“The first time I was exposed to farming issues was when a friend showed me some films of cows being slaughtered. We were teenagers, and it was just gross-out shit, like those “Faces of Death” videos. He wasn’t a vegetarian- no one was a vegetarian- and he wasn’t trying to make me one. It was for a laugh” (Foer, 90).
America’s carnivorous consumers are drawn towards the violence they see in the media. Whether it is videos of cows being skinned on kill floors of slaughterhouses or media coverage of school shootings, these meat-eaters are attracted towards the fear and angst they feel when these cruel acts are viewed. By eating unethically, these consumers must find a way to justify their support of the inhumanely raise meat they are putting into their mouths. The violent images depicted on television are used as rationalization of their cruel treatment towards the animals they eat. Similar to the inhumane acts they are witnessing, these consumers kill their prey in a violent manner. The plethora of media coverage on the Columbine school shooting, fascination with the hunting behaviors of sharks, and meat butchering challenges on the popular television show Top Chef support this notion of utilizing attraction of violence as justification for consumers’ inhumane slaughtering of animals.
Simply searching the word ‘Columbine’ on the Internet yields over 9,890,000 results pertaining to the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. The shooting, executed by Eric Harris and Dylan Kleobold, killed one teacher and twelve students (Columbine). Dave Cullen, author of Columbine, stated that within minutes of 911 calls being made from students trapped inside the high school at the time of the shooting, news vans and reporters rushed to the school to film live reports and updates about the massacre (Columbine). Cullen, who spent over ten years researching this school shooting, criticizes the media’s misuse of titling the shooters as the “Trench Coat Mafia,” reporters’ interrogating interviews of students fleeing from the shooting, and overuse of the word ‘Columbine’ as a noun to describe the shooting instead of in reference to the high school. The copious reports of the massacre, its victims, and the shooters circulated television screens for years after the event occurred. Americans were craving more information about the massacre and wanted to know every minute detail regarding the tragic event. Why was everyone so curious about whether or not there were bloodstains on the library’s carpet or if the security camera’s clips of Eric and Dylan making their victims beg before they shot them was going to be made available for everyone to see? Americans were drawn to this violent massacre and the tragic images of the shooters taunting their victims and laughing before shooting the students.
This frightening fascination of Eric and Dylan’s sadistic behavior is similar to how consumers torture animals before the livestock are killed and packaged for consumption. Jonathan Foer, an American author and life-long vegetarian, wrote his first non-fiction book Eating Animals to make consumers aware about the everyday horrors of factory farming. Eating Animals supplies its readers with stories from factory workers, farmers, and meat-eating and vegetable-loving consumers that are used to justify Americans’ eating habits. Similar to how Eric and Dylan made their victims beg before they shot them, Foer explains how factory workers torture the animals before they slaughter the livestock. “Some workers administer daily beatings, bludgeoning pregnant sows with a wrench, and ramming an iron pole a foot deep into mother pigs’ rectums and vaginas. These things have nothing to do with bettering the taste of the resultant meat or preparing the pigs for slaughter- they are merely perversion” (Foer, 181). This torturing does not contribute to the taste of the pigs nor is it mandatory for the preparation of the subsequent killing. These workers torture these animals out of pure “perversion” and this behavior does not deviate far from the perverse mockery Dylan and Eric made of their victims by forcing them to beg not to be killed. American consumers were fascinated with the stories of Columbine and the media coverage detailing the massacre because their inhumane treatment towards the animals they are eating correlated to the violence of the shooting.
In a similar vein, the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week episodes feeds its viewers clips and documentaries of Great White, Bull, and Tiger Sharks plunging their teeth into unsuspecting prey and swallowing their bloody victims whole. With nearly 4.8 million viewers, Shark Week conveys to its viewers that sharks are cold-blooded man-eaters and their predatory inclination allows them to kill their prey in the most violent manner (TVbytheNumbers). Once a Great White has detected and located its target, it strikes quickly from underneath the unsuspecting prey and plunges its detachable jaw into the flesh of the animal (“How Do Sharks Catch Prey?). Bites are debilitating and lead to massive amounts of blood loss. This gruesome hunting style is portrayed on nearly every episode of Shark Week and the 4.8 viewers relish every blood-bathed scene.
