What about vegetarians?

“One of the reasons that going vegan can feel harder than it really is, is because we all have a tendency to baby ourselves a bit more than is probably reasonable when it comes to food and comfort. Far from being just mere nourishment, food is a complex social and cultural good whose emotional attachments are woven through our lives. Because of this, there’s likely a part of all of us that is a bit irrational about our attachments to certain foods, and the emotional ties that we have to food run very deep.

Understanding this relationship between us and the food we eat can help you come to terms with how this might operate in your life. To be clear, we don’t want to you to cut your cultural ties, starve yourself, or otherwise eat things you don’t want to eat. We just want you to shift your comfort foods and cultural traditions to things that won’t needlessly kill other beings.” (Bob and Jenna Torres Ph.D’s and authors of Vegan Freak)

Hey, what about vegetarians? Aren’t they doing their part to boycott the meat industry and looking out for animals too? Arrghhh. Oh boy. This is a tough one that can actually offend more people than if I were talking to omnivores. It is a valid issue to discuss though because I tend to get a lot of questions such as, “What’s wrong with drinking milk?” The fact of the matter is, dairy cows and laying hens often live more miserable lives than cattle or broiler chicken raised exclusively for meat. Weird. I totally think that most vegetarians have good intentions but to be serious (and hopefully not too offensive) and honest, it’s just not really enough. Bob and Jenna Torres in their book, Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in A Non-Vegan World, are a little more blunt “…if you’re a vegetarian who eats eggs and dairy and other animal products, you’re part of the problem too.”

Let’s just get this out of the way: do not assume that consuming dairy and eggs does not kill animals. Lives are taken. Intensive animal agriculture production is: “a globalized business that strives to maximize profits on the backs of animals and to achieve the greatest possible efficiencies. With very slim profit margins throughout the industry, producers cannot affort to waste anything, and you can bet that they will not keep animals around who are non-productive. So, first and foremost, this means that the chickens who lay eggs are inevitably slaughtered when their productivity declines beyond a certain point… The only thing the chickens have done to meet such ends is being unlucky enough to be born as a egg-laying hen. In a similar way, the cows who are producing milk meet their end when they fail to “yield” the right averages for the herd; this can be brought on by age, or even an infection or other illness.”

Most dairy cows who have arrived at the end of their so-called “useful” lifespan end up slaughtered many, many years before they would die naturally, after which they are rendered into ground beef and other constituent parts.” (Torres)

Well, what if there was a way to produce dairy and eggs that did not result in the death of billions of animals per year (and thats just in the US)? “…a producer still must confine and control animals to produce these commodities for consumers – consumers which clearly include legions of ovo-lacto vegetarians. Fully the property of another, the animals involved in these forms of production are little more to their owners than living machines for profit, slaves who day in and day out for every single day of their lives suffer solely to fulfill demands extraneous to their own desires and needs.” The myth of a compassionate animal product is just that: a myth.

I sometimes get asked: “Okay, so if you got your meat and dairy from a small family farm would you eat it?” No. Because, while I am completely disgusted with the industry, on a deeper more visceral level, I know that it is not necessary to eat any meat or dairy, even if the meat and dairy came from a small family farm (the few of them that do exist). Because it reinforces the idea of animals are property and exist as a means to our ends. “We own them for them to provide us food and milk.” That rejects the idea, which I believe, that animals exist for their own reasons and have their own interests. And that is the animal abolitionist stance. To take it further, the abolitionist stance vs. the animal welfare position means essentially that the overarching problem is not how we use animals but that we use animals for any human purpose. This includes keeping them on our mythical pastoral family farm. Less than 1% of the animals killed for meat in America come from family farms. There is no loophole for an excuse.

I’m totally digressing from my original topic but this is interesting I promise: Gary Francione says this in his book, Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation, ”We have no moral justification for using nonhuman animals, however “humanely” we treat them. To the extent that we do use animals, it is, of course, always better to cause them less pain than more pain. It is better a rapist not torture the victim in addition to committing the rape. But just as it is not morally acceptable to commit rape even if you do not torture the victim, it is not morally acceptable to use nonhumans as human resources despite how we treat them.” And I realize that is a pretty radical viewpoint. I’ll go into this whole animal abolitionist vs. animal welfarist positions later but that is a little intro pertaining to the consumption of meat and dairy no matter where you’re getting it. I’m not going to get into all this crazy theory right now and it is KILLING me not talking about it but I gotta return to the dairy and vegetarian issue….

People also tend to forget that cows have to be pregnant to produce milk. Dairy cows are kept constantly pregnant by mostly artificial insemination for their entire lives to pump out milk and what also isn’t often taken into consideration is how 50% of her calves are likely male. What happens to those male calves? A lot of the time they are sold to veal producers in which they are chained around the neck and kept in small crates in a dark room where they cannot even turn around and fed a mostly liquid low-protein, iron and fiber diet that prevents them from gaining muscle and keeps them anemic which keeps their flesh tender and more desirable for consumption. They can barely even stand. The more muscle veal calves acquire the pinker their flesh is; the restaurant guest prefers just a hint of pink in the veal which is the result of a calf not being able to move really at all. Low-grade veal is usually used in things like frozen TV dinners. These animals are completely sentient and aware of their surroundings. They are confused and terrified. This is how they will spend their entire lives.

As horrific as this might already sound, imagine having your baby taken away from you almost immediately after birth. Or being forcibly taken from you mother! This is the case for cows as well as sows. After a cow is “spent” she is of course, sent to be slaughtered as stated above by Bob and Jenna. As with any animal farmed for meat or dairy, they are brought into this world solely to be killed for our consumption. We treat them as objects without feelings or desires.

Yikes! But what about eating eggs?”  Also, remember that eggs come from pregnant female hens. Also, the hens usually give birth to 50% males. What happens to them? For egg producers, male chicks are worthless. They are unwanted and definitely unneeded. Male chicks, “are often discarded at birth being ground up alive and used for “raw protein,” or they’re simply thrown in dumpsters to starve and suffocate slowly – an act of unimaginable cruelty.” (Torres)

For laying hens, they are kept in what is called a “battery cage” which is a wire cage which is smaller the size of a piece of paper. Another way to look at it is the hens are packed four to a cage just 16 inches wide. These can often be stacked up to nine tiers high. The birds cannot spread their wings or groom themselves and they suffer massive feather loss and abrasions from being squeezed next to one another. In my post about turkeys I mentioned debeaking as a method used to prevent the birds from pecking each other in their desperate frustration. To reiterate, debeaking is the cutting off of the end of the hen’s beak. This is excruciatingly painful because you must cut through bone, cartilage, and soft tissue. Farm Sanctuary informs us:

“Laying more than 250 eggs per year each, laying hens’ bodies are severely taxed. They suffer from “fatty liver syndrome” when their liver cells, which work overtime to produce the fat and protein for egg yolks, accumulate extra fat. They also suffer from what the industry calls ‘cage layer fatigue,’ and many become ‘egg bound’ and die when their bodies are too weak to pass another egg.

