Food, My Adventure into Vegetarianism, and Boycotting

I am involved in pretty much every advocacy and awareness club Duquesne can offer me.  I essentially live in the Spiritan Campus Ministry Center where all the big issue clubs meet, am always researching what is going on in the world, and have a list of products and companies that I am boycotting that is a mile long. 

Recently, I read the book “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal” by Eric Schlosser, which just added to my list of things that I am no longer eating, including non free range meat.  For anyone who hasn’t read this book, I highly recommend it.  It really opened my eyes to some of the things that were going on that I didn’t even realize.  What was really eye-opening was the things that I said ‘DUH!’ after I read; so many things are hidden in plain sight and the American public just chooses to not see it.

There were three things that truly turned me off of meat; the working conditions for the worker, the conditions the animals are kept in, and the filth that inhabits the slaughter houses. 

I’m in Duquesne Students for Fair Trade, which promotes fair wages, no child labor, and safe working conditions for workers in developing countries.  However, I was totally blinded to the horrid conditions that speckled my own nation.  Most of the workers in slaughter houses are foreign, speak little or no English, unskilled, and are just trying to get by with whatever job the can.  They work for minimal wages, often times get jipped out of overtime, and are put in harm’s way daily.  Workers in slaughter houses are bribed with bonuses for failing to report injuries or not go to the doctor.  They are expected to work for hours on end along cramped assembly lines while wielding sharp knives, cutting meat into pieces and fat off meat.  Injuries become more common when the slaughter houses try to speed up the process even more, forcing their workers to throw caution to the wind and pump out meat faster.  Cuts from their own knives or workers near them are a common injury, but many workers also lose their fingers, get limbs caught in machinery, and develop muscle problems with their hands, wrists, and arms.  Workers are taught one menial task that they repeat time after time throughout the their shift so that replacement is fast, cheap, and easy.  For example, one particularly nasty job is the ‘sticker’ who stands and cuts the throat of a steer every few seconds.  As you can expect, these workers stand for 8 or more hours a day bathed in blood.  I never thought before I read this book why I never heard about injuries from slaughterhouses or lawsuits around slaughterhouses.  Guess I was just as blind as most of America.

I also do not agree with the way the animals are kept.  To preface this, I am not a member of PETA, I enjoy the taste of meat, and I feel that there is really nothing wrong with eating animals.  Unless you mistreat them.  Cows are often kept in crowded feed lots and fed grain.  To minimize the cost of grain, people often add bone meal to the feed, which consists of ground up cow, sheep, and pig carcasses (where mad cow disease originally came from, scrapie in sheep!).  Last I checked, cows were herbivores. . .They used to also add ground up dogs and cats from humane societies before there was a law enforced forbidding it.  Cows are often pumped full of steroids to allow for faster and larger growth.  The amount of food wasted on these cows is also amazing.  Another reading I read during one of my classes claims that the average grass-fed Indian cow produces more food than it consumes, but the average American cow consumes 6 times the amount of food it produces.  Thats a lot of loaves of bread.  Chickens have it even worse, and grow up in shoe box sized boxes stacked as high as the ceilings.  Tyson chickens are bred specifically to have extra-large breasts and tiny legs.  These birds cannot walk once fully grown.

The last thing that really put the nail in the coffin for me was the filthy way our meat is produced.  When meat is tested from slaughterhouses, they have found pieces of glass, pieces of metal, manure, human feces, saliva, and vomit.  Some of the dirtiest slaughter houses allow their workers to vomit or defecate on the floors of the slaughter-house.  Meat often falls off the assembly line and is picked up and put back on.  All this production is great for the spread of bacteria.  The outbreaks of E. Coli you hear about come from one place: feces.  And one contaminated piece of meat can really ruin it for the rest.  Hamburgers are by far the most disgusting things I read about though.  The average hamburger contains meat from anywhere between 10 and 100 cows.  Most hamburger meat also comes from worn out dairy cows who aren’t producing enough milk anymore.  Gross.