Similar to the shooting at Columbine, meat-eating consumers are drawn toward the violence depicted in Shark Week because it correlates to their violent killing of animals. As Foer describes in Eating Animals, “a hooked fish might bleed to death or drown (fish drown when unable to move), and then be hauled into the boat. Larger fish (including not only tuna, but swordfish and marlin) would often only be injured by the hook, their wounded bodies still more than capable of resisting the pull of the lien for hours or days…special pickax tools called gaffs are used to pull in large fish once they are within reach. Slamming a gaff into the side, fin, or even the eye of the fish creates a bloody but effective handle to help haul it on deck…authors of a United Nations manual for fishing argue, “If possible gaff it by the head,” (Foer, 30). Like sharks, consumers are creating a blood bath as they violently kill their prey and ram spears into the eyes and heads of their victims. Unethical meat-eaters count down the days until Shark Week airs because it justifies how they kill their prey. If sharks are the top predator in the ocean and can violently attack animals lower on the food chain, then why should humans, who are also top predators, slaughter animals any differently?
Top Chef is a reality show, in which chefs compete against each other in culinary challenges and are judged by a group of professional chefs. One of the most popular challenges that reoccurs every season poses the task of butchering a whole animal, either a pig or a chicken, before the opposing team of chefs finishes slicing their animal. Viewers eagerly anticipate this challenge and root for the dexterous knife-work of their favorite chefs. However, looking beyond just the competitive nature of this challenge, the primitive slaughtering that is taking place in the kitchen is revealed. Humans are slicing and dissecting animals that they are about to consume, and smiling as their knifes hammer through bones and tear tissue. Yet, viewers of Top Chef zealously await this butchery and are not affected by the violence that is taking place.
Once again, we see parallels between this glamorized butchery of animals and consumers’ inhumane slaughter of livestock in factory farms. “At a typical slaughter facility, cattle are led through a chute into a knocking box- usually a large cylindrical hold through which the head pokes. The stun operator presses a large pneumatic gun between the cows’ eyes. A steel bolt shoots into the cow’s skull and then retracts back into the gun, usually rendering the animal unconscious or causing death. Sometimes the bolt only dazes the animal, which either remains conscious or later wakes up as it is being “processed.” …animals are bled, skinned, and dismembered while conscious” (Foer, 229). Similar to the Top Chef challenge, butchering animals in factory farms is a gruesome and violent activity. Yet, in the same vein as the Columbine shooting and Shark Week, unethical meat-eaters are drawn to the violence they see on television because it resembles how they treat the animals they consume.
Carnivorous consumers are fascinated with violent and brutal acts because they believe it rationalizes their inhumane treatment towards the animals they are slaughtering for dinner. If television glamorizes violence and those who mercilessly kill, then why should consumers act any differently and humanely kill their livestock?
However, school shootings, predatory inclinations, and killing competitions should not justify the unnecessary torture of animals. Ramming a rod into a pregnant pig and skinning a conscious cow is not acceptable by any means. Eric and Dylan, sharks’ primitive hunting, or chefs’ knife skills cannot justify this kind of perversion. Consumers must stop searching for reasons to rationalize their inhumane treatment of animals, and instead must take responsibility for how their meat is prepared. They promote the unethical killing of animals every time they sink their teeth into a juicy morsel of steak. Vegetarianism may not be a plausible solution for every consumer, however, supporting family farms that humanely raise their livestock is feasible. Stop purchasing Tyson chicken strips and start supporting farms, such as Lakestone Family Farm, that will guarantee satiating your meat cravings in a humane and moral manner.
Check out http://lakestonefamilyfarm.com/ for more information about organically grown and humanely raised livestock!
Bibel, Sarah. “Discovery Channel’s ‘Shark Week’ 2013 Breaks 26 Years of Shark Week Viewership Records.” TVbytheNumbers. N.p., 05 Aug. 2013. Web. 28 May 2015.
Cullen, David. Columbine. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.
“Top Chef.” Bravo TV Official Site. N.p., 03 Dec. 2008. Web. 04 June 2015.
Walden, Kat. “How Do Sharks Catch Prey?” Animals. Demand Media, n. d. Web.