Osteoporosis is another common ailment afflicting egg laying hens, whose bodies lose more calcium to form egg shells than they can assimilate from their diets. One industry journal, Feedstuffs, explains, “…the laying hen at peak eggshell cannot absorb enough calcium from her diet…” while another (Lancaster Farming) states, “… a hen will use a quantity of calcium for yearly egg production that is greater than her entire skeleton by 30-fold or more.” Inadequate calcium contributes to broken bones, paralysis, and death.

After one year in egg production, the birds are classified as ‘spent hens’ and are sent off to slaughter. Their brittle, calcium-depleted bones often shatter during handling or at the slaughterhouse. They usually end up in soups, pot pies, or similar low-grade chicken meat products in which their bodies can be shredded to hide the bruises from consumers.”

HORRORHORRORHORRORHORROR

Okay, let us recap why being vegetarian is just as much part of the problem as eating meat:

First, dairy cows are kept constantly pregnant their entire lives to give milk. They either give birth to another potential dairy cow or to a calf who will be sold at auction confused and terrified at the sudden loss of his mother, to be chained in a dark, small, veal crate for his entire life until slaughter to be a menu item in a fancy restaurant. Cows have the same gestation period as a human (nine months but you’re not an idiot) and she is forced to give birth every year. With genetic manipulation, cows give 10x more milk than they would produce a day naturally. 100 lbs. In a healthy environment, cows can live up to 25 years. In the industrial dairy “farm”, she lives only 3-4 years before becoming ground beef. “The abuse wreaked upon the bodies of dairy cows is so intense that the dairy industry also is a huge source of “downed animals” — animals who are so sick or injured that they are unable to walk or even stand. Investigators have documented downed animals routinely being beaten, dragged, or pushed with bulldozers in attempts to move them to slaughter.” -Farm Sanctuary.org

Dairy cows also suffer ailments such as mastitis, which is a bacterial infection affecting the udders and other diseases. Such intensive milk production also causes “Milk Fever” which is caused by severe calcium deficiency when the milk she puts out depletes the calcium faster than she can renew it in her blood. Other ailments can cause her to become lame. The synthetic, Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), is now injected into cows which forces her to produce more milk though also can cause birth defects for calves.

Second, egg laying hens are kept in dark, crowded battery cages where terrible sores accumulate on their feet from standing on wire, their beaks are cut off without any sort of painkiller, they are forced to lay many more eggs than they would naturally (because they too are kept constantly pregnant). Many hens suffer what the industry calls “cage layer fatigue” where they can die in the cages and can remain in there with the other crowded hens. Can you imagine being in a crowded elevator next to a rotting corpse and not be able to escape? Egg laying depletes the hens calcium as well and she can suffer broken legs and paralysis.

Male chicks are immediately disposed of in horrific ways such as being tossed in a dumpster suffocating by  the bodies of other chicks on top of them or incredibly ground up alive in what is essentially the equivalent of a wood chipper.  What is (if you can imagine anything more) fucked up is how these chippers are imperfect and sometimes the entire chick isn’t ground up and is conscious but severely mutilated and left to die.

HORRORHORRORHORRORHORROR

Even writing this, I’m shaking with anger. How could we allow this type of cruelty to exist for our tastes? Do you see how I consider this incredibly important to know about? You see, the meat and dairy industries doesn’t want you to know any of this. My sources are almost always from investigators, or ex-factory workers, or ex-USDA employees through other exceptionally credible authors. These places don’t welcome casual visitors, in fact, they rely on people who don’t care at all where their food comes from. I’ll post a list of informative books here soon if you’d like to read more.

Yeah I do feel people are looking at me like I’m a freak sometimes. But fuck it. I am making a logical and informed reaction to all this hidden torture that takes place behind our backs and it’s all in our name. Combat the system that treats animals not as creatures who can feel love and think, but instead as mere engines for the production of profit. “Billions upon billions of animals are killed each year simply for reasons of taste and convenience.”(PLEASE just read Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in A Non-Vegan World . I’ll even let you borrow it and I won’t tell anyone.)

If this whole argument still isn’t getting at least a little reaction or forming an ember of rage inside of you, you COULD just realize that milk and cheese almost always contains some pus. Or that cheese isn’t vegetarian either. Look up rennet.

Or, you could just go vegan already.

Remember: “The world only goes forward because of those who oppose it.” – Goethe

Now for something uplifting!

And what is Farm Sanctuary, anyway? Click Here!

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RE: work. meat?

I constantly feel like there is an elephant in the room whenever I am at work or talking about my job where my veganism is mentioned with other people. And I was asked twice today by coworkers if I was vegan (both of whom I adore). I absolutely love and respect everyone I work with and all of their craziness (because all of us are crazy in one way or another) but because I am super passionate about this issue and it’s very important to me on a very, very deep level I should address it. Do I feel bad about selling meat at work? Yes. Does my job and livelihood depend on selling meat? Yes. Is it incredibly depressing and angering lying to people so they will buy a chicken or pork special that will make me look good for my bosses and increase my tips? Yes. Do I tell my tables the truth when they ask if I like one chicken dish over another? No, I tell them which is more popular. If they say something like, “Yes, but which do you like best?” I tell them I don’t eat meat. I return home defeated and I take some quiet time by myself before I work on and do research for a possible grad school proposal or I read text that covers animal lib, radical direct action, veganism as a way of life, other political economical bullshit etc. Or I screw around on the internet, play with the cats, watch a movie, and go to bed because I’m too broke to go out mostly.

This might sound really dramatic and I honestly try and not think about it at work and just do my job and do it well. But sure I have to square with myself before I go to bed knowing I support the very industry I speak out against in all this ranting writing, for my livelihood. Do I feel like a complete hypocrite? Yes. Will I be in the restaurant industry a long time? No. Do I feel weird about discussing it at work? Kinda. But only because it’s kinda like discussing it over the dinner table over a meat dish someone is eating. I have no problem talking about veganism and I encourage discussion but at work is not really the place. It tends to make the air uncomfortable. I’m certainly not judging coworkers about their eating habits. We’re all there to make a living and stay somewhat sane while dealing with idiotic drunk customers all day. Everyone everywhere mostly hates work but I love all the ridiculously rad people I am lucky enough to work with. I do feel extremely strong about animal exploitation and I’m pretty damn educated about these issues at this point and I’ll discuss it with anyone anywhere except work.

love,

sarah

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So, it has been awhile…

In almost every blog I read on the internets, if the author hasn’t updated said blog in awhile an explanation is required and often times an apology that she has had her devoted “followers” waiting with bated breath and hungry for more news and enlightening dialogue. Hah! I hardly believe this is the case for me and therefore I will not provide any explanation or apology that I haven’t updated in over a month! Fuhhgettaboutit! In all seriousness though, I had to take a step back from my previous posts and look inward for a bit. I had to reexamine the methods I was using to explain what and why I’m writing this blog.  I needed to do much more research (on everything really) and what I’m most interested in and what has been a big factor in changing my life; animal abolitionism.