And that’s just the production of the meat before it even gets to a McDonald’s or Burger King.  The rest of the book was equally as disturbing and disgusting, but I didn’t eat fast food before, so it didn’t matter as much to me. 

As I said before, I still like meat.  However, from now on I will only be buying grass-fed, free range meat, or meat from a local farmer.  And if I can’t get any, then I will just eat my veggies.  I didn’t eat very much meat before, so it wasn’t really difficult.  However, I will admit it does make eating, shopping, and especially eating at restaurants a little bit tricky.  They don’t exactly state in their menus whether their meat was grass-fed or grain fed, and unless I was paying through the nose, I would assume they were lying anyway. 

All in all, I’m very glad I read the book.  I’m glad that I can make a more informed decision on my food and what I am supporting with my dollar, and I feel that I am not so blinded by what something appears as.

However, I will also be growing all my own food someday if at all possible, and am now suspicious of every food vendor!  Shopping has never been more difficult!




I’m pretty sure I’ve never posted about the AWC before, which is quite frankly a damn shame.  It’s about time I let the world know about my creation.  AWC is short for animal welfare club.  Duquesne University’s animal welfare club to be precise. 

Let me start this off by saying that Duquesne University is not a very animal oriented college.  In fact, although we may rank as one of the top universities in the country for volunteer service, as a student I have noticed that not many people are really concerned with anything important.  I love my college and I wouldn’t change my choice for the world, but Duquesne gains its massive amounts of service hours through requirements in majors like pharmacy and service learning classes.  AKA the students are required.  There are a fair number of people who genuinely are concerned with issues like fair trade, the environment, and human and animal rights, but there are also a large amount of the population who cares only about themselves, the latest fashion, and everything else that doesn’t matter. 

So, when I started here I realized there wasn’t anything animal oriented, except for the equestrian team, which required far too much money for me to afford.  I was frustrated, I didn’t have any friends, and I missed all my pets from home.  So, I did what any well intending college student would do and I started my own!

The Animal Welfare Club comes from rough beginnings.  It took us a whole semester to get approved by the SGA, we met on the couches outside of the union Nitespot and when we finally were approved, we had really no clue what to do.  Last year, we totalled 8 members.  This year, we’re averaging around 30 at each meeting.  That’s a big jump. 

My members come from all different majors and all different backgrounds.  We meet in a large classroom and try to plan out what all we would like to do for the rest of the year.  This year so far has been slow, but gradually we are putting the pieces together to build it into something great.   My 8 members from last year have all been upgraded to committee members who help me plan everything that needs done.  Between all the paperwork, red tape, and planning, it is a full-time job to be a club president.

For this year, we are planning on doing advocacy tables monthly, going to a shelter or other animal attraction at least once a month, and hopefully helping out with some different shelter events.  I’m trying to ease my members into the scary world of reptiles and birds and expose them to more exotics.  Most of these kids have only had cats or dogs in their lives!  We’re also starting to work towards endangered species instead of just pet type animals.  It’s a slow but steady process trying to plan everything.  However, hopefully soon the AWC will grow into something great!  And from now on, I have to remember to post about it!  It’s definately a big part of my path to become a vet!

The Statistics of My Life

As a blogger, I have the right to a captive audience.  Therefore, as a blogger, I have the right to whine.  Today, I feel completely overwhelmed by the amount of pressure I have on myself.  I’m also taking a stats class, so I started wondering about the probability of finding someone who is anything like me.  So, today I’m making an equation out of my life.  Its probably not going to be very accurate (math isn’t my strong point!) but it will be enlightening all the same.

So, as I’m sure you already know, I am a biology pre-veterinary major.  That right there throws an enormous amount of pressure on a person.  Everyday, every grade directly effects what happens for the rest of your life.  One wrong move and you have no future.  Sometimes, I think of myself and I just want to laugh.  There are plenty of people who would just be happy going to school, even a community college.  There are people who would just like to go to Duquesne.  There are people who would just be happy to get a college degree.  There are people who would be happy to just pass a class.  And there are people who would be happy to just pass a test.  And here I am exhausting myself over every little tiny detail, every point, and breaking down when I am not veritably perfect.

