Over the last two quarters of this class I have researched several food related topics ranging from factory farms to abalone poaching. What has become eminently clear from all this research is that the food industry is more than just a bright shiny supermarket with everything you need lining the walls. The reality is that there are a fair amount of dirty secrets hidden from most consumers by the colorful boxes and loads of advertisements.
A focal point of the class has been on the factory farming practices that dominate the American meat industry. Through books such as Jonathan Foer’s Eating Animals, and films like Food Inc. new light has been shed on the process livestock are put through to produce the massive amount of meat this country consumes. In one particularly poignant passage in his book Foer describes the life of a factory farm pig as “pumped with antibiotics, mutilated, tightly confined, and utterly deprived of stimulation” (Foer 156). Sounds unappetizing, right? Well, that’s why these farms are so tightly secured, and often the only evidence available of these types of mistreatment comes in the form of undercover videos from animal rights activists.
This was exactly the case a few years back in 2013 when this picture was reportedly taken at a Tyson farm, and those are baby pigs that have been stomped to death. NBC released a video that this image was part of, which was shot by an undercover animal rights advocate in Oklahoma (Schecter). But don’t worry, America is not the only country where factory farms engage in terrible practices.
Over in Brazil two of the world’s largest protein producers, JBS and BRF, were recently the targets of a two year investigation that culminated in the shutdown of 6 of their meat processing plants (Daniels). The plants were found to have bribed government inspectors who then looked the other way when rotten meat, bone marrow, and other by-products were packaged in with the meat (Gillespie). Then Brazil’s Minister of Agriculture, Blairo Maggi, reported that tests had been conducted at the targeted plants which showed no threats to human health (Brus). Because, how harmful could eating rotten meat really be? So this meat issue is not just America’s problem, but truly a worldwide issue where corruption is a meat industry norm.
Brazil’s President Michel Temer (right) telling Maggi (left) what one can only imagine is something along the lines of, “Deny, deny, deny.”
Yes the Americas may be a stronghold of food related corruption, but Asia and Africa aren’t far behind as I found when researching the abalone trade that occurs between the two regions. The basics of the trade are this: poor South Africans poach millions of abalone from the ocean every year, smuggling operations move the abalone to Hong Kong, Asian consumers buy them there as a delicacy, smugglers are payed for their abalone with drugs, the drugs return to South Africa and are abused by poor communities (The Story of). The effects of this trade are devastating not only to the abalone population which is ravaged by the poachers, but also to the poor South African’s who get hooked on the drugs, thus ensnaring them in a vicious cycle of poverty.
Animals suffering for the human necessity and pleasure that is eating is prevalent in so many areas of the world that it is more the rule than the exception at this point in history. But why? Well from what I have learned during my time in this class the best explanation that I can formulate is that in general people prioritize their own wants and needs above the well being of animals, and that in being the ruling species of this planet humans are entitled to subjugate the lesser species to whatever suits our needs best. While morality is a highly subjective concept I personally find issue with treating animals like shit for their whole, and often extremely shortened, lives. But does this mean I’m going to join PETA and protest outside of McDonald’s? Not at all. I think the most reasonable action to take in order to at least reduce the horrible treatment of animals is to just reduceour consumption, and (Caution- Hot Take right here) STOP having so many children. Especially with the factory farm issue the whole reason these horrific systems exist is because the demand for food is way to high to be met by a sustainable and humane production system. With too many people demanding way to much food, animals don’t have much hope. Either the population has to go down, or consumption has to go down, and I think less of both would be optimal.
Eisenhammer, Stephen, and Anthony Boadle. “Exclusive: Brazil to Ease Foreign Land Ownership with Restrictions: Minister.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 02 Feb. 2017. Web. 12 June 2017.
Brus, Brian. “U.S. Ranchers May Benefit from Brazilian Meat Scandal.” Capital Press. N.p., 31 Mar. 2017. Web. 02 May 2017.
Gillespie, Patrick. “Brazil’s Spoiled Meat Scandal Widens Worldwide.” GillespieMoney. Cable News Network, 22 Mar. 2017. Web. 02 May 2017.
The Story of the South African Quaalude. Dir. Santiago Stelley. Perf. Hamilton Morris. Viceland. N.p., 26 Oct. 2016. Web. 23 May 2017.
Daniels, Jeff. “Brazilian Meat Scandal Leads USDA to Redouble Food Inspection Efforts.” CNBC. CNBC, 25 Mar. 2017. Web. 02 May 2017.
Schecter, Anna, and Lindsay Perez. “Tyson Foods Dumps Pig Farm after NBC Shows Company Video of Alleged Abuse.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 20 Nov. 2013. Web. 16 May 2017.