(note: most underlined words are links)

I know at the conclusion of many of these posts I promise to continue on a certain subject and then I haven’t/don’t. I think it’s because at the moment I write it, I truly believe I have gathered enough information and thoughts to continue on to another post. This hasn’t exactly been the case. Or I somehow lost my writing groove and/or get distracted or too busy or I’m out of town etc.

However, I really will write a second post having to do with the exploitation of slaughterhouse workers but it probably won’t be the exclusive subject. I did also mention an upcoming post on Walter Bond (or other direct action activists that are doing or have done prison time such as the ever illustrious Peter Young) that I may have been working on. Well, I haven’t worked on one at all. Nevertheless, I have been doing a lot of research on direct action and the non-organizational (albeit, this can be argued) Animal Liberation Front. This includes an enormous amount of time spent in front of my computer and on the couch surrounded by books in the late night/early morning hours reading the large array of information on this subject. Hold that thought.

I know I wanted to make sure I put some personality into this blog and really make it “alive.” I know that a good amount of research is essential but I wanted to elaborate on somewhat of a slow personal transformation that has taken place within me for the past few months.

The decision to become vegan in my life to the greatest extent possible was a huge change though easier than I predicted. In fact, I want to just mention to whoever is thinking it is extremely difficult to be vegan; that it is so easy! If you truly care about animals and it makes sense then the rest is almost effortless. Though it is easy, of course you must do a certain amount of research to make sure you are getting all your healthy vitamins and all that good stuff. Yes. Also, a vegan lifestyle beyond food is a change in itself and requires you to read labels in the store and to know even how these companies phrase not testing on animals to truly determine if they’re full of shit of not.

There are numerous online resources to help you do this. And it all depends on how far you want to take your veganism. For me, the decision was to abstain from any animal products to the greatest extent possible. In addition to not eating animal products, everything from toothpaste (also must be without animal ingredients) to not eating honey or wearing wool also applies. That is one thing that is tricky as well. How do you know if animal ingredients are in a product when it doesn’t spell it out for you at the bottom in bold? Again, there are numerous online sources (and even books but that is an unnecessary expense considering the value of the internet,) that tell you exactly the ingredients to watch out for. For instance, lanolin, which is found in some lotions, is obtained from the fat extracted from sheep’s wool. Mohair, which is found in some clothing like sweaters, is made from the hair of an angora goat. Casein, which is fairly common, is milk protein. Cholesterol is in itself is all animal fats, oils, nervous tissue, egg yolk and blood. Others are painfully obvious like mink oil, down, gelatin, guanine, keratin (maybe not so obvious but is a form of protein found in hair, hooves, horns and feathers.) Pepsin is an enzyme usually derived from the stomach of calves or sometimes pigs etc. The point is some of these ingredients are sneaky. However, don’t let that scare you because you learn to recognize companies and logos (think the bunny icon on the bottle), which tell you what you can trust.

What is so effortless about all that research, you say? Look, when it makes sense to you, when you are aware of all the horrific suffering that takes place to acquire these animal products in our name, which are not necessary for you to survive, but only for human taste, entertainment, and convenience, you seemingly unknowing have adopted a new way of thinking. I’m getting a little ahead of myself but for me; veganism is a political and ethical stance that explicitly rejects the method of thought that animals exist as a means to our ends. When you truly believe in something like that, everything else like research and all that IS effortless. As I said, when it makes sense, there is no going back. Animals deserve equal consideration in the moral community. Again, getting ahead of myself. So where am I anyway?

I really want avoid getting all vegangelical up in here. However, as a disclaimer, it may seem like such but I assure you that my goal is to live by an example of a happy and healthy vegan who is informed and desires to inform others. A blog can serve as a platform for this though it is not an advertisement for veganism. While I may think its fucking fabulous that you may decide to check veganism out after either reading this or may find you’re inspired to do your own research; that isn’t entirely my goal.

I was listening to the podcast “Vegan Freak Radio” hosted by the authors Bob and Jenna Torres and they were discussing the conversations that tend to come up with non-vegans whist discussing veganism and there are truly people you talk to who are curious about what you’re doing and why and would like to know more. However, there are those who find delight in dangling meat in front of your face or making other juvenile remarks and who get downright hostile and argumentative. Bob looks at these situations as triage, explaining that you can ask yourself, “is it really worth spending thirty minutes of my time explaining my veganism to someone who isn’t remotely interested in going vegan and is rather just looking to argue?” No. It is not. On the flipside, it may be worth it to civilly discuss the topic (preferably NOT over the dinner table) with someone genuinely interested who may consider going vegan after gaining more information and insight. Rad! I’m totally up for that shit let’s do it up!

People who tend to get rude and argumentative I look at in two ways: first, I believe that these people get very defensive because they themselves may be reluctantly considering what they are doing may actually be morally wrong so they must fiercely kick out at you because of this. Second, they are assholes that thrive on ridiculing people who are different than themselves. I feel sorry for those sorts but again, triage.

This is not to say that there aren’t people in between these two extremes. Think about your friends. No doubt, some of them may be uncomfortable with your new decision especially if you speak freely about your reasons. I feel this way sometimes and I’m still sort of shy going full force discussing it so the best way is to live how I live and if the conversation comes up so be it. I did have a very cool conversation with a friend of mine today who I greatly respect and I think she’s so incredibly badass and intelligent. She was making this wonderful homemade pasta sauce with green and red peppers, fresh tomatoes, onion, and zucchini. Delish. Anyway, it was a respectful conversation where I carefully went into my reasons from abstaining from anything derived from an animal and she admitted she’s like to learn more vegan cooking even though she will probably never give up meat but that she thought it was cool I was standing up for something I believe in. And hey we’re still friends. This is all very cool. There are no doubt friends of mine and coworkers who probably look at me in a different light and some of them are cool with it and some of them may quietly pull away from their “radical vegan” friend and have trouble relating to me. I sense that. If asked, I have no hesitation about telling the truth and explaining my reasoning.  I have absolutely no intention of making people feel uncomfortable or being viewed as trying to make them feel guilty. That’s all silly and gross.

Side note: If you are vegan for the love of GOD don’t wear a t-shirt that says something pretentious and obnoxious like “Vegans Taste Better,” or “Vegans Fuck Better,” or “I’m Vegan Because My Body Is Not a Graveyard!” Or really any shirts that PETA or PETA2 carry. They give the intelligent and mindful vegans a REALLY bad name. Almost as foolish as the “Save a Cow Eat a Vegan” or “Meat is Murder (tasty murder),”or,  “If it’s got a face I’ll eat it.” GAG.

To wrap up this rather disjointed update: I’m ready to update more now that I have more of a handle on how to explain my intentions.

