Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Food for Thought

Smithfield gives the piglets seven to ten days before weaning,
compared with the thirteen to seventeen weeks that nature had planned
and the three to four weeks still allowed by some intensive hog farms in Europe. When the barn is full of piglets, like a popper filled with popcorn, somebody will come by to collect them. The mothers will be tethered, as some already are. The rear gates of their stalls will be opened. And the little ones will all be swept away.”

I love to eat meat. It’s one of my favorite foods, especially cured meats. Mmmmm. Give me a prosciutto and melon antipasto or a juicy honey ham on Thanksgiving, and I’m in heaven. And yet despite my love for this food group, I no longer indulge, and here's why.

There is something wrong with the system of farming animals in this country. Really wrong. And I can no longer support it.

Before I go further, let me clarify one point. I don’t have a problem with raising and killing animals for food if it’s done in a humane way. But it isn’t being done in a humane way. Not by a long shot. Because most, if not all, of the animals that we eat are being raised in horrendous conditions on factory farms.

Since we don’t have all day to go over all the specific abuses to all of these animals, let’s just pick one animal. How about the female pig? Why the pig? Well, because the pig is highly intelligent. Just as intelligent as a dog or even more intelligent than a dog according to some. Why the female pig? Well, because I’m a female, and no one messes with my bitches and gets away with it. I don't care if they are pigs. They're still my bitches.

So, how are these intelligent and sensitive creatures treated on factory farms?

Female pigs, or sows, that are kept for breeding are placed in confinement crates that allow very little movement. Often referred to as “rape racks”, these gestation crates, which are still legal in the U.S., are so small that the pigs can barely move. The sow is confined here during artificial insemination with an “AI” rod, which is thrust into her from behind. She may remain in this crate during her entire 4-month pregnancy. After the birth of her litter, her piglets are quickly taken from her, and the process of insemination begins again. This cycle continues for up to four years with the sow in confinement the entire time and very often suffering from sores, tumors, broken bones and illnesses. Each sow births more than 20 piglets a year. This type of cruel, intensive breeding is done for one reason only: to maximize profits.

This is just a small slice of the sad and disgusting conditions that these animals face on a daily basis--to say nothing of the lack of sunlight, proper veterinary care, straw, space, or clean air.

Approximately 84% of the hogs killed in the U.S. each year are factory farmed, which means that there’s a good chance that the pig served up at your local deli was raised this way.

Like I said, I think it's wrong. And I can't support it.

So I don't eat meat. Well, I kinda don't eat meat. I'm not a strict vegetarian. I do eat fish, but I don't eat chicken or any other meat. I admire vegans because I know that abusive farming practices go on in the dairy industry as well, but I'm just not disciplined enough to give up cheese and milk. I just don't have the willpower.

And although I completely despise the filthy, green-eyed corporate farmers who are so money-hungry that they have have created a system of torture for the animals that are killed for our food (not to mention how they are obliterating the small family farmer in the process), at the same time, I don't judge non-vegetarians.

I do, however, encourage people to read up on this stuff and become educated. And if this is something that also strikes you as wrong, I encourage you to do what you can as a consumer and a voter to reject these types of farming practices. Maybe that means purchasing your meat from a source that you know treats its animals well. Maybe that means choosing meat entrees less often when eating out. Maybe that means sending a letter to your representative. You don't have to go all the way and stop eating meat or meat products entirely. But you can do something.

I implore you to do it for our amigas in those crates. They are powerless. We are not.

This post was written in response to Her Bad Mother’s recent “call to action” in which she asked us to blog about a cause that we are passionate about.


Blogger sunshinedaily4me_wuz_here said...

Wow "food for thought" - I never knew all that stuff. I am not a vegetarian and don't know if I ever will be...but thank you for educating me about that kind of stuff. It is really disgusting what people do to make a profit.

3:23 AM  
Anonymous Jenny said...


I grew up next door to a pig farm. They were free raised and would break out and come over to play often. i found little passels of baby piglets every so often. I gues I always just assume that all pigs are raised that way.

How very sad.

3:35 AM  
Anonymous wendy boucher said...

Excellent post. I think everybody should at least know where their food comes from. I'm also not against eating meat if it's humanely raised.

5:00 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

This post made me cry. Just the idea that these animals are being treated this way makes me so angry. I'll definitely be a more informed consumer the next time I'm grocery shopping. Thanks for this.

5:02 AM  
Blogger Mamacita Tina said...

I had no idea, thanks for the info. You're absolutely right, we should look out for our powerless animal friends. I know our state has a proposition in the November election on farming, time for me to check it out.

