Saturday, February 19, 2011

Greed and Neglect

(This picture shows Bogey, a dog with an embedded collar, who was later adopted into a great home with people who love him very much)

Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed. Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry by Gail A. Eisnitz
Weight: 1.3 lbs
Method of Disposal: Selling, unless you want it

I read this book at least 4 years into my vegetarian-ism, so I cannot claim that it changed me. It did, however, mean a lot to me. I found myself crying several times while reading this. It is impossible to examine the current U.S. meat industry without feeling horrified. We modify animals to die young and fat in small cages so that we can make the most profit off the meat available. This book shows how it is unhealthy for, not only the animals, but also for us. There is a large chunk of the book dedicated to children dying from eating beef and getting salmonella.

I have to believe that the majority of people I know would not be able to bring themselves to consume the meat they ingest if they were confronted, daily, with the abuse that these animals suffer. It is not enough to see a documentary or read a snippet about it in the daily paper. We are exposed to so much cruelty every day that it becomes almost normal, but if we had to face it head-on we could not bear it.

Animals have been so distanced from our compassion. We are raised, young, to believe that animals are something separate from us. We are trained to be able to kill them at will for our own personal benefit—only most of us are not ever actually faced with taking their lives. It is not surprising, then, that this book had to cover the human detriments of factory farms, as well as the animals. I appreciated that information because it gave me extra ammunition, but the truth is, that it should be enough to know that we are torturing living beings. That should stop us from this cruelty, but it doesn’t.

Eisnitz reminds us that, “one hamburger containing meat from as many as one hundred different animals, one infected animal can cross-contaminate sixteen tons of beef (159).” She then leads us into a discussion about how meat was not so dangerous decades ago. You could eat it rare far more readily without the risk of e coli or salmonella. She exposes the reasons why people might hide what occurs in meat houses, and she does not shy away from the mistreatment of workers. This book shows us several reasons why we should become more humane with our eating habits, and it also brings to life how little we have come along since The Jungle was published. I, personally, recommend that everyone read anything and everything they can get their hands on about the meat industry. Even if you do not decide to become vegetarian, you will consider fighting for change within the meat industry. We are killing people but, on a larger scale, we are forcing living creatures to endure incredible amounts of torture for the short time they are alive for our simplistic pleasures. There is a better way.

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