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The First National Bird of America Pt. 2

*hey dudes scroll down! read Pt. 1 first!

“At the center of our Thanksgiving tables is an animal that never breathed fresh air or saw the sky until it was packed away for slaughter. At the end of our forks is an animal that was incapable of reproducing sexually. In our bellies is an animal with antibiotics in its belly. The very genetics of our birds are radically different. If the pilgrims could have seen into the future, what would they have thought of the turkey on our table?” – Foer

I am vegan because I believe my diet should reflect my core values, and genuine concern for the well being of all living things on this planet.

“Table Fellowship”

It is not to be denied that it is ingrained in our culture to have a big Thanksgiving dinner with a plump turkey. But that’s not all! This Thanksgiving will be the first without any of my family around. It’s kind of odd but it couldn’t be avoided as I work the day before and the day after Thanksgiving and it’s just not enough time for me to drive down to Houston and back to Austin in one day. When I was younger I always got really really excited about Thanksgiving because it meant my little family (me, my mom and Charlie, my stepdad) got to actually spend time with our extended family. We never lived near to any of them. It was pretty much just us in Colorado Springs and definitely when we lived in Kansas City for those six years. This had always really bothered me because I felt so isolated and I’ve always loved having lots of family around at those dinners. This year, when I thought I might have the opportunity to jump down to Houston, I told my Aunt (right after she went on about how they ordered a turkey and honey-baked ham with all the fixins) that I was now vegan. She didn’t miss a beat and said she would make whatever I wanted without any animal products and I was delighted! And surprised. However, I knew that if I had gone down there I would have been bombarded with questions and I would have to deal with feeling like I wasn’t exactly included in the Turkey-Day fellowship. It’s hard to explain but I don’t think I’m the only vegan who would identify. 

Sharing food generates good feelings and creates social bonds.” -Foer (I’m so predictable) The classic dilemma that vegans (and vegetarians) now face is: How much do I value creating a socially comfortable situation, and how much do I value acting socially responsible? I think I might have gotten lucky with my aunt being so understanding. She knew I had been vegetarian/selective omnivore at times. But I don’t come from a particularly carnivorous family either. After all, my mom has been vegetarian forever so she’s been dealing with this whole “table fellowship” issue for awhile. She gave great advice though saying, “Never apologize for not eating animals.” And I won’t. Because if I had stated I was vegan and went to dinner and said, “Oh well, I might as well, there isn’t really anything else to eat and I feel weird. Pass the turkey, please.” Then how can I expect to be taken seriously as a vegan? How much confidence can I have in my decision to live as a vegan in a non-vegan world? How much faith can I have in my values when I can’t find the nerve to stand up for them with my own family? I have friends whom I can imagine not being well-received if they told their family they were vegan around Thanksgiving. A couple of those friends might wish to become vegan or vegetarian but are worried about their family’s reaction. Totally understandable. However, there comes a point when you have to be honest with yourself and find the strength to be honest with everyone else. You can’t think of yourself as “being difficult” around dinner with the fam or worry about coming across as disrespectful by not eating your aunt’s honey-baked ham (with all the fixins). You need to learn how to communicate your gratitude (IT IS THANKSGIVING!) but explain, even if simply, why you made your decision to stop consuming any animal product. People will be curious, but unfortunately people will also give you snide remarks, insults, sarcastic remarks and of course try to point out any hypocrisy you might be demonstrating. (i.e. that leather belt is your only belt and you can’t really afford to get a new faux one at this point). That’s all fine. Like I said in my last post, I refuse to be the unhappy and deprived vegan at the meaty dinner. Be real and bring a delicious vegan dish that is sure to be a hit. People have all sorts of misconceptions about veganism so it might be surprising to show up with a culinary masterpiece. And eye-opening.

A compassionate Thanksgiving is as good as it gets and gives us lots to be thankful for. Hopefully you learned something from the commercial farming of turkeys. It’s ridiculously sad and I will never contribute to that fucked up industry again. Even if you won’t ever be going vegetarian or vegan, realize what atrocities exist right under our noses but so carefully hidden.

Start a new tradition.

Ending things on a cheerful note:

This picture is from last year’s Farm Sanctuary Thanksgiving where they fix all this crazy food for the rescued turkeys. Pretty sweet if you ask me. 

“Ditch the “vegan warrior” rhetoric and understand these are just normal people driven by compassion.”

-Walter Bond (ALF activist… more on him the next post)

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The First National Bird of America Pt. 1

Happy Thanksgiving!

So, I know by now it may seem like I want to marry Jonathan Safran Foer and have all of his babies but honestly, I don’t agree with all of his points in Eating Animals. Besides, I don’t think I even want babies. Having children is not environmentally sustainable. However, that is a topic for other times and perhaps another blog. Although, Eating Animals is important to me personally and I have learned a helluva lot from it’s pages. Some of the most important issues I’ve found in the book are about turkeys. In the delightful (gluttonous) spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought what better time to discuss the magnificent turkey. This post got so unbelievable lengthy that I ended up dividing it into two parts. Hopefully you won’t fall asleep after the first part.

I understand that  many of the vegans who read this blog have probably read Eating Animals. Most likely, but that might be too much of an assumption. Those who are not familiar with the text may be wondering what all the fuss is about because they will never read the book so I’ll be the narrator of what I’ve learned about turkeys from Jonathan Safran Foer. He’s not the only author I’ll be shamelessly pulling information from. Gene Baur, of Farm Sanctuary (I don’t want to marry him either FYI) is an incredibly important figure and expert in the treatment of turkeys on factory farms. He has also done so much to save so many turkeys from their paths to a stuffed, glistening carcass on a dinner table. Hey, I’m just being honest and when it comes to these issues it is crucial to be blunt. There will be no dressing up the horrors here. I will most certainly not play nice and murmur about how a Thanksgiving turkey is an American “tradition.” Man has seriously fucked with the natural cycles and bodies and physiology of turkeys. Possibly more than any other animal.

I’m not trying to be a killjoy for Thanksgiving. I’ve had some great Thanksgivings with family and I’m not going to tell you how to have yours. I’m glad I get to start my own new tradition of a completely vegan Thanksgiving! Too bad I’m broke as a joke trying to save money to go to Colorado (home) next month but I’ll figure out something. Besides, I’ve got some amazing cookbooks my lovely and intelligent friend, Tsouni, has generously leant to me.

vegan feast!

 

For some vegan Thanksgiving delicious recipes check out the famous Post Punk Kitchen: http://www.theppk.com/category/recipe/holiday-thanksgiving/

I have put myself in such a position where I want to be as educated as possible on the raising of turkeys for food, but as a result I have been reading and seeing pictures of the most heartbreaking conditions that has literally brought tears to my eyes and feelings of intense anger. I used to see these things and choose to divorce myself from those pictures, videos and descriptions of such abuse (or maybe torture would be more apt) and cruel slaughter. I can’t do that anymore and I’m glad I can have such fantastic resources to really explain and educate others. I’m dedicated to never putting myself on a soapbox or sound like that asshole preachy vegan. I simply want the facts to speak for themselves. Sure, I have quite a bit of my opinion in here but I never claimed I’d be neutral. It’s impossible and should be. Let’s get to it.