5:59 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

Oh God, I'm crying for those mama pigs now!

What about free-range organic meats? I bet they have different practices, but I'm not 100% sure.

6:22 AM  
Blogger radioactive girl said...

My six year old son decided last year he wanted to become vegan because of things like this. The vegan thing didn't work out well, but he has remained pretty much vegetarian for almost a year now.

7:17 AM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Kim: From what I understand, there is no law that defines what the term "free-range" means, so manufacturers can use it without being tied to any standard. Free-range to some might mean rearing animals outdoors or at least allowing animals outdoors frequently OR it might just mean giving them an "extra-large" gestation crate. Since there are no legal standards, one would really have to go to the farm to be sure of how they were keeping their animals. "Organic" doesn't necessarily mean the animals are treated any better either, although I would guess that an organic farmer would be more sensitive to these issues. But even then, buying organic does not mean that the animals were raised humanely. And unless there is a USDA organic logo on the food, it also doesn't guarantee that it is even really "organic." That said, since I do buy dairy, I try to buy products that are "free range" - like free-range eggs. I figure there's some chance that the chickens are treated better at these farms so I might as well.

Radioactive girl: good for him! That is wonderful that he has made that choice.

7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's sad what's done to make a profit. Sometimes, sad isn't the word...it's downright disgusting. Maybe I'll be finding my pork elsewhere...although, for heath reasons I've always wanted to become a vegitarian...maybe now I have a good excuse :)

8:35 AM  
Blogger sunshine scribe said...

Wow. This is a spectacular post. Thanks for raising awareness about this issue.

I am a vegetarian but became one before I knew about these issues and for non "political" reasons. But I would never go back for all the reasons you outlined.

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Much More Than A Mom said...

Ew. I am SO with you on that - just blogged about milk last week. I am what is sometimes called a "flexitarian."


9:12 AM  
Blogger Emma Kaufmann said...

I admire you for standing up about this issue. Those poor pigs!! I don't eat much meat because I prefer fish, generally, and of course I know about the abuses that go on in the meat industry, yet I tend to forget about it when someone offers me a nice juicy steak. Maybe it's time I really took this seriously and stopped supporting this sort of cruelty.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I try to buy organic whenever I can. There is an organic organization keeping an eye on those who claim to be organic and humane (Horizon just got in big trouble by them for not being truly organic), and I try to buy brands with the organic seal on them.

It is inhumane and disgusting the way factory farms treat their animals. Even if an animal is being raised for food, it still has the right to have a good life and an easy death.

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only reason that these farms exist is because of demand for the products both locally and globally. Your post is great because it gets people thinking how to change the demand. You chose a vegetarian lifestyle.

We purchase our meats from a local farmer or friend who raises the animals for food. We also raise our own chickens for meat and eggs.

There are ways to make meat purchases without supporting the mass-farming practices - just have to be a bit more creative - willing to wait for the food - and willing to feed the animals - willing to spend a bit more money.
Then they do their job and feed your family.

Only anonymous because I do not have a blog.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

I think I'm gonna be sick.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

Thank you for all the supporting links - I will have to check them out. In the meantime, I've added the book you quoted to my B&N wish list, and I look forward to learning more about these practices and reading about the proposed legislation.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous chelle said...

I have been giving a lot of thought to buying local once we return to Canada. And I mean starting co-ops and sharing meat bought directly from farmers. My family (uncles) are ranchers and their cows free range. I even have a cousin that chicken farms (not sure about the free ranging there but they are a family based farm) yet they have to ship to Japan. Why? They cannot compete with factory farms at home. Support your local growers and farmers!

Excellent topic!

12:46 PM  
Anonymous CrankMama said...

I try and buy farm raised animal meat when I can... But I hear you about these terrible stories. The one about the wee baby piggies being taken from their mamas made me cry.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Gah gah gah.

I was a vegetarian for a long time. Then my doctor said that I needed to reconsider meat or eat 6 buckets of beans per day (iron deficiency). So I started only eating organic, farm-raised meat. But I slip now and again, because it's expensive, and inconvenient.

I'm not going to slip any more.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Kristen said...

I knew most of that, and that is partially why I was a vegetarian. But I don't have the willpower to do it anymore. I wish I did. Sometimes I consider being a lacto ovo like I was before. For those who don't know- lacto ovo's only eat dairy and eggs- no meat of any kind- not even fish.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Gingers Mom said...

