Let me paint you a little picture.
There’s a dark room. The ground is covered in feces and every breath you take, you gulp in a cloud of dust and feathers. You can’t see much, and you take a step forward. Your foot presses down on something soft and frail, and you hear a feeble squawk. A chicken is lying in the dirt, crawling pathetically, too weak to even lift its body up. It’s covered in its own feces. It’s never seen the light of day.
Now imagine a room filled with 14,000 of these chickens, all of them weakly dragging their malnourished bodies across the grimy floor. Close your eyes, and count to sixty. When you open your eyes, they’re all gone. All of them. But really, they were never even there. They never even lived. They had about as much life as a rock.
It’s a problem. It really is. Nature has a certain order. Every being has life, a spirit, and all of these beings – ourselves included – are a part of something much bigger than us. Together, we sustain life. Yes, each one can fall prey to another, but we all give and take to keep the wheel turning. That is life.
Today, there is absolutely no balance. I’m not saying we should all become vegans. What I’m saying is that we have thrown away all ethics and we are treating these living beings like tools manufactured in a factory.
Chickens are injected with chemicals and hormones to speed up their growth. Their maturation rates are greatly sped up, and in several weeks, chickens grow to a size even larger than that of a normal chicken that has lived for months. These chickens are literally treated like dirt, and after just a few weeks of life, they are slaughtered, thousands at a time. Chicks are thrown into machinery, dragged into metallic tubes and – I don’t think any further description is necessary.
Do you see something disturbing about the way we’re treating these animals? The way we’re treating life? We are treating these animals in an industrialized fashion, as if we were manufacturing iPods. Actually, scratch that. iPods would undoubtedly be treated much better than chickens, because if you treat animals like dirt, what can anyone do, really? When we see packaged meat, it’s not like we can hold it up in the light and say, “Hmmm…yes, that slight discoloration indicates that this chicken was brutally mistreated.” No, the fact is, it’s all about profit. And the companies manipulate what we can’t see and notice.
It’s the same deal with cows. These cows are stuffed into crowded, unventilated factories. They never see light, they never even see grass. They’re fed corn – not grass – because corn is cheaper. They are grabbed off the ground by their ankles, and machinery carries them through the air, and within seconds, they are brutally chopped up. 90,000 of them. Each day.
But what’s most disturbing is that the lawyers and corporate executives in the food industry have positions in our very government. Thus, they can influence regulations and do as they please. According to Food, Inc. (an eye opening documentary that everyone should rent), in 1972, the FDA conducted 50,000 inspections, but that number plummeted to 9,184 in 2006. And in some states, laws were even passed forbidding the publication of any photos of an industrial food operation.
For now, there are few alternatives. But if you are willing to shop around and take a couple of seconds to read labels, you can surely find meat from humane companies. Whole Foods Market, for instance, has meats labeled “animal compassionate.”
However, in the end, if widespread change is to come, this issue must be fought in numbers. If more people are made aware of these horrors, perhaps a mass consumer movement demanding better food and better treatment of animals can spread. But in the meantime, the first step would be to spread the word.