I used to think that vegans and vegetarians adopted this lifestyle to become healthier and to consume fewer calories. Little did I know the reasons were more substantial and supported a movement. I blindly consumed whatever meat was offered to me, from the meatballs drenched in gravy offered at my cafeteria in high school to the Tyson chicken tenders that were on sale at Safeway. I truly was ignorant until I entered my Critical Thinking and Writing class at Santa Clara University. As I was placed into this required core class, I did not have any expectations. I thought it was going to be a typical class that was going to teach me writing tips and force me to write about boring topics. I did not expect to leave with a changed perspective on the food industry and on life in general.
Within the first few weeks of the quarter, we uncovered the truth behind Tyson chicken and factory farming. While Tyson advertises its core values that demonstrate that they are “a company of people engaged in the production of food, seeking to pursue truth and integrity, and committed to creating value for our shareholders, our customers, our Team Members and our communities” and that they strive to be an honorable faith-friendly company of diverse people and to operate with integrity and honor, Tyson actually forces their farmers into debt, treating them like slaves (Tyson). Not only does Tyson mistreat its farmers, they also abuse their chickens, trying to find the cheapest and easiest means to get the greatest profit. As seen from these graphs from the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, there is a correlation between the average number of animals per holding and the number of cases of animal neglect (Andrade). This shows how as the number of customers and profit increases, the less Tyson cares about the wellbeing of their animals.
Not only that but Tyson and other American meat companies use rhetoric on their meat packages to appeal to consumers and to increase their profits. I went to my local Safeway across the street from my dorm and in the meat department I could clearly see that they use terms such as “natural,” “fresh,” “98% fat free,” “free-range,” and other terms that appear healthy and safe, drawing in customers to buy their meat. The meat companies have different definitions for these rhetorical labels compared to consumers. For example, when we see the words “free-range” we think of chickens and cows roaming on an open field covered in green grass with access to fresh air and sunlight. However “to be considered free-range, chickens raised for meat must have ‘access to the outdoors,’ which, if you take those words literally, means nothing… Very often, the eggs of factory-farmed chickens—chickens packed against one another in vast barren barns—are labeled free-range.” (Foer 61) Also “according to the USDA, ‘fresh’ poultry has never had an internal temperature below 26 degrees or above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Fresh chicken can be frozen (thus the oxymoron ‘fresh frozen’), and there is no time component to food freshness.” (Foer 61)
I, a meat lover, tried to ignore these facts when buying Orange Chicken at Panda Express or buying the inexpensive baked chicken at Safeway, but I couldn’t shake the guilty feeling that lingered. With my decision to buy these products, I am ultimately supporting these food companies’ behavior of mistreating their farmers and animals and using rhetoric to trick its customers.
This was just the beginning. I started to notice how companies and authority figures twist the truth.
News stations, psychologists, and frustrated parents blame violent video games for aggressive teenager behavior, especially after the school shooting Columbine. They just wanted to point their fingers and focus all their anger at one source. Before this class, I would have been blindly followed along. However I knew that there was more behind the story everyone was telling. Although there are many experiments that also argue that violence in video games does not cause violence in adolescents, but they are simply related. Instead, video game addiction prevents teenagers from experiencing social interactions during an important period for brain development that is linked to establishing morals that prevent violent behavior and aggression. During the teenage years, a critical time for moral development, the amygdala, the section of the brain that controls instincts, develops first. It is a brain region associated with emotion processing and is found to be significantly activated in response to the perception of fearful facial expressions in an fMRI study of adolescents aged between 12 and 17 years (Choudhury). Then the frontal lobe or cortex which is most related to decision-making, planning, risk-assessment, moral development, and judgment is one of the last areas of the brain to fully mature (Adolescent Brain Development). Video game addiction then prevents teenagers from fully developing the frontal cortex, possibly causing aggression behavior.
Following these stories blindly causes ignorance. This ignorance may not seem like it does any harm but it affects many others. Just like with food, ignorance of the food industry ultimately causes farmers and their farm animals to suffer. Also, ignorantly listening and believe everything the news and parents shares pushes blame and frustration on the wrong people. The next time before you instinctively believe something, double check and look deeper than the surface. You never know what you might find.
“Adolescent Brain Development.” (n.d.): n. pag. Youth Advocacy Department. Youth Advocacy Department. Web.
Andrade, Stefan B., and Inger Anneberg. “Farmers Under Pressure: Analysis of the Social Conditions of Cases of Animal Neglect.” Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics 27.1 (2014): 103-26. Springer Link. Web.
Choudhury, Suparna, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, and Tony Charman. “Social Cognitive
Coughlan, Sean. “Violent Video Games Leave Teens ‘morally Immature’ – BBC News.” BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.
“Tyson Foods: Our Story.” Tyson Foods: Our Story. N.p., n.d. Web.