“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” – Theodore Roosevelt
A word that is continuously connected to college is responsibility. Since students are by themselves for the first time, a newfound responsibility logically ensues. In high school, I was responsible for the ordinary, everyday chores around the house such as washing the dishes, walking the dog, doing laundry and cleaning my room; however, my mom would always be there to perform my chores if I was unable to accomplish them: a safety net if you will. Because of high school, I learned of the responsibilities each citizen of the United States of America has to his or her country, which included things like obeying the laws, paying taxes, and staying informed during elections so one can vote responsibly.
While holding the responsibility of being a well-informed, positive impact on society is paramount, personal responsibility cannot be overlooked: something I learned in my first year of college regarding food. While in high school I was oblivious to the atrocities of how my food reaches my plate, in college I learned everyone must hold themselves responsible for being knowledgeable of not only how their food reaches their plate, but also what’s in their food, since it directly affects us: the consumer.
My first exposure to the factory farming industry came from Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Before, eating was a removed, desensitized process that I paid no attention to. I never viewed eating as an agricultural act, but rather an unimportant thing I had to finish before attending to more significant activities.
Eating Animals opened my eyes to practices such as cramping animals in unsanitary barns, feeding animals antibiotics to maximize growth and minimize the amount you actually have to feed them, resulting in chickens not being able to walk due to their bone growth not being able to keep up, and taking calves away from their mothers just days after being born (Foer). This new knowledge shocked me greatly, forcing me to re-think how I approached eating my food.
Until watching “Meat Your Meat” via YouTube, the horrors of the factoring farming industry were just words on paper. I could only imagine how the animals were brutally treated, but “Meat Your Meat” both graphically and effectively showed me how they have been mistreated. After a minute of watching the video, I had to turn it off due to the disturbing images. Seeing a cow castrated without any anesthesia, a sickly pig violently thrown to the ground and then mercilessly stomped on by a farmer or cows methodically placed in milking machines in a cold, disconnected and depressing system will forever be engrained in my mind.
Reading Eating Animals and watching “Meet Your Meat” provoked me to think about factory farming in a way unlike anything I had experienced before. While there’s the controversy of whether factory farmed meat negatively affects us health wise, there’s also the controversy of how the sheer mistreatment I witnessed in “Meet Your Meat” is immoral and unethical. At that point, I realized I have a personal responsibility to not only know what I’m eating and how it reaches my plate, but to also seek out farms that ensure healthy, untroubled lives for its animals.
As we transitioned into the spring quarter, “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret” by Kip Andersen revealed to me the foremost cause in sustainability problems our planet faces: factory farming. Before watching that documentary, much like everyone else, I believed greenhouse gases were to blame for environmental issues, so I was shocked to learn factory farming is a leading cause. In addition, while major pro-environment companies fight against global warming, they refuse to acknowledge factory farming as a legitimate concern. This film also disclosed that the amount of water used to provide the public with hamburgers and steaks is millions and millions of gallons of water, all of which could be used to quench the thirst of those suffering in third world countries.
Similarly, and what stood out to me the most, is that the immense amount of corn used to feed just cows could end world hunger. World hunger, a problem that has plagued our world for years, could be ended if we stopped eating meat.
Who would have thought it’d be that simple. What’s most alarming is that we choose to continue eating meat rather than ending world hunger, a reality that almost makes me lose faith in humanity. We, simply as good, caring people, have a responsibility to value someone’s life over a 9-ounce filet mignon. Rather than looking to other possible sources for the problems our world faces, we should look in the mirror and take responsibility for our own actions: you’d be surprised by what that can accomplish.
Lastly, for my final essay of the spring quarter I focused on how antibiotics used in the factory farming industry results in drug-resistant bacteria, which makes consumers more susceptible to illness. Personal responsibility applies most in this topic because eating meat literally has a negative effect on our health.
To support this essay, I mainly conducted my research online through the Santa Clara University library online database, which lead to various studies supporting my argument: that there is a connection between on-farm antibiotic use and negative health effects in consumers. One of my sources, an infectious disease study published in the Oxford Academic, revealed that Klebsiella pneumoniae, “a colonizing opportunistic pathogen of humans and animals, and common containment of retail meat,” proved to have a “resistance to ampicillin [that] was nearly ubiquitous” (Davis). Ampicillin is a penicillin-like antibiotic that fights off bacteria, but eating meat containing Klebsiella pneumoniae would make ampicillin useless, yet millions of Americans continue to do so with a complete disregard for their health.
While Americans can blame big business for their health problems, the personal responsibility of one’s health ultimately falls upon each and everyone on of us. If we continue to view eating as a disconnected action rather than an agricultural act, completely ignoring the ingredients, preservatives and antibiotics added to our food, our problems will persist. We have a responsibility to be accountable for what we put into our bodies; only when we realize that will our health and eating habits improve.
Davis, Gregg S., Kara Waits, Lora Nordstrom, Brett Weaver, Maliha Aziz, Lori Gauld, Heidi Grande, Rick Bigler, Joseph Horwinski, Stephen Porter, Marc Stegger, James R. Johnson, Cindy M. Liu, and Lance B. Price. “Intermingled Klebsiella Pneumoniae Populations Between Retail Meats and Human Urinary Tract Infections.” Clinical Infectious Diseases. Oxford University Press, 22 July 2015. Web. 07 June 2017.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. Little, Brown and Company, 2009.
Kensinger, Jamie. “17 Quotes That Will Inspire You To Take Responsibility For Your Decisions.” Thought Catalog. Thought Catalog, 22 Mar. 2016. Web. 12 June 2017.