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!

 

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