The easiest way for someone to understand the difference between grocery store meat (all from factory-farmed animals) and a cow from your neighbor’s backyard is by using this analogy.
The factory farms are treating their animals exactly like the African slave ships from the 18th century – the more slaves they could pack in, the more profit they could make, so they “tight packed” more human beings on the ship than it could even carry. Standing elbow to elbow in their own excrement, slaves died of starvation and diseases from the unsanitary conditions, and from unknown reasons they’ve come to call “fixed melancholy”. Those who did not die were sickly and weakened by the long journey. This is what happens when you put too many of one species together in close quarters with lousy food and water, and nowhere for their waste to go.
Compare this to a perfectly comfortable first class flight over the Atlantic ocean, and you will understand the difference between your factory-farmed animal and one that was raised in your neighbor’s backyard.
It’s no surprise that these topics are uncomfortable for people to talk about. If you’re like me, you cringed when you learned about the way our country treated those African slaves, and felt ashamed that we had that in our history. But history repeats itself, and it’s going on right this very second, 98 billion animals per year. If people even had the slightest idea that their grocery store meat was being raised in these exact conditions so that the multi-billion dollar meat industry could gain the maximum amount of profits, it would definitely be too much to hear.
Even if you don’t think it matters that we treat animals badly because they aren’t humans, consider the fact that the animals you buy at the grocery store were living in the same tight packed, unsanitary, sickly and diseased conditions. These animals are fed the cheapest, crappiest, most pesticide-laden and subsidized food they can get – and for cows that means eating a crop their stomach cannot even physically digest, which is the number one cause for e-coli in their digestive systems.
Instead of cleaning up the factory conditions to get healthier animals, the industry covers up the diseases by giving the animals a growing list of antibiotics and other strong pharmaceuticals to keep them alive. It’s no surprise that the factory-farming industry is the largest purchaser of pharmaceuticals in the world, when you consider how much it would take to drug 98 billion animals per year. These pharmaceuticals and pesticides not only remain inside the meat people are eating, but they are ending up in our water supply for those like myself who have chosen not to purchase factory-farmed meat.
If you can imagine how much food it takes to feed 98 billion animals for the span of their lifetime, it’s a whole lot of wasted food, land, water, and energy to get a piece of meat on the table. If the same land used to grow genetically modified corn and soybeans for the livestock were used to grow grains, fruits and veggies for human consumption, you can imagine how much cheaper our produce would be. Another reason for someone like myself, who will never purchase that expensive slab of meat, would be annoyed that the time and energy weren’t being used to grow fresh produce for human consumption instead. The factory-farming has made cheap corn, soybeans, and meat, while keeping the important plants & super foods more expensive. The industry is about supply and demand. If we simply stopped purchasing meat and purchased more produce, the industry would have to make a change. It’s up to us as consumers to demand that change.
These are just a few of the reasons I will continue to educate people about factory-farming, despite the backlash it brings again and again. If you’re a meat-eater and you can’t possibly give it up, I have no problem with you or your preferences. But I urge you to make a decision. Ask yourself if you’re willing to continue supporting the “tight-packing” methods of consuming sickly, diseased animals from your grocery store shelf (and yes, ALL of the fast-food restaurants)… Or if you will you make the decision to at least look into the factory-farming methods to see for yourself if you are okay with the way they are preparing your food, and if necessary, take the action necessary in your life to withdraw all of your support from the factory-farming industry altogether.
Together we can make a change. Call me a dreamer – But remember that the great movements of change in our history came about because of dreamers, just like Martin Luther King. And It’s definitely time for another change.