Oh my. That is just terrible. And very sad. I don;t think I can give up eating meat, but I DO agree with you that we can all take action in other ways. Good post.

3:38 PM  
Blogger Buffy said...

This is too awful to look at...

3:58 PM  
Blogger me said...

like some mentioned, you can still eat meat. we buy live animals from local farmers. you just need a freezer, and maybe someone to share with. the farmer treats the animals well, they are raised normally and when they mature they are sold. i pick up the meat wrapped from the butcher. it's cheaper as well, this last time i paid $1.59/ pound and $150 to the butcher, for 9 months worth of beef. the only thing i still have to buy at the store is chicken. look into it, it's easier than you think.

5:53 PM  
Blogger carrie said...

Great post. Makes me even more glad that we buy our milk from the local "milk man" and our beef from our friend's farm. As for the other, I am totally grossed out!!!! I do however, need to stress that ALL fish aren't treated equal either, and people need be aware of that too (my Dad's career was in commercial fisheries).

On that note, I sure wish the spinach issue was better!!!


7:14 PM  
Blogger Red Rollerskate said...

Oh, you got me once again thinking. I hate it when you do that! I was a vegetarian for 10 years, loved it, but after I had my son and was breastfeeding I had to cut out milk and was left starving and I caved... and now 3 years later I am still off the bandwagon. Or whatever it is. But now I am reconsidering. That is just horrible.

7:56 PM  
Blogger EC said...

What a powerful story.

This has been weighing on my mind for so long, but I haven't been able to kick the meat habit so to speak. I often read these stories and swear I can't eat it again, but I'm off to get my next cheeseburger just a few days later.

Good for you for sticking to it and trying to educate us fellow bloggers.

8:24 PM  
Blogger lildb said...

I think you're courageous, C. This is an excellent post.

there are alternatives, of course, but you do have to be willing to dole out a lot more money for locally-raised animals that are treated humanely by the farmers, and of course it requires actually finding out for yourself whether those practices are being implemented or not, and not just assuming the store where you shop is telling the truth about the farms they buy from.


9:21 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Supporting local growers and farmers who you know are raising animals in a humane way (as many of you are doing)is an excellent alternative to buying commercial meat. I have not looked into that much myself because I've now cut out meat entirely, but since my husband buys meat, this is something I should encourage him to do. We have a co-op in town that probably has some good advice in that area.

Carrie: you're absolutely right about fish being mistreated as well. I do limit my fish consumption, but I can't cut it all out. It's too hard for me. However, for those that are interested, the book that I quoted at the beginning of my post gives an excellent discussion on the issue of animal welfare from all sides, including a chapter on fish.

9:59 PM  
Blogger Queso said...

Wow. Yikes. I'm officially only eating turkey bacon from now on. Oh wait, they're not mean to the turkeys are they? I mean, besides eventually killing them.

10:36 PM  
Blogger IzzyMom said...

I do try to always buy what I believe is humanely raised meat. As a former vegetarian, I am all too familiar with the hideous nature of factory farming. It's awful. We had a referendum (?) on the ballot a few years ago here to do away with the gestation crate and it passed. Yay!

I give a lot of money to the Fund for Animals (affiliated with the US Humane Society) because they handle the legislative stuff that gets animal welfare laws changed or enacted and that costs $$$. If anyone wants to help, that's a great place to start.

10:52 PM  
Blogger IzzyMom said...

Crap! I wanted to add that I totally respect you for putting this out here. A lot of people would avoid this loaded topic. Thank you.

10:54 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Thanks, Izzy. I had heard that Florida was ahead of the game when it came to banning gestation crates. The UK also bans them. Hopefully, we can get a national ban soon. Thanks for linking to the Fund for Animals. It sounds like a great organization.

Girl con Queso: turkeys are also treated badly in factory farms. According to what I've read, they typically have only 3 square feet of space to move, the ends of their beaks and toes are cut off without anesthesia and they are genetically engineered to have huge breasts for bigger profit. I have personally seen some of the rescued turkeys at Farm Sanctuary in California. Their breasts are so big that they cannot walk. And there are even more abuses than this. If interested, you can read about them here or here.

11:33 PM  
Blogger ~d said...

I, umm, I apologize, Mommy, but I could not mentally make it thru this post. I know it is something I should be concerned with. I cannot make time in my life right now for ME...I cant, I cant worry about the pigs. Not today. A reminder when my youngest is a bit older.

Poor, poor pigs. I just do not have time to cry for them right now.


5:48 AM  
Blogger Zephra said...

