US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Is it possible to imagine a panic more primitive in nature than a panic caused by thoughts of empty shelves in a store? The New York Times questions, is it possible to imagine a relief that is more primitive in nature than the relief that delicious food gives us?
Nowadays, almost everyone has begun to cook more often, more often to document the process of preparing new dishes and, in general, to think more often about food. The meat shortage and the decision of US President Donald Trump to open slaughterhouses, despite the heated protests of their employees, fearing for their safety, made many Americans think about how important meat plays.
Is it more important than the lives of those poor workers who risk themselves in order to produce it? It seems more important. In six out of 10 districts, which the White House called the foci of the coronavirus infection epidemic, there are those slaughterhouses that the country’s president ordered to open.
In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Smithfield, which accounts for about 5% of the country’s total pork production, has become one of the hottest outbreaks in the US. At Tyson’s Perry, Iowa facility, 730 cases of coronavirus infection were reported — nearly 60% of employees. At another Tyson facility, this time in Waterloo, Iowa, a thousand and thirty-one employees out of 2,800 contracted the coronavirus.
An increase in the incidence rate among workers in slaughterhouses led to the closure of these enterprises, which resulted in a large accumulation of unkilled animals. Some farmers give injections to their sows to cause miscarriages. Others are simply forced to euthanize their animals – most often strangled with gas or fired. The situation became so dire that Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley asked the Trump administration to provide resources to support the mental health of pig farmers.
Despite such a terrible reality – and a lot of reports about the impact of pig breeding on American lands, communities, animals and human health, messages heard long before the pandemic began – only half of Americans say that they are trying to reduce the number of the meat they consume. The meat is firmly entrenched in our culture and our personal stories, and has occupied a very important place in them – from Thanksgiving turkey to stadium hot dogs. We associate meat with unusual, delicious smells and tastes, with a pleasure that makes us feel at home. And what could be more important than the feeling that you are at home?
However, more and more people now feel the inevitability of impending change. Scientists have already proven that animal husbandry is one of the main causes of global warming. According to The Economist, a quarter of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 say they are vegetarians or vegans, which probably explains why sales of meat-based substitutes for plants are growing rapidly and why burgers from Impossible Burgers and Beyond Burgers can be bought From Whole Foods supermarkets to White Castle restaurants.
Our hand has been reaching for the doorknob for several years. The covid-19 pandemic threw open this door. At least she made us look around. When it comes to such an uncomfortable topic as meat, there is always a desire to seek protection in accurate scientific data, to find solace in exceptions that cannot be measured, and to talk about our world as if it exists only in theory.
Some of the sensible people I know find ways to not think about the problems associated with animal husbandry — just like I find ways not to think about climate change and income inequality, not to mention the paradoxes of my own eating habits. One of the unexpected side effects of several months of isolation was the fact that it became difficult not to think about things that define our essence.
We cannot protect the environment if we continue to eat meat regularly. And this is not a controversial prospect, but truism that has already become commonplace. It doesn’t matter if they turn into Woppers or elite steaks, cows produce a huge amount of greenhouse gas. If all the cows lived in one country, this country would occupy the third place in the world in terms of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
According to the head of research projects at Project Drawdown, a non-profit organization that seeks solutions to climate change, switching to predominantly plant-based foods “will be the most important contribution anyone can make to the fight against global warming.”
The vast majority of Americans are convinced that climate change does occur. Most Republicans and Democrats argue that Washington should not have withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement. We do not need new information, and we do not need new values. We just need to enter the open door.
We cannot declare the need for a humane attitude towards animals and at the same time continue to regularly eat meat. The livestock system that we created is riddled with suffering. Modern chickens have become so genetically modified that their lives will be saturated with pain, even if we open their cages. Turkeys are specially grown so fatty that they can no longer produce offspring without artificial insemination. Calves are weaned from their mothers at a very young age, which results in severe suffering, which manifests itself in their lowing and high levels of cortisol in their blood.
No labels and certificates can avoid this cruelty. We do not need animal rights advocates to point a finger at us. We do not need to be convinced of anything that we would not already know. We just need to listen to ourselves.
We will not be able to defend ourselves against future pandemics by continuing to regularly eat meat. Now much attention is paid to markets where wild animals are sold, but industrial farms, especially poultry farms, are much more favorable soil for the emergence of new pandemics. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that three out of four new infectious diseases are natural focal infections, the result of our broken relationships with animals.
Needless to say, we want to be safe. We know how to protect ourselves even more. But just wanting and knowing is not enough. This is not only my opinion or that of individuals – despite the fact that such articles are usually published in sections with this title. And the answers to the most frequent reactions to attempts to cast doubt on the current livestock format are not just opinions.
Do we need animal proteins? No. We can live a longer and healthier life without them. Most adult Americans consume about twice the recommended dose of protein – including vegetarians who consume 70% more protein than necessary. People whose diet is saturated with animal protein are much more likely to die from diseases of the cardiovascular system, diabetes and kidney failure. Of course, meat, like cakes, can become part of a healthy diet. But no sane nutritionist would recommend eating cakes too often.
If we let the agro-industrial system collapse, will farmers suffer? No. Large corporations that act on behalf of farmers and at the same time ruthlessly exploit them will suffer. Today, America has fewer farms than during the Civil War, although the US population has grown 11 times over that time. This is not an accident, but a business model. The dream of an industrial livestock complex is to have “farms” fully automated. Switching to plant-based food and green farming practices will create far more jobs than it does now.
No need to take my word for it. Ask any farmer if he will be happy to see the end of industrial livestock farming. Is not giving up meat a manifestation of elitism? No. The results of a study conducted in 2015 showed that a vegetarian diet costs $ 750 a year cheaper than a meat-based diet. People with colored skin disproportionately call themselves vegetarians and disproportionately become victims of the brutality of industrial livestock.
The slaughterhouse workers, who are now in great danger so that we can satisfy our need for meat, are predominantly people with black or dark skin colors. The idea that a cheaper, healthier, and less exploitative way of farming is a manifestation of elitism is an element of propaganda.
Can we work with livestock corporations to improve our food system? No. Of course, if you do not believe that people who have enriched themselves through the exploitation of others will willingly agree to destroy those tools that gave them incredible wealth. Livestock farming has the same relation to farming as the criminal monopolies to entrepreneurship. If the government deprived livestock and dairy companies of $ 38 billion in benefits and subsidies for at least a year and forced them to play under the usual capitalist rules, these corporations would simply disappear. This industry simply cannot survive in the free market.
Meat is a product that more often than others causes people to feel comfortable and uncomfortable. This can complicate the process of putting into practice what we know and want. Can we move the meat off the center of our table? This question leads us to the threshold of the impossible. And on the other side is the inevitable.
Faced with the horrors of the pandemic and new questions about what is truly important, we now see the door that has always been before us. It is as if in a dream where rooms appear in our houses that are unknown to our waking selves, we feel that there is a more perfect way of eating, that there is a life closer to our values. On the other side is not something new, but something long forgotten from our past – from a world where farmers were real, where bodies of tortured animals did not become food, and the fate of the planet was not a check after a hearty dinner.
It’s time to cross that threshold. On the other side is our house.
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