31 January 2008

what do global warming, childhood obesity, and torture have in common?

The meat industry.

Since mentioning our move towards vegetarianism in my last post, I've come across several articles that have only reinforced my belief that this is the right decision (for my family, at least) to make right now. You should read them, you should really, really read them, especially if you're considering reducing meat consumption. Or maybe especially if you're not considering such a thing. What Americans don't know about where our food comes from is an astonishing amount.

In comments, Kim pointed me to this article from the NY Times, which is all about the environmental effects of factory farming, and it is very surprising. To keep things brief, I'll quote the bit that surprised me most: "...if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius." I already knew that factory farming contributed to oil dependency and global warming, but I didn't really know the scope of it before reading this article.

Next: I actually bookmarked this article a few months ago, intending to read it when I had the time, and then promptly forgetting about it. I finally read it a couple of days ago, and was surprised once again at how much we as consumers do not know about our food. The article, written by Michael Pollan of The Omnivore's Dilemma fame, is all about the government's farm subsidies, which doesn't sound that interesting, but is really eye-opening. It tells us why the cheapest foods are those which are unhealthiest, and why these foods make it into kids' school lunches. It also talks about the global effect of these outdated policies. It's a copmlicated web of issues, but Pollan does an admirable job of weaving them all together.

Last: I came across this article this morning, about the sickening forms of abuse and even torture that go on in slaughterhouses. Horrifying things were captured on video by an undercover animal welfare investigator. I didn't even try to watch the video; just reading the descriptions was enough to turn my stomach.

So vegetarianism has moved beyond a simple animal welfare issue to one that encompasses all kinds of moral and ethical concerns. And even if I weren't moved by those concerns, the animal abuse practices along with the photos from the first article I linked to make me pretty certain that I don't want to eat meat that's been lying around in its own excrement, confined in close quarters that seem ideal for the spread of bacteria and disease. It's atrocious.

To quote once more from the first NYT article:

Animal welfare may not yet be a major concern, but as the horrors of raising meat in confinement become known, more animal lovers may start to react. And would the world not be a better place were some of the grain we use to grow meat directed instead to feed our fellow human beings?


If price spikes don’t change eating habits, perhaps the combination of deforestation, pollution, climate change, starvation, heart disease and animal cruelty will gradually encourage the simple daily act of eating more plants and fewer animals.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw the most recent article this morning. it also turned my stomach. it made me feel good about the fact i haven't eaten beef in seven years. but there are other obstacles besides beef. i had better get started on those.
thanks for pointing out some great articles.