of the pressure to do in as many animals as possible in the shortest amount of time, workers often don’t ensure that the animal is unconscious before hanging it upside down, skinning and slicing it. A shocking percentage of animals are slaughtered while conscious, scared, struggling, and obviously in pain. Whatever regulations are in place for this process aren’t enforced, and it’s completely unacceptable.
- This video also sums it up pretty nicely.
Sometimes we can’t prevent the unfair, unnecessary, painful, and premature death of a young person from cancer. It’s awful, and I’m not trying to equate Hazel or Augustus or any truly suffering human to a food animal. But there is so much unnecessary suffering of literally billions of animals that could be prevented, that we are ignoring every time we pick up a burger or a chicken finger or spear a sunny side-up egg. I am nowhere near running out of reasons to give you to eat less meat, but I think this is the one that would get the most people if they made themselves confront the truth. I realize that another solution would be to reform agriculture, which is definitely a must, but understand that it is not possible to produce as much meat as cheaply under sustainable, humane conditions, which is why agribusiness resists reform. Basically, either way, by individual decision or widespread reform, you’d be eating less meat. But no one needs as much meat and dairy as we’ve got, and no one really wants any meat produced cruelly, right?
So give Meatless Monday a chance, for Pete’s sake!
Did you know that in the book Hazel is a vegetarian? 😉