Jenn’s Sunday Sermon – Omnivore Edition
This started out as a comment at The Heathlander, but went a bit long.
From The Heathlander:
The video above mainly targets factory farming, which even meat-eaters must acknowledge is a particularly cruel and vicious form of mass torture. But quite apart from that, the moral issue seems to me a clear one – most of us in the West no longer need to kill other sentient, conscious beings for our own health and survival. We continue to do so merely for matters of taste, at the cost of great suffering for the animals being killed and also huge environmental damage caused by the felling of rainforest to make room for grazing cattle.
I’m never going to be a vegetarian, but I have cut down on my family’s meat consumption, mostly because of cost, but also for health reasons. I do make a point of buying what meat we do eat from a local meat plant that raises it’s own beef and pork – all natural, pasture-raised, etc. – simply because I can’t support an industry that treats animals in such a shoddy manner.
Yeah, I hear the wailing about killing animals. Period. End of sentence. But it doesn’t work on me.
I grew up on a 150-head beef farm. I raised calves, spent weekends cleaning out the barn, woke up at 5am every day to feed (grain and/or silage) and fill water troughs. Once the snow melted, the real work started: plowing/planting/harvesting grain and haying, with occasional breaks for chasing loose cows, fixing fence, plowing/planting/weeding/watering Mom’s seemingly 100-acre garden and canning the results, and – as always – cleaning the barn. My first vehicle was a Massey-Ferguson tractor, and I was 11.
I learned a lot from it, like: don’t name the babies, don’t touch the middle strand of the fence with bare hands, don’t take the tractor down the steep hill in high gear, cows really are scared of a human waving her arms and screaming, and climbing the silo is easy… getting down is another thing altogether.
One of the things I learned was “Beef…yummy!” I hated cows. I hated the work that went into them and hated the smell and hated never being able to go anywhere unless we could hire someone to do feedings. So, to this day, I have no qualms about eating one.
The most important lesson was: “We eat this too.” Out of the 40-50 beefers we sent to slaughter per year, we got (if I remember correctly) the equivalent of a side – or half a cow – every 6 months. My mom had a big chest freezer that all those carefully-labelled white-paper packages went into, and that was the foundation for most of our meals. Back then, of course, you didn’t feed cows (who are vegans) anything you didn’t want coming back to you. Antibiotics were used only for illness, and no one thought of feeding other cows to their cows. At least, not anyone I knew.
Of course, back then, nearly everyone I went to school with lived on farms, and together our farms raised enough beef to fill one of those industrial nightmares. But in the 70’s and 80’s, a lot of family farms went under, and these gigantic industrial things sprouted like mushrooms to cover the demand for cheap meat. It helped that they were able to take advantage of subsidies and policies meant to support the family farmer.
Just who is receiving farm subsidies? Not your average family farmer.
From the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: (6/11/07)
Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, technology executive James Sorenson and Texas oil investor Lee Bass, all billionaires, are among the names found in a new database of U.S. agriculture subsidy recipients.
The fact that billionaires get taxpayer money from programs meant for struggling farmers “shows how far off the tracks this set of policies really is,” [Environmental Working Group’s Ken] Cook said. “There’s absolutely no reason why we should be providing subsidies to people who have means of that scale.”
Subsidies, which encourage lower prices, benefit commodity buyers such as Archer Daniels Midland Co., Bunge Ltd. and ConAgra Foods Inc. and also encourage land conservation. Means tests are popular among advocates of lower government spending as well as some small farmers, who would like a bigger share of subsidies that reached $16.5 billion last year, according to the USDA.
Unless you make a point to educate yourself about where your meat comes from – you’re not only supporting these industrial “farms,” with your net pay and your tax dollars, you’re risking your life (sometimes literally) just by eating a burger.