Around 1784, the bald eagle was elected the symbol of the new American republic. Benjamin Franklin opposed this decision stating in a letter to his daughter, “The Turkey in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, withal a true original Native America.” It is doubtful Franklin would even recognize turkeys being commercially raised for food. Wild turkeys are slender, bronze-colored and could actually fly (little known fact).

wild turkey

Gene Baur explains in his book (Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hears and Minds about Animals and Food), turkeys raised for food, “have been bred to be white, because the plumage of darker breeds leaves pigment on the carcasses, something consumers prefer not to see. Just like meat chickens, the birds have been genetically altered to grow excessively fast and large — especially in the breast area. As a result, fatal heart attacks among turkeys are so common and economically costly that industry researches have been asked to study the problem. The turkeys are commonly lame because their spindly legs cannot support their unwieldy bodies.” (160) Maybe it’s just me, could absolutely be me, but this wasn’t a big surprise. I mean, the same goes for humans, right?  Another ugly fact is that these turkeys have grown so large they are no longer able to mate naturally. Female turkeys must be inseminated  by straws filled with the semen of male turkeys that have been actually masturbated by workers. Sounds completely insane, right? But is it all that surprising considering these “mutant birds” are in no way natural in the first place? Turkeys are also not allowed to form “natural social structures” because they are confined to crowded grower houses giving them under three feet of of space blocking their instinctual urges such as perching, running and foraging. (Baur) To be expected, (remember the salmon?) the turkeys begin to peck and fight other turkeys nearby. There is no way to prevent this type of behavior in salmon but in turkeys (as well as chickens) factory-farmed turkeys are “de-beaked” which is exactly how it sounds and even parts of their toes are removed (to make catching them easier causing no harm to the handlers). All of  this is done of course without any sort of painkiller. Since this process is often done quickly mistakes are made that may result in most of the turkey’s beak to be cut off making it nearly impossible for the turkey to eat and breathe.

de-beaking

If you’ve ever been in any agricultural feed store (unfortunately I have when I was living in Kansas City… we used to buy our birdseed there) you may have seen chicks confined in little pens for purchase. Or perhaps around Easter? Have you ever wondered how these chicks got there in the first place if you are living in a city? Baur informs that it “is completely legal to ship many species of domesticated birds, including turkeys, through the mail. In fact, people do it all the time. The birds are packed into boxes, just like clothing or electronics would be. Your order automatically includes more birds than you purchased, since the shipper fully expects some to die in the mail.” Even if you are completely hardened and filled with so much indifference towards turkeys, can you deny how cruel this is? Why would we feel differently if we were talking about dogs and cats?

Education from Farm Sanctuary: (a must read)

“Chickens and turkeys are taken to the slaughterhouse in crates stacked on the backs of open trucks. During transport, the birds are not protected from weather conditions, and a percentage of the birds are expected to die en route. Birds freeze to death in winter, or die from heat stress and suffocation in warm weather. It is “cheaper” for the industry to transport the birds in open crates without adequate protection, despite high mortality rates. Upon arrival at the slaughterhouse, the birds are either pulled individually from their crates, or the crates are lifted off the truck, often with a crane or forklift, and the birds are dumped onto a conveyor belt. As the birds are unloaded, some miss the conveyor belt and fall onto the ground. Slaughterhouse workers intent upon ‘processing’ thousands of birds every hour have neither the time nor the inclination to pick up individuals who fall through the cracks, and these birds suffer grim deaths. Some die after being crushed by machinery or vehicles operating near the unloading area, while others may die of starvation or exposure days, or even weeks, later.”

Birds inside the slaughterhouse suffer an equally gruesome fate. Upon entering the facility, fully conscious birds are hung by their feet from metal shackles on a moving rail. Although poultry are specifically excluded from the federal Humane Slaughter Act (which requires that animals be stunned before they are slaughtered), many slaughterplants first stun the birds in an electrified water bath in order to immobilize them and expedite assembly line killing.”

more from this article here: http://www.farmsanctuary.org/issues/factoryfarming/poultry/

Returning to topic, “nowhere in our collective schizophrenic attitude to turkeys on a greater display than at Thanksgiving.” (Baur 163)

“While female turkeys are still slaughtered at about 12 pounds, the industry has added a pound a year to the market weight of male turkeys, who can now grow to 40 pounds or more in 20 weeks. Rather than rely on added hormones or steroids, genetic selection has been used to make turkeys grow faster and heavier. “There’s going to be a physiological limit,” cautions Kent Reed, part of a team of scientists mapping the turkey’s genetic structure. In addition to joint and skeletal problems, he notes that some birds actually develop a heart that is unable to pump blood to all of their muscle mass.” (veganoutreach.org)

Why is taste, the crudest of our senses, exempted from ethical rules that govern our other senses?”- activist who wishes to remain anonymous quoted from Eating Animals

Drawing from Foer’s book, here is a description of how the turkey industry has manipulated the instinctual laying schedule of the turkey to be the most profitable:

As soon as females mature….they’re put into barns and they lower the light; sometimes it’s total darkness twenty-four/seven. And then they put them on a very low-protein diet, almost a starvation diet. That will last about two or three weeks. They turn the lights on sixteen hours a day, so she thinks it’s spring, and they put her on high-protein feed. She immediately starts laying. They have it down to such a science that they can stop it, start it, and everything. See, in the wild, where spring comes, the bugs come and the grass comes and the days get longer–that’s a key to tell the birds, “Well, I better start laying. Spring is coming.” So man has tapped into that already built-in thing. And by controlling the light, the feed, and when they eat, the industry can force the birds to lay eggs year-round…..Turkey hens now lay 120 eggs a year. That’s two or even three times as many as in nature. After that first year, they are killed because they won’t lay as many eggs in the second year–the industry figured it’s cheaper to slaughter them and start over than it is feed and house the birds that lay fewer eggs. These practices are a big part of why poultry meat is so cheap today, but the birds suffer for it.”

“Look at what we as a society has done to animals as soon as we had the technological power.”

