The Cost of Meat—Too High To Pay
Let me start by making one thing clear: I do not think it is wrong to eat meat. It's not because I believe God gave us "dominion" over everything on Earth either. It's because I've watched shows on Discovery; I've seen Planet Earth. Nature doesn't blink an eye when it comes to one species eating another. So I'm not a newly converted vegan animal rights activist condemning all meat eaters. I just think there is a lot of information about the real and true cost of meat that most people aren't aware of. It might make you think twice before buying that $0.99 whopper. And that's all I could hope for. We should want to be able to make informed decisions that affect our personal health, public health, the environment, the animals we use for food, and legislation in our country.
We are a very uninformed group of people, Americans that is. Much truth has been hidden in the name of profit margins. And the blame does not fall solely on the shoulders of the few big companies that control the majority of certain commodities. The blame also falls on us as consumers to allow ourselves to be lied to because we actually like it better that way. We want to eat our veal with no guilt in our stomach. We want to see our diamond engagement rings shining brightly, untainted with conflict. We want to fill up our SUVs without the burden of a war far away on our shoulders. We want to pay for our comforts in low dollar amounts, and feel debt free when we leave the store. We are generally a responsible group of people. But we feel we can't be held responsible for what we don't know, and especially what we're told we can't understand.
This article does not demand that anyone stop eating meat. But in this day and age, being uninformed is simply no excuse to continue being ignorant. This article intends to give a little information regarding the choices we make everyday, at every meal. After reading this, my intention is that some will seek out more information, some will search for local sustainable farms in their area, some will resolve to eat less meat, some will join organizations to petition our state and federal officials to make changes in the system, and some will simply spread the word. For those who decide to continue consuming meat and dairy made from factory farms, at least your decision will be an informed one.
Most of the information in this article is taken from John Robbins' The Food Revolution. I'm not saying he is the ultimate authority, nor to take everything at face value. You can believe him, you can easily look up the information yourself, or you can believe this is all crap, overblown sensational fear inducing propaganda. But I haven't had a good night's rest since picking up the book, and I've read many others on this topic.
The truth is you can take anything out of context. You can have different results show up in different studies. But many people have already done the work of gathering data to provide well researched information. Short of doing years of research like Michael Pollan, John Robbins , T. Colin & Thomas M. Campbell, Eric Schlosser, and many others, we will have to decide who is credible and objective in their conclusions. I'll choose the people who have nothing to gain by changing our lifestyles. Yes, he's selling books (which I borrowed from the library). But whether we are persuaded by him doesn't give him any additional profit. He doesn't have any John Robbins power bars for sale. And I believe that his aim is to inform us, candidly and urgently, of the grave consequences of our food choices. The meat/dairy industry on the other hand, have every reason to confuse and misinform.
By the way, I'm not an expert myself, in case you were wondering. My opinion doesn't matter. So please don't leave nasty comments about why you choose to eat meat, point to specific words or numbers to say they're wrong or outdated (The Food Revolution was published in 2001), how the studies I've quoted or the books I've read are full of misinformation, or how my article is poorly written and poorly researched. I am not trying to write a well researched paper for publication consideration in a medical journal. This is an opinion piece, a commentary, a plea for us to fight for facts, not marketing slogans. You do not need to validate your choices to anyone but yourself. But anyone would be naïve to believe that the choices we make as part of the most powerful nation in the world has no global effects. I'm simply asking you to consider the effects of your choices on the living beings, big and small, that we share the world with. Consider, then choose. At least you can't ever say "no one told you."
I'm breaking up the remainder of this article into five parts, in the interest of page length and easy access. Each part will have its own argument. These are completed, located in Extra Commentary and also directly through its own link:
The Personal Health Argument addresses the implications of dairy and meat consumption on our health, specifically heart disease, cancer, and calcium intake.
The Public Health Argument addresses the cost effective measures factory farms use to yield higher production and profits at the cost of public health. This will include food-borne illness, irradiation, the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, and what we feed the animals we eat.
The Cruelty Argument addresses the horrible conditions and treatment the animals in factory farms are subjected to. I know people might choose to skip over this argument, thinking, "yeah, yeah, I know it's bad, but we need to eat." This argument isn't designed to compel people to stop eating meat. This argument attempts to show how unnecessarily cruel and horrible the conditions are. We can still eat meat and treat the animals well. Small family farms have always done this. At the very least, we can demand that compassion be shown to these living, breathing, feeling, beings before they end up on our plate.
The Environment Argument addresses the harm factory farming does to our environment, including water usage, waste contamination, and rainforest destruction.
The Market Demand Argument illustrates how a little pressure from the market can go a long way. Already, consumer awareness of the gross treatment of animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses, as well as the health implications with consuming antibiotics and hormones given to the animals has given rise to "Organic" and "Natural" products found in most supermarkets. But these labels are purposely deceptive. The topics here will include deciphering common food labels and describes what happened when PETA launched its "McCruelty to go" campaign against McDonald's, and the changes the corporation implemented as a result.