A week-end in the mountains is a wonderful prescription for a long list of society induced stress related ailments. Despite the unseasonably warm weather, the Patriot was even able to get in a day of skiing at Plattekill, a small family ski resort in the Catskills. The trails certainly didn’t rival anything in Colorado, or even Vermont, but the Mountain had one virtue which made the skiing the equivalent of what you would find at a much better situated resort-daycare. What an enlightened concept. I have always had an affinity for the Catskills. I have camped and hiked all over the park at one point or another since I was in high school and I like the fact that the place (with a few exceptions like Woodstock) hasn’t been overrun by yuppies. Unfortunately there is a large development project slated for Bellayre which will probably forever change the air of gentle sleepiness that hangs over the smaller towns.
I was watching CNN the other day and they were playing video taken by an undercover animal rights activist of workers in a slaughterhouse kicking and tasering cows that were too sick to walk on their own into the killing chute. It was a pretty gruesome sight. Workers also sprayed water with high intensity hoses up the cattle’s up noses, and rolled them with forklifts in attempt to get them to stand . The abuse was probably motivated more by economics than any sadistic impulse on the part of the workers. Federal rule prohibits the slaughter of non-ambulatory disabled ("down") cattle for human consumption. If the cow can be tortured into walking into the slaughterhouse under its own power then it isn’t a down animal and can be made into McDonald’s ¼ pounders. If it has to be dragged to the killing floor then it’s basically worthless and has to be sold as dog food.
I am not an animal rights activist and although I was a vegetarian for 10 years, over the last several years incorporated small amounts of meat, including beef, into my diet. My personal belief, supported by science, is that man is an omnivore. However, I also believe that eating low on the food chain is a wise choice for a variety of ecological and health reasons. When I do eat meat I try to obtain it from reputable sources like local farmers and try to ensure that the animals were raised humanely. Unfortunately this is not always possible, so I suppose I have to accept responsibility for helping create the demand for factory farmed meat. It should not be surprising to anyone that scenes such as those played out in the video result from treating animals as commodities.
I confess that watching the mistreatment of sentient beings like those cows has gotten me to reconsider how much suffering I want served up with my potato and side salad. The first precept mandates that Buddhists refrain from taking life. The fact that American’s are several steps removed from the actual killing seems a flimsy rationale for ignoring the reality that a demand for meat causes the death of sentient beings. Not to mention the fact that the process that eventually results in meat under cellophane at the grocery contributes greatly to the immense suffering of human beings due to the unsustainable demand on the earth’s resources and the contribution of factory farming to the pollution of the world’s drinking water. Perhaps a first step to turning around America’s unsustainable lifestyle should be a decrease in meat consumption. How to sell it to the public is quite another question.