There are many reasons we should all vociferously support reform of U.S. agricultural policies and the horrible, antiquated farm bill. When the farm bill went into effect, it had the noble goals of keeping staple crops affordable and helping farmers survive financially. What it has turned into is a cash cow (no pun intended) for big ag farmers who have every incentive to grow and produce as much wheat/corn/soybeans/meat on as little land as possible and a filthy, cruel prison for hundreds of thousands of animals who become dinner for equal numbers of people.
To grow and raise food in this way necessitates the (over)use of toxic pesticides that strip our arable land of nutrients and health and that leak into and poison our waterways. When animals are packed into small, confined areas, left to feed not on the foods they evolved to eat but rather on waste products left over from corn production and the like, and move about in their own filth as well as the pesticides from the farms around them, they, not surprisingly, get sick. In order to avoid losing valuable head of cattle and hogs or flocks of imprisoned chickens, these animals are pumped full of antibiotics whether they need them or not. They are also administered growth hormones so that they mature and can be slaughtered -and profited from- more quickly.
In my opinion, we are seeing the horribly deleterious effects of this kind of “agriculture” every day: land and water are rendered toxic and/or useless; animals are treated in shockingly inhumane ways and die similarly; people who don’t know/can’t afford/don’t care about the source of their food are ingesting hormones and antibiotics on a regular basis and, not infrequently, are sickened (and sometimes die) by bacteria such as E. coli.
Remember the folks who died from salmonella-tainted peanut butter in 2009? The national recalls of beef riddled with E. coli that happen seemingly every year? The outbreak in Germany right now? The rampant spread of MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant infection that evolved largely because of antibiotic overuse?
The implications of this method of agricultural production go way beyond these challenges to our health. It sickens me to think of the tortured lives the factory-farmed cattle, hogs, and chickens suffer through in the U.S. and abroad. Pigs, who are intelligent, sentient beings, have their “cut off to minimize tail biting, an aberrant behavior that occurs when these highly-intelligent animals are kept in deprived factory farm environments” (farmsanctuary.org), and pregnant sows (continually impregnated throughout the year) are confined in gestation crates that are just 2 feet wide- not enough room to even turn around or rest comfortably.
Chickens in factory coops are packed into crates with less than half a square foot of room each in windowless warehouses. Their beaks are cut off, they are covered in fecal waste and filth and they have been genetically altered to grow bigger breasts faster. Many, thus, cannot even walk although this isn’t a problem if you’re cage-bound. Once they’re slaughtered, their meat is bathed in chlorine because it is so filthy. This is the food we’re expected to eat and love because it’s cheap. Cheap isn’t really cheap- the costs are huge.
The horrors go on and on, extending to cattle, turkeys, farmed fish and so on. This is not only unhealthy but also grossly immoral. It’s also not sustainable.
I will not eat any meat that isn’t raised and treated well and humanely, that is administered growth hormones and antibiotics, that isn’t allowed free range to walk, see the sun, enjoy fresh air. Because doing so would mean that I overtly supported the mistreatment of these beings, and that sickens me, physically, spiritually and intellectually.
Food for thought.
See farmsanctuary.org, michaelpollan.com, Kristof’s article today…