Violence, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as “the use of physical force to harm someone,” or “intense, furious, and often destructive action” (“Violence”). While violence may embody these characteristics, this definition fails to address the more indirect, yet equally harmful, characteristics of violence that are a part of our daily lives. While in my Critical Thinking & Writing (CTW) classes, we tackled both the veiled aspects of violence as well as the manifestation of physical violence. Those Americans following current events in 2014 have probably heard of the Ray Rice domestic violence case in the National Football League. Older Americans are also probably aware of the infamous Columbine High School massacre of 1999. Some may even be knowledgeable about the horrible violence occurring in the factory farming industry. The low cost of beef and poultry available at a typical grocery store does not come without a cost; the cost is poorly treated animals. Are you aware of the atrocities occurring each day in the poultry factory farming industry? Are you familiar with the consistently unimpressive handling of domestic violence cases in the NFL? Do you know the extent of the group and gang violence throughout the United States? And if you are aware, would you consider changing your actions if they would prevent the perpetuation of violence? Much of the violence in the United States is avoidable, if the actions of its citizens demonstrate a concern for both animal and human life.
The typical present-day American is removed from many of the violent actions mentioned above, allowing them to feel like the prevalence of various violent actions “is not their problem” or “for someone else to handle.” They may be unaware of these issues; or, they may not know enough about the issues to take a firm stance; or, unfortunately, they may not care about the issues. In a survey I conducted in CTW 1 about the poultry industry, an impressive eighty-one percent of the fifty-two respondents confirmed that they had either read a book or watched a documentary on the factory farming industry. Yet, only a little over half (fifty-six percent) stated that where their meat came from was more important than the price. My survey pool may have been educated on factory farming, but only a little more than a majority highlighted a true concern for the problem.
Today’s poultry industry is characterized by its horribly appalling treatment of chickens throughout all stages of the chickens’ lives. In the vast majority of factory farms, the injustice begins before the chicken is born, as eggs are injected with antibiotics before they hatch (“Off Their Meds? (Cover Story)”). In fact, Johnathan Foer, writer of Eating Animals, states that “the typical cage for egg-laying hens allows each sixty-seven square inches of floor space- somewhere between the size of this page and a sheet of printer paper” (Foer 47). Imagine that you are a hen, with a living space as large as this sheet of paper (perhaps you will get to venture outside for a moment if you are a “free range” chicken). The current system in place is not beneficial to the chickens or animal-conscientious consumers.
While lessening the reliance on factory farms may be difficult, it is imperative that we act before family farms are eliminated by the factory farming operations; especially in the poultry industry, the takeover by factory farms is nearing completion. Many American consumers and producers know about the cruelties in the poultry farming industry, yet few make animal welfare a primary focus. Would you still want to eat a chicken if you were forced to witness it being stuffed in a cage, forced to sit in its own feces, and knew that it was genetically altered? If you answered “no,” then companies are successfully keeping such information from you or you are failing to make choices that align with your values. By changing your own choices and encouraging regulations currently imposed by the FDA and USDA, chickens might have a chance to live comfortably and humanely. But doing nothing, shrugging, and continuing to support the industry will make things worse.
Professional sports leagues also highlight their inability, and even a lack of concern, in addressing domestic violence issues in an effective and swift manner. The current sanctions in place fail to adequately handle the onslaught of domestic violence cases. Including the Ray Rice domestic violence case, there have been fifty similar cases involving NFL players since Roger Goodell took charge as commissioner of the NFL in 2006. Sports analysts, Morris and Schrotenboer, who have spent time investigating the NFL Arrests Database, agree that the NFL has a duty to conduct itself more morally than the overall population because of the high incomes of NFL players and the league’s fame (Morris, Schrotenboer). Popular football players, whether a domestic violence delinquent or not, are household names in America. Their popularity and following make them role models, regardless of their desire to shirk that responsibility.
The ineffective handling of domestic violence cases in the NFL, as well as in other professional sporting leagues, may be the fault of the leagues themselves, but the continual support from fans is also to blame. Sports fans become impassioned when watching their team compete, and choose not to focus on the unacceptably low morals of many of these players that often leads to violence. Their team’s best player may consistently carry the team to victory, but if he was a domestic violence perpetrator, does his athletic feat outweigh his criminal offense? For many sports fans, it does. In a survey I conducted for CTW 2, forty-nine percent of the twenty-five participants said that the domestic violence cases in the NFL bothered them; however, it did not affect how much football they watched. How is an issue as serious and detrimental as domestic violence going to be solved when sports fans themselves are unwilling to take a strong stance and stop watching?
No one should ignore an issue as deadly and harmful as domestic violence. With a catalyst from the fans, the leagues, law enforcement, and teams could respond in a united, moral, consistent, and predictable manner. Sports fans are passionate people, and so are the players and coaches. By using this passion to combat domestic violence, the reputation of the leagues will improve. Only with real, visible changes in player and public support will the leagues begin to dispel domestic violence for good. Allowing these perpetrators to continue playing amidst serious criminal allegations not only reflects negatively on the leagues, but also on the fans, who continue to support and cheer on domestic violence criminals.
