Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Not Dogs and Soysages

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.


Anonymous said...

I like mine mid-rare...

Anonymous said...

"Don't Taze Me farmer Joe".

Tazing cattle towards their death chamber seems like the restaurant kitchen's equivalence of "Holding for well done" You know, that piece of meet that's been sitting around the reach-in for god knows how many days and has developed a slimy film and slight odor. Burn it and serve it! Anyways, cost considerations often trump public safety. Though tazing cows does pull at the heart strings, only slightly however, and the fact that animal cloning has received much press and is sort of the sexier issue, the use of antibiotics in our food supply is what I find really disturbing. I think the FDA has banned something like 40% of farmed raised fish from China. If people knew what was going on with their fish they'd never eat a dead sea sandwich from Micky D's again. Not nearly enough is known about the long term effects of force feeding our herds sipro, the effects on the heard, humans, and the ever increasingly smarter and smarter bacteria we share this world with. It would be a shame if we developed whole strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria in order to satisfy our needs for happy meals. I must admit though, I have a 2 for 1 Big Mac coupon and I'm using it tonight.

Mark said...

If you are worried about antibiotics in meat and other unsavory organisms you should give the coupon to someone else and go get a steak. For your consideration:

"[T]he animals used to make about one-quarter of the nation's ground beef-worn-out dairy cattle-are the animals most likely to be diseased and riddled with antibiotic residues. The stresses of industrial milk production make them even more unhealthy than cattle in a large feedlot. Dairy cattle can live as long as forty years, but are often slaughtered at the age of four, when their milk output starts to decline. McDonald's relies heavily on dairy cattle for its hamburger supplies, since the animals are relatively inexpensive, yield low-fat meat, and enable the chain to boast that all its beef is raised in the United States. The days when hamburger meat was ground in the back of a butcher shop, out of scraps from one or two sides of beef, are long gone. Like the multiple sex partners that helped spread the AIDS epidemic, the huge admixture of animals in most American ground beef plants has played a crucial role in spreading E. coli 0157:H7. A single fast food hamburger now contains meat from dozens or even hundreds of different cattle."
-Fast Food Nation, Chapter 9, "What's in the Meat"

Anonymous said...

I find this whole discussion quite upsetting and, dare I say, rather mooo-ving.