Turkeys are specifically exempt from the Humane Slaughter Act. There is a reason farmers lock their sheds and refuse interviews. “The business depends on consumers not being able to see (or hear about) what they do.” -Foer

If you, like millions of Americans, are eating a Butterball turkey this year you might find this interesting/horrifying: http://www.peta.org/features/butterball-peta-investigation.aspx

If you are feeling better because you bought a “free-range” or “cage-free” or “organic” turkey this year consider this:

“Humane educator Rae Sikora, founder and director of Simply Enough, visited “a local, organic farm with a good reputation for environmental and humane standards.” She reports, “The birds are ‘gently’ pushed into wall mounted funnels head first and upside down. With their heads hanging below an opening at the base of the funnel, the ‘harvester’ slices the major arteries on the bird’s neck. A bucket catches the blood below. In the words of the harvester, ‘I slice with a clean hundred dollar surgical knife. I am careful not to cut the airway. We need them alive, breathing and bleeding to drain all the blood out or it gets too messy in the next step. It is very fast. It only takes two minutes. They are breathing the whole time and their legs are kicking, but it is mostly just nerves.’” Sikora urges everyone who eats meat labeled as “humane,” “organic,” or “free range” to visit the place the meat comes from. “They will realize these labels give people permission to turn their backs on the violent reality of eating living beings,” she asserts.” (veganoutreach.org)

“Cruelty depends on an understanding of cruelty, and the ability to choose against it. Or to choose to ignore it.”


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Bringing Up the Roots

I’m incredibly thankful for a conversation I had the other night that reminded me of the very visceral feelings I’ve experienced all of my life in relation to animal exploitation and cruelty. What a relief to know that someone else experiences that same white hot burning through the temples, boiling behind the eyes, and through every bone while seeing first hand, reading about, viewing film or even talking about animal cruelty. That threatening and shaking rage knowing there is unimaginable suffering caused by human action (or inaction). That very primal push by an invisible force to do something about it that will most likely look crazy to nine out of ten people. How else to explain why I am vegan? It is the most honest and meaningful decision I have ever made and might ever make.

…………………………….

I’m surprised at how personal this post turned out to be. I wasn’t planning on it. I was trying to decide if I wanted to go ahead and jump into the commercial farming of turkeys just in time for Thanksgiving OR if I wanted to go into the environmental impact of animal agriculture. I guess I felt compelled to share some of my feelings about veganism as a whole. The turkeys will get all my attention the next post.

I’m really coming to terms with the fact that I know so very little (about anything really) but specifically, veganism. Well, let me put it another way; between reading all these incredible (or incredibly eloquent even if I don’t always agree) authors and their views on veganism, agribusiness, vegetarianism, cruelty-free living, environmentalism, nutrition, animal-human symbiosis, animal exploitation, worker exploitation ETC. ETC. ETC. and talking to people who are vegan (and why) and are not (and why not) I am realizing that veganism is so multifaceted. We don’t all share an entirely collective view. We do not all have the same exact reasons we chose to be vegan. However, most who I have met and some who I have only read about, are vegan because they are against animal suffering as a whole and choose to live in a way to reduce their impact on animal suffering and exploitation through living a certain way. This includes never consuming any animal products. This leads directly to my next point: I need to really work on the eloquence of my tentative definition of veganism. On one hand, in itself, the word veganism is so simple and to the point. For animal welfare. Against animal suffering. Done aaaand done. However, I will now include a few definitions I’ve found in other books and by other authors and that damned wikipedia which is where I’m sure most people go to when they’re trying to figure out what the hell veganism means. So it matters. There are sooooo many other ways to define it but here are just a few I chose because this post is lengthy:

Brenda Davis, R.D. & Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D (authors of Becoming Vegan)

Veganism may be defined as a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing; or any other purpose. In dietary terms, it refers to the practice of dispensing with all animal produce, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, animal milks, honey, and their derivatives.”

Bob and Jenna Torres (authors of Vegan-Freak)

Veganism isn’t a “diet.” It is a way of living that focuses on according animals their due right as fellow sentient beings.”

Veganism is an outright rejection of the violent and hierarchical processes that condemn animals to lives of subjugation, servitude, and oppression.”

“As a lived form of protest, veganism is the expression of this desire for justice, a visceral and logical reaction to the horrors visited on others in our name.”

“As vegans, we take the anger, channel it, and live in a way that, to the greatest extent possible, affirms the intrinsic worth of animals. Veganism is us living in a world the way we want the world to be, and denying the violence done in our names.”

“To be vegan is to deny the psychological distance between the flesh in the Styrofoam tray at the supermarket and the someone – not something – who that meat came from. To be vegan is to live fully and honestly with yourself about how animals are treated, and it is about your not taking place in that exploitative system to the greatest extent possible.”

Wikipedia:

“Veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle whose adherents seek to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.”

“Vegans endeavor to never consume or use any animal products of any type. The most common reasons for becoming, or remaining, vegan are health, ethical commitment, moral conviction concerning animal rights or welfare, environmental concerns, and spiritual or religious concerns.Vegans are often, but not limited to, the practices which may be involved in factory farming and animal testing, as well as the intensive use of land and other resources for farming of animals.”

Vegan-Action (www.vegan.org)

“A vegan is someone who, for various reasons, chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products. While vegetarians choose not to use flesh foods, vegans also avoid dairy and eggs, as well as fur, leather, wool, down, and cosmetics or chemical products tested on animals.”


Now, it is to be understood that I am not incredibly well-read when it comes to vegan text. There. I said it. I have done ample research of the horror on factory farms and the impact of a meat-eating diet on the environment, on the body and our health, the extent of animal testing and their cruel role in entertainment etc. I am becoming much more educated on nutrition as a whole and the advantages of a vegan diet. However, I am still trying to figure out all the ways to live as a vegan. I have not been in many social situations where there isn’t anything for me to eat. Just today, I was in a situation where I was asked what kind of pizza I would like because I was helping some people on a project and they chose to order pizza. I answered, “Well, I am vegan so I don’t eat any dairy or meat of any kind so if they can make it, I’ll have a couple slices with no cheese and instead lots of vegetables.” The pizza came back with pepperoni, sausage, cheese, black olives and green peppers. However, I REFUSE to look like the unhappy and deprived vegan. I must live by example and have confident answers to comments and questions such as, “Oh man, I could NEVER give up cheese I love it so much!” or “Wasn’t it difficult giving up all that?” Or even more interesting, there happened to be an ex-vegan in the mix. Turns out he had been vegan for three years but had to resume an omnivorous diet because he just wasn’t healthy but he admitted he ate “mostly junk food.” Which is unfortunate because he became vegan just to lose weight. Which blows my mind. He was so happy to eat a big steak and he felt great. Well, probably because he was finally getting something else in his body besides vegan treats.

Back to my point: I never feel deprived. I never feel like I’m missing out. I eat and live with so much confidence now I even surprise myself. Instead of taking a bunch out of my diet I’ve been introduced to myriad foods I didn’t even know existed. And by the way, that doesn’t include Boca Burgers or any sort of frozen meat substitute. It really is amazing that once you start reading the labels on everything, learning what all these long names for chemicals are and what words are hiding animal products, you feel sick about how most of your life you’ve been ingesting all sorts of weird shit. I’m trying to, as Michael Pollan would say, eat mostly foods that are made up of four ingredients or less and few things my great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. I’ll have another post at some point about what I’m keeping in my kitchen these days as a fledgling vegan.