In the second quarter of our Critical Thinking and Writing course, my class delved into journalist Dave Cullen’s extensively researched book, Columbine. The book was published after approximately ten years of hands-on research. After reading and discussing the book in class, I realized that duo group violence, like that committed by Columbine shooters Harris and Klebold, and violence from larger gangs, initiates from a desire to connect with others because the participants are often alienated from various social networks. This separation often results in avoidable violent acts by these criminals because they failed to receive praise for their accomplishments and interests, essentially turning to violence as a way to get recognition. During my interview with Anthony Damato, a twenty-four year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department (S.F.P.D.), he agreed, asserting that “one of the strongest motivations [for people to join gangs] is pride. Young men of all backgrounds search for a sense of pride and status in our society…we are all influenced by the people around us, and gangs are no different” (Damato). Partner and group violence often originates from a lack of support and love given to these individuals when they are young. The people around them are primarily to blame for not emphasizing their worthiness or bolstering their self-confidence. These overlooked people then turn to violence as a means of breaking rigid societal constraints and releasing their anger at their unsupportive families and demeaning peers. Those who turn to violence have simply not received the love necessary to feel valued and self-confident. Breaking free from a gang or duo can be immensely difficult, especially when the perpetrators do not see other options available.
Abolishing the entire gang system in the United States in one decisive move may be impossible. However, slowly dismantling the gang system may not be as complicated as it sounds. The dissolution of gangs may be achieved by simply showing these troubled youth that someone cares for them. Violent duos, such as Harris and Klebold, may not be motivated by the same influences as violent gang members. Nevertheless, they can be encouraged by educators, parents, and peers to challenge themselves, pursue interests, and cultivate curiosity while these influencers exhibit concern in their daily lives. Love, care, reassurance, and support are powerful and can possess the power to transform one of the violent systems in our world today.
On the surface, the poultry industry, the NFL, and gangs/duos do not have a lot in common. However, across all three topics, violent actions are a common theme. These violent actions are often unknowingly supported by everyday consumers, sports fans, sports leagues, families, educators, and communities. In order for true transformation to occur in the poultry industry, consumers must be willing to sacrifice the low cost of factory farmed meat for more sustainable meat or a vegetarian diet. In the NFL, fans must voice their concern at the growing number of domestic violence cases sprouting up in the league, and be willing to push the commissioner and other league organizers to institute more stringent domestic violence policies. And to begin to rid our communities of gangs and violent duos, we must support organizations, schools, and role models who serve as a positive influence for those disconnected from social networks. Violence, especially in these three areas, is avoidable. With a small amount of effort from everyday people, like us, positive changes can begin to take place.
“Chicken Factory Farmer Speaks Out.” Youtube.com. YouTube, 3 Dec. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. https://youtu.be/YE9l94b3x9U.
“Chickens Used for Meat.” Farmsanctuary.org. Farm Sanctuary, 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. http://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/chickens/.
“Columbine High School Massacre Shooting Footage.” Youtube.com. YouTube, 1 Mar. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. https://youtu.be/kIXjOLKhVkw.
Cullen, David. Columbine. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print.
Damato, Anthony. Personal interview. 27 Feb. 2015.
Daskivich, Mikal. “A Day To Remember Strikes Again.” Stateinthereal.com. State In The Real, 21 Dec. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. http://stateinthereal.com/a-day-to-remember-strikes-again/.
Foer, Johnathan. Eating Animals. New York: Back Bay Books, 2009. Print.
“Homeless Vet Returns Lost Championship Ring To Columbine Shooting Survivor Over A Decade Later.” Huffingtonpost.com. The Huffington Post. 9 Mar. 2015. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/09/homeless-veteran-columbine-survivor_n_6835064.html.
“Jim Kelly: ‘An Exciting Day.’” Espngo.com. ESPN, 10 Sept. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/11498632/jim-kelly-approves-sale-buffalo-bills-pegula-family.
Morris, Benjamin. “The Rate of Domestic Violence Arrests among NFL Players.” Fivethirtyeight.com. ESPN Internet Ventures, 31 Jul. 2014. Web. 26 Jan. 2015. http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/the-rate-of-domestic-violence-arrests-among-nfl-players/.
“Off Their Meds? (Cover Story).” Nutrition Action Health Letter 35.8 (2008): 7. Health Source-Consumer Edition. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.
“Organic Free-Range Chicken Farm.” Spokesman.com. The Spokesman Review, 7 Jun. 2011. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. http://www.spokesman.com/picture-stories/organic-free-range-chicken-farm/.
“Ray Rice Knocked Out Fiancée- FULL VIDEO.” Youtube.com. YouTube, 8 Sept. 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2015. https://youtu.be/VbwTMJroTbI.
Schrotenboer, Brent. “History of leniency: NFL domestic cases under Goodell.” Usatoday.com. USA Today, 2 Oct. 2014. Web. 7 Feb. 2015. http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2014/10/01/nfl-domestic-abuse-history-under-roger-goodell/16566615/.
“Violence.” Merriam-webster.com. Merriam Webster Dictionary, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/violence.