Its hard. 

Everyday I face the very real possibilty that I may never become a vet.  I also have everyone expecting veritable perfection out of me, so when I fail, I not only am screwing myself, but I am dissappointing everyone close to me.  And in all actuality, I am not at all “enjoying” the college experience.  I enjoy learning, and I enjoy growing and marking off things in my planner or off my to do list, but I essentially have no life.  I don’t go out, I don’t do anything, I take no time for myself, and I spend the majority of my college experience in a majorly stressed out state.

Anyways, for the statistics part:

  • Percentage of white americans that graduate from high school: 94.8% or .948
  • Percentage of high school graduates who attend college: 68.1% or .681
  • Percentage of first in family college students at Duquesne University: 47.0% or .470
  • Percentage of students who pay their own way through college: 42% or .42 (keep in mind, this includes community college figures.  I highly doubt there are this many Duquesne students doing this)

Right now, I can’t find the statistics for how many people want to go to vet school, how many people got into vet school, or what percent is now a practiciting vet.  But currently, my statistical number is .1277.  There is a 12% chance of finding someone as crazy as me with just those figures.  I’m sure factoring in vet school and starting a club and working multiple jobs and so on and so forth would drop that even lower.

But, I have to get back to my tortur. . I mean work.





Erin Gets an Education

I don’t know what about this year has made me miss my birds more than last year, but I most definately have hit a rut when it comes to pet sickness.  So I decided that Erin would be joining me this semester. 

A lot of other apartment dwellers have pets, so why couldn’t I?  I know of people who have snakes, mice, toads, hamsters, lizards, turtles, and even some brave people who I know have snuck cats into ‘no pet’ apartments and dorms.  So, I decided to it a try.

I feel like most buildings ban animals because they don’t want the mess, don’t want the noise, and don’t want the potential for a small animal like a snake or hamster to escape, die in a wall, and stink up the place.  However, little Erin doesn’t have any of those problems.   She’s quiet, clean, cannot escape her cage, and absolutely loves all her new found attention from my roommates.    I feel like giving her a change where she lives as an only bird for a while will help her to overcome her featherplucking.  I think that having her around will also help manage the stress and depression that goes a long with getting a higher education.  It’s a proven fact that people who have animals generally live longer, more fulfilling lives, have less high blood pressure, and less stress related issues.  Which is a good thing because I live with Pharmacy majors lol. 

I’ve often thought Erin would make a terrific little ‘therapy bird’.  I’ve never heard of an actual therapy bird before, mostly because parrots don’t like strangers and have the ability to remove a finger, but I think Erin would be a good one!  She’s very gentle and sweet and forgiving and trusts anyone.  I often call her my birdy ambassador and always hand her to the people who have never handled a bird before or who think badly of birds.  She always makes a great first impression or changes their minds.

Trap, Neuter, Release

As a pre-vet major, I really like to things lose their manhood’s. 

I’m sure you’re well aware, there’s just far too many unwanted animals in the world.  And although I am usually an avian type of person, I am first and foremost an animal person.  One of the biggest problems animal activists face is trying to diminish the amount of unwanted animals in the world without destroying the animals that are living.  I mean, try walking through a shelter and picking out the animals that have to die, just because there are too many of them.  Do you pick three brown ones, because there are two other brown ones in there already?  Or do you pick the older ones, just because they’re 4 and not 2?  Do you pick the ones that have been there the longest just because they don’t seem to go, or do you pick the ones that seem new and afraid, because they might never warm up?  So, the best solution to this issue without having to play eenie meanie miney moe is to stop breeding!  Spay and neuter!!!