Here is another good source for what the vegan diet should entail:

Vegan Food Pyramid

This quote by Jenna and Bob Torres pretty much sums up my whole entire blog:

“Unless we take the time to educate others about veganism and why we are vegan, the elegant and powerful message of veganism will remain misunderstood, and our goal of abolishing animal exploitation will be deferred.”


(as if you can’t already tell I love pigs and Farm Sanctuary is my favorite of everything ever. I highly recommend Gene Baur’s (pictured above) book!


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Life in The Jungle (The Lives and Times of the Slaughterhouse Worker Pt. 1)

All right so I’m gettin’ a little crazy and mixing things up again! Actually, I’m currently sick with a cold and I’ve been glued to this curse’ed computer screen researching the working conditions of a slaughterhouse/meatpacking plant and drinking massive amounts of tea. What a pleasant way to spend a day, don’t you think? Anyway, I’m dealing with wanting to use multiple ways of framing my arguments and I realized that if this blog is going to be taken seriously at all I better start citing my sources. However, if you think I’ll be dusting off the old MLA Handbook you are tragically misunderstanding my condition.I definitely get specific when I cite articles out of the New York Times website and Mother Jones but as far as different .org(s) I’m pleased to offer direct links to their respective websites for further reading. Also let me note that my grammar might not be entirely correct in this blog as a whole. I implore you, give me a break on this one. I appreciate it.

What if we took the issue of animal suffering completely out of the argument? Let’s put the focus on the impact CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) have on human beings entirely. We’ll start with the people most directly involved in CAFO’s. The slaughterhouse workers. “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, meatpacking is the nation’s most dangerous occupation.” The Human Rights Watch (http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2005/01/25/executive-summary-blood-sweat-and-fear) reports the exploitative nature of the industry as well as the serious health risks involved. In case you don’t have time to read the article or don’t have Adobe Reader here is a paragraph on the first page of their report (Jan. 2005)

“Meatpacking work has extraordinarily and unnecessarily high rates of injury, musculoskeletal disorders (repetitive stress injuries), and even death. Whatever the inherent dangers of meatpacking work, they are aggravated by ever-increasing line speeds, inadequate training, close-quarters cutting, and long hours with few breaks.”

Even more disturbing is the “dry” way the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists off the dangers experienced by workers. i.e.

“Worker killed when hog-splitting saw is activated”

“Worker dies when he is pulled into a conveyer and crushed”

“Worker loses legs when a worker activates the grinder in which he is standing”

“Worker loses hand when he reaches under a boning table to hose meat from chain”

(Also interesting: In as early as 1908 the “conveyor system” was introduced to the disassembly lines, allowing supervisors rather than workers to control line speeds. Predictably; injuries ensued.) (Foer)

These horrifying instances paired with the inability for many workers to receive compensation for such injuries should be concerning for anyone who spends his or her money on products they are confident do not come from sweatshops. That statement will make more sense soon. read on! read on! Also, “workers also hesitate to report injuries for fear they will be dismissed on other pretexts.” I can speculate that other pretexts may include but are not limited to the attempt to organize unions or speak out against their treatment as employees by their supervisors. For those particularly interested in the right to unionize (I can already guess Ms. Zepernick will be reading the article in it’s entirely because she’s passionate about such issues), I advise reading up on federal and state level labor laws and agencies that protect(?) worker’s organizing rights. I think you’ll be shocked about how little legal enforcement takes place for these violations considering the manipulative power these enormous companies possess. And America pays them billions of dollars a year with every hamburger they purchase. For further reading on how the U.S. is failing to protect the rights of workers check out the International Labor Organization (ILO)’s 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. I know, not exactly reading for pleasure or for many and much less anyone not in school.

Statistics are extremely helpful in gaining insight on the “big picture” however almost nothing beats an account of an individual’s experience. An article by Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) in the publication Mother Jones (July/August 2001 Issue) titled “The Chain Never Stops” (refering to the repeated statement given by many factory workers about how literally the chain NEVER stops even if someone has been injured) gives a hugely informative narration to the story of a slaughterhouse worker, Kenny Dobbins (among other workers), who started working at the Monfort Beef Company (and ConAgra its parent company) in 1979.  Schlosser reports, “in 1999, more than one-quarter of America’s nearly 150,000 meatpacking workers suffered a job-related injury or illness…. If you accept the official figures, about 40,000 meatpacking workers are injured on the job every year.” However, those are just the reported and recorded numbers. It is likely to be much more considering the hesitation workers experience to report such injuries and illnesses for fear of being fired. “The meatpacking industry has a well-documented history of discouraging injury reports, falsifying injury data, and putting injured workers back on the job quickly to minimize the reporting of lost workdays.” Dobbins was 24 years old, 6 foot 5 and “had no fear of the hard work in a slaughterhouse.” In the next ten years here are a list of his injuries: 90-pound box of meat striking him and pinning him against the steel lip of a conveyor belt, blowing out a disk resulting in back surgery, inhalation of too much chlorine cleaning blood tanks and spent a month in the hospital for his burnt lungs and blistered body, a 10,000-lb hammer-mill dropped too quickly pulling his arm backwards resulting in rotator cuff injury, broke his leg stepping in hole in the concrete floor, shattered ankle and “more bruises and cuts, muscle pulls and strains than he could remember.” in 1995 Dobbins suffered a heart attack which the company nurse told him was a “muscle pull.” While he waited for compensation money, he was fired. Today, Dobbins “is disabled, with a bad heart and scarred lungs. He lives entirely off Social Security Payments. He has no pension or health insurance.” 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has government documented reports with headlines such as, “Employee Severely Burned After Fuel From His Saw Is Ignited,” “Employee Hospitalized for Neck Laceration From Flying Blade,” “Employee’s Finger Amputated in Sausage Extruder,” “Employee’s Eye Injured When Struck by Hanging Hook,” One Employee Killed, Eight Injured by Ammonia Spill,” “Employee Decapitated by Chain of Hide Pulled Machine,” “Employee Killed When Head Crushed by Conveyor,” “Employee Caught and Killed by Gut-Cooker Machine.” The list went on but CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?! (This goes without saying but imagine what the animals must go through!)

http://www.osha.gov/ (search: meatpacking for a myriad references)

Who in their right mind would choose to work in a slaughterhouse?! Think about so many who are forced into the dirty jobs in the U.S. because of lack of other options. Immigrants. That may be a sweeping statement but who has little if any representation and are at a very high risk of rights violations? “Lack of familiarity with U.S. law and language difficulties often prevent them from being aware of their rights as well as specific hazards in their work. Immigrant workers who are undocumented, as many are, risk deportation if they seek to organize and to improve conditions.” Schlosser reports in the same Mother Jones article, “in some American slaughterhouses, more than three-quarters of the workers are non native English speakers; many can’t read any language, and many are illegal immigrants. A new migrant industrial workforce now circulates through the meatpacking towns of the High Plains.” He continues, “They’re also unlikely to complain or challenge authority, to file lawsuits, organize unions, fight for their legal rights. They tend to be poor, vulnerable, and fearful. From the industry’s point of view, they are idea workers: cheap, largely interchangeable, and disposable.” Are you understanding why I’m saying how meatpacking plants and sweatshops are comparable work environments? These workers are simply cogs in the machine. Human capital.