I dom't eat pork nore to I like pigs but that is just WRONG!!! I am outraged. What a horrible life these poor animals live.

7:04 AM  
Blogger Pattie said...

I had no idea that they were treated so cruelly.
It just breaks my heart.
Those photos were disturbing. I can't believe this actually goes on. How is this allowed? :(

8:02 AM  
Blogger Karmyn R said...

ACK - That just breaks my heart. That is why I've been trying to buy Free range chicken, beef, etc...natural foods - AND, trying to find local farmers that sell eggs and veges.

I heard a great quote one time: Nourishment is provided by nature - not industry.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Dirty Birdie said...

There definately needs to be some legislation about how farm animals are treated. After all healthier animals equal healthier food. If they didnt' treat the animals so poorly they wouldn't need to pump them full of anitbiotics and steroids.

I don't have the willpower to cut out meat. I love it. But the doesn't mean I have to look the other way when it comes to how my food is being produced.

Good for you for posting this, so many people DON'T know where their food comes from.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Dirty Birdie said...

Just thought I'd share my own call to action:


4:26 PM  
Anonymous Momish said...

A super great post! I couldn't agree with you more. I was a vegetarian for so many years because of this reason (now, I do eat meat occasionally, I admit). The cause that I posted about was on anti-vivisection, so I am right there with ya! Humane treatment of animals should be a given if we wish to consider ourselves as civilized. No excuses. Talking and reading about this has inspired me to get more involved like I used to be when I was a kid and full of ideals. Because, when I think about, my ideals were pretty damn good!

5:39 PM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

I try to buy organic meat as much as I can. As my research shows, the raising and slaughtering practices are much more humane. It is hideously expensive. But I find your post so moving and educational, we are just going to eat less meat around here.
Thank you, our arteries, and the animals will thank you...sometimes a small word can change a mindset of many.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Catherine said...

I'm with all these ladies -- your passion is awe-inspiring. Oftentimes living one's principles is easier said than done (especially for a meat whore like me). But if it means cutting back on my caffeine habit so that I can go back to supporting organically grown meat, then maybe that's what I need to do to effect change. Thanks so much for sharing!

9:05 PM  
Blogger beth said...

Thanks for posting this. I was a vegetarian for about 8 years and then stopped while in college (I think it was to somehow spite the uber-obnoxious vegans actually) but this reminds me very much of why I started in the first place. I need to rethink my choices.

Is your whole family vegetarian?

10:10 AM  
Blogger Jaelithe said...

Good post. This is exactly why I became a vegetarian at the age of 12 (and I still am, although I am not as strict about things such as chicken broth in soups at restaurants as I once was).

It's not that I don't think people should kill animals and eat them. It's that I think people should not breed animals, torture them their entire misrable lives, pump them full of chemicals, and then kill them and eat them.

I actually support hunters who kill humanely and eat what they kill. I think people who choose to eat meat should take responsiblity for that choice, and looking a wild animal in the eye and killing it yourself is one way to do that; buying a package of ground beef in the supermarket without a second thought is not.

A lot of my non-veg friends and family have a hard time wrapping their minds around this position of mine. My mother still freaks out every time her husband (who grew up on a reservation) mentions hunting in front of me, because she thinks I'll be upset.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Danielle said...

I knew I should have waited until tomorrow to visit you! I planned on having a really nice breakfast casserole with bacon & eggs for dinner tomorrow--now I don't know if I can!

My grandfather was a farmer and raised a few pigs so I rarely eat pork. I saw one slaughtered and felt really bad.

I don't care for seafood and don't like chicken very much--I do eat beef though.

If I didn't have such a carnivorous husband, I would be quite happy meatless--and one-dish meals are sanity for me.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Catch said...

this is an eye opener....this is so wrong...and so inhuman....it upsets me to even think about it....

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

I love you for writing this. I am a fellow animal lover and as hard as this is for me to read about, it's so SO important for us all to know.

Thank you.

5:33 PM  
Anonymous Momish said...

You are an amazing woman! I am constantly reminding myself of the old PETA poster I use to have whenever I find a desire to eat meat (I was a strict vegetarian for years and years). You have probably seen it, it read "If you saw how your dinner was made, you'd lose your lunch!"

So sad, and SOOOOOO unnecessary! Free range! Free range!

6:10 AM  
Blogger Mad Hatter said...

Thanks for this post. I have been a lacto-ovo for 16 years now but I was raised on a dairy farm--back in the day when farming was small, family run, and humane. I knew that factory farm conditions were bad but I didn't know how bad until I read this.

8:35 PM  

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