One issue that has been on the rise in recent years is the feral cat colonies.  Heres what happens: some genius can’t get rid of the kittens he let his cat have, so he tosses them into the streets.  The kittens wander around until they find a nice porch to live under and someone feels bad for them and starts putting out food.  Now the kittens have a stable food source and grow into cats.   The person who feeds them doesn’t want to take responsibility for them.  After all, they never wanted a cat.  They were just being a good person and feeding a stray animal.  Now the cats begin to have kittens.  And the kittens grow into cats and have kittens.  The longer the cycle goes on, the wilder the animals become.  Feral cats are not pets anymore!  They’re wild animals!

These colonies can very quickly become overrun, and then the people don’t want them there anymore.  Feral cats peeing in their kids sandboxes, cats getting into their trash, ect ect.  They want them gone.  So, they either leave them go, or start shooting them.  Some system we have here.

Animal activists have created another system that amazing works more efficiently than the original genius’.  It’s called Trap, Neuter, Release.  Essentially, a team of volunteers traps the feral cats, knocks them out, spays or neuters them, and releases them back to their original colony location.  This way, they cannot produce anymore kittens, stay out of more fights, stop the spread of some diseases, and can live out their life as a wild animal that is no longer contributing to the growing population.  While the cats are under anesthesia, they also test for deadly diseases, vaccinate for rabies, apply flea and tick protection, worm the cats, remove any mats and brush them, check them for any immediate medical problems like rotten teeth or open wounds, and tip the cats left ear so they know if they catch them again that they were already spayed or neutered.  All the cats are given a dose of long-lasting antibiotic to prevent infections, .

I had the privilege of working with Dr. Morrow at a TNR event this past weekend.  They spayed and neutered over 70 cats in one day between two vets, which is huge.  They also removed teeth, provided wound care, and administered many doses of the rabies vaccine.  Of course, you can’t always save them all.  Feral cat colonies are known to be highly inbred and can easily become overrun with highly contagious diseases.  Two cats tested positive for fatal diseases like Feline leukemia and FLV and were euthanized to avoid further infecting their colony and to alleviate their inevitable long, drawn out death.  Another cat was so skinny due to severe mouth ulcers because he couldn’t eat and was euthanized as well.  They did it all while that cats were under anesthesia so they wouldn’t have to feel anything. 

It was such an inspiring day.  It was so great to be a part of something that had such a good cause and to see that all the cats would get to live out their lives without causing more of a problem.  If anyone is interested in helping with the feral cat population, I would highly recommend looking for your local animal welfare organizations and trying to get involved in a TNR event.  And remember, please spay and neuter!!!

My New Media Production Project

So, this semester I am taking a course called New Media Production.  As a bio major, I don’t usually take courses that have me staring at a computer all class.  However, I needed an art credit and I blatently refused to take History of Art or Enjoyment of Music.  So, I opted for the more hands on option. 

I must admit, I’m pretty excited about it.  I get to play with Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and learn how to make cool logos and brochures.  And although I rarely time for it, I do genuinely enjoy making things on the computer. 

Part of my project is to have a wordpress blog.  Check.  The upside of this is I am forced to write thoughout my fall semester in college.  Which can at times, be a feat for me when I’m not motivated.  I get so busy that its hard to really rationalize spending time writing something that isn’t going to get me any credit.  However, now its actually worth something!  The downside is, Lance isn’t allowed to post anything until the semester is over.  Which, he probably wouldn’t have anyways.  We’re both currently taking 18 credits and there is little time to breath, let alone post.  So, I will have to be the scribe to whats going on in both of our acedemic lives.

Within the last two weeks, we’ve both adjusted to our class schedules and settled into a routine.  We eat lunch and dinner together each day, but still spend most of our homework time seperate.  Its so strange after spending 2 years seeing each other once a week to be with each other everyday, but its really nice at the same time!  I no longer have to block out 2 hours a night to talk to him on the phone, which opens up a ton more homework time.  We have also joined the ecology club, evergreen (the enviromental club), tri beta, and Faith Alive, a christian youth group.  And, my Animal Welfare Club went from having 10 interested people to 110 interested people!  Yikes!  All in all, the year is off to a great start, and I feel so much happier to be here than I did last year.