(These immigration issues are also addressed in the documentary directed by Robert Kenner (www.foodincmovie.com) with plenty of credible sources. I highly recommend this film because it addresses the origins of our food such as corn and soybeans, not just meat.)

This should particularly interest those of us who are Texas residents: Meatpackers have the most freedom to do as they please here. “About one-quarter of the cattle slaughtered every year in the United States–roughly 9 million animals–are processed in Texas meatpacking plants.” The interesting and not so surprising part, remember this article was written in 2001, U.S. senator ,Phil Gramm, “is the industry’s most powerful ally in Congress. His wife, Wendy Lee, sits on the board of IBP.” (Iowa Beef Processors aka Tyson Fresh Meats) This is just one example of how politicians often double as board members and have complete control of the industry. “Between 1987 and 1996, Phil Gramm, a Republican from Texas, received more money from the meatpacking industry than any other U.S. senator.” (www.all-creatures.org/articles/ar-abehemoth.html)

Also in Texas, (and this makes me bury my head in my hands) meatpacking firms do not have to participate in the workers’ comp system. “The Texas Workers Compensation Reform Act of 1989 allowed private companies to drop out of the state’s workers’ comp system. Although the law gave injured workers the right to sue employers that had left the system, that provision was later rendered moot. When a worker is injured at a IBP plant in Texas, for example, he or she is immediately  presented with a waiver. It reads: “I have been injured at work and want to apply for the payments offered by IBP to me under its Workplace Injury Settlement Program. To qualify, I must accept the rules of the Program.” Schlosser continues, “Signing the waiver means forever surrendering your right–and the right of your family and heirs–to sue IBP on any grounds.” Unbelievably, in February 1998 the Texas Supreme Court ” ruled companies operating outside the state’s workers’ comp system can fire workers simply because they’re injured.” I strongly suggest reading this article if you are particularly interested in Texas workers’ rights especially when you get to the juicy parts about their “medical treatment” and how you’re completely fucked if you begin to receive it. Okay, I must reduce my rage to that of an ember for now.

Completely by chance I came across this fantastic study on the conditions of workers within the meatpacking industry in Nebraska titled “The Speed Kills You.” They surveyed 455 workers across Nebraska to find out what they most want everyone to know about the industry and how they are treated. It’s particularly enlightening because it goes into the historical background of the emergence of the slaughterhouse in Nebraska. (Cattle meat is their largest export, generating more than 1.1 billion) From the 1950s-1970s the wages “of the average meatpacking worker were higher than those of the average manufacturing worker.” According to the Government Accountability Office, (meatpacking) workers earned an average salary of $21,320 per year in 2003 compared to the average manufacturing worker at $33,500. I’ll dig deeper into this article in a later post but one of the most shocking instances it reports is the prevalence of workers urinating their pants because they are not allowed bathroom breaks much of the time. “What safety is there in the product?”

For more information of worker safety concerns:

Change to Win is a 5.5-million member partnership of unions founded in 2005 to represent workers in the industries and occupations of the 21st century economy. Change to Win is committed to restoring the American Dream for a new generation of workers – wages that can support a family, affordable health care, a secure retirement, and the opportunity for the future.”

http://www.changetowin.org/for-the-media/press-releases-and-statements/labor-department-inaction-on-safety-equipment-responsible-for-50-deaths-400000-injuries.html

The Change to Win website is incredibly informative but I simply cannot go into it all here. I mean, I could, but it might seem superfluous or repetitive or maybe I’ll come across as ranting. That particular link takes you straight to the safety equipment workers are made to purchase that really do nothing to protect against serious injury.

I need to throw in this important explanation before continuing with Pt. 2: I may seem like I’m completely victimizing these workers, however, there are countless accounts (interviews, undercover films etc.) that workers do unimaginably horrible things to these animals besides and additionally to systematically killing them. I would even call many of these heinous actions sadistic. This is not to say, these arguable “lapses in sanity” or just flat out disgustingly cruel undertakings are not the result of psychological, physiological or physical stress and exhaustion, nevertheless, they occur. All. The. Time. Obviously it’s clear that so many of these workers are just “doing their job” no matter how they may feel about slaughtering animals and they do it mechanically and as best they can to earn an income. However, ordinary people can become “sadistic from the dehumanizing work of constant slaughter.” (Temple Grandin)

I’m kind of wrestling with the decision to explain some examples of these cruel instances because honestly, I don’t like to think about them. It takes me to a dark place and my stomach threatens to heave. On the other hand, a lot of people just don’t know the extent of the situation and how prevalent these instances are. A side-note, for all the PETA-naysayers, no other group has gone as far and risked as much to acquire these accounts. Especially on video. No other groups strikes as much fear into the hearts of meat industry factory owners than PETA. It’s as simple as that. While many of their other efforts for awareness appear vaudeville at best, you can’t deny the bravery of these individuals who sneak into these slaughterhouse hellholes for the noble mission of exposing these atrocities. Imagine getting caught by a bunch of men in rubber aprons all sporting giant razor sharp knives. I reckon most of us would soil our pants immediately. Not to mention the legal-hell these activists must now try to climb out from under. Anyway, I had to say it.

………………………….

The way slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants are operated and the way it’s employees are mistreated is so obviously wrong to me and should not be supported and funded. If you can find a credible defense by all means, let me know. As Foer says, “We can’t plead ignorance, only indifference.”

The good news is more and more journalists, anthropologists, sociologists etc. are doing these incredible exposé’s on the experience of the slaughterhouse worker in major publications read by the masses. It is absolutely heartbreaking to read all the accounts of injured workers and how their lives have been forever changed and how fighting for compensation is ineffective and in vain so much of the time. It’s a crooked industry and to reiterate, workers are only cogs in the machine to them. However, their voices are not falling on deaf ears and workers are fighting back with unionization. I was happy to read more on the labor movement in a Smithfield factory on www.socialistalternative.org (now don’t go crazy and let the word “socialist” be a dirty word) and learn that, “Despite fierce management opposition, including forcing a worker to scrawl “VOTE NO” on the union on one of the hogs (The News and Observer, 12/11/08), and a fierce retaliatory raid against the workforce in which management colluded with Immigration and Customs Enforcement resulting in the arrest of 21 workers, the Smithfield workers continued to push for their right to a union. On Thursday, December 11, this fight resulted in a victory, as Smithfield workers voted 2,041 to 1,879 to join the United Food and Commercial Workers.” (2008 by Andy Moxley) There is opportunity for workers to overcome exploitation through unionization.

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