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You are what you eat: A glance into the cow industry
What would you think if you knew that your refrigerator is stocked with beef and dairy from mistreated animals, animals that were raised in cells too small to lie down or turn around in? They’ve been pumped full of hormones, their diseases left untreated, and you are eating it. This is reality. Factory farming is unethical, illogical and unhealthy, for you and the animals. My Name is Grace Cotrupi and I’m here to shed some light on these issues.
Factory farming is exactly what it sounds like. It is the industrialized version of farming. Animals are raised in the fastest, easiest, cheapest way possible. This consists of injecting them with antibiotics and keeping them in indoors year round. This has serious health consequences, for everyone involved.
The cattle live in repulsive pens about the size of the animals themselves. These cramped conditions leave the cows standing in their own waste. This actually promotes disease, and helps it spread quickly. The confined animals are prone to get very bored which usually results in self destructive behaviors, such as chewing and biting themselves and others nearby. These self inflicted wounds are left untreated and eventually become infected.
When I say ‘cow’ what do you think of ? Probably rolling green pastures dotted with happy animals. That is exactly what companies are hoping you’ll think when you see it on their milk carton. Sadly, that’s far from the truth. The cows that made that milk have never seen real grass, and never will. Their meals consist of blood, bone, feathers, even chicken and cow entrails. These feeds are dangerous. Other than the damage to the animals themselves, it can have permanent effects on our immune and nervous systems and increases our risk of cancer. [sustainable table]
Beef is often perceived as a fatty food, but that is entirely due to what the cattle are eating. Cows are not designed to eat grain, especially not the genetically engineered grain found in factories across the world. Cows that eat grass, have higher unsaturated fat levels and lower saturated fat levels then grain fed cows. [meat digest] That means more of the good stuff and less of the bad. They are also significantly richer in conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA‘S. CLA’S are proven to help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer. [sustainable table]
The farmers that allow their herds to eat grass are called graziers. This means they turn their herds out to graze as frequently as possible, and when weather prevents it the cows are supplemented with hay. Graziers work on what are called family farms. Family farms are focused on giving you a healthier, tastier product and better quality of life for their animals. Family farms used to be common throughout the united states, but their numbers are now dwindling. Factory Farms have pushed out over 5 million family farms since the 1930’s, replacing them with ‘efficient’ beef, veal and dairy machines. Ninety thousand cows and calves are killed in just one day. [sustainable table]
The entire goal of factory farming is to make money. The cattle are seen as products rather then living beings. The faster the product is ready to be sold, the more money can be made from it. The easiest way to speed up production are chemicals called growth hormones. Growth hormones make cows produce more milk, and get bigger faster. These chemicals are really bad for animals, and increase the likelihood of disease.
In order to meet health regulations the cows would have to be cured. This would cost too much, so instead sickness is prevented, not by stopping the use of chemicals, but increasing it. The cows are injected with antibiotics, whether they are sick or not. When cows that are not sick are given medication it leads to a very serious health risk. Antibiotic resistant bacteria. The medication kills off the weak bacteria leaving only the resistant ones behind. This allows it to multiply into a colony, so when the meat is eaten, the consumer gets the disease and cannot be cured. A few strains of resistant salmonella and e.coli have been found in the food supply, in foods like hamburgers and steak, things we don’t think twice about eating.
One of the most dangerous aspects of factory farming is that of E. coli. E. coli is common bacteria that can be passed to humans through beef. This bacteria makes you violently ill and can cause end-stage kidney disease, permanent brain damage, insulin-dependent diabetes or even death, especially in children. Remembering what I said earlier about some types of this being incurable, do you really want to give your child a hamburger that could make them fall ill? Recent studies have shown that E. coli is directly linked to over crowding, one of the many problem’s of factory farming. In fact, 89% of all beef patties produced by factories in the United States carry trace of E. coli.
Slaughterhouses are required by law to stun the animals by a blow to the head or an electrical shock, before they are killed. Electrical shock is torture. It results in painful burns, and does not have a stunning effect. It was believed for a while that when shocked the animal becomes unconscious and can’t feel pain. The cow is paralyzed, but that just means that it cannot express pain. It absolutely feels it. Sometimes the killing machines malfunction, but production goes on as usual, and the cattle are sent to slaughter fully conscious. Whether they’ve been stunned or not they are herded onto an assembly line, or rather a disassembly line. The blood vessels in the cows necks are cut, allowing them to bleed out. They are then rapidly taken apart and sent off to be cleaned, processed and sold. The workers in these factories are untrained, and often illegal immigrates. They work for minimum wage or less, and are not educated to be working with animals. Because cows are so huge they require butchers to have months of training before it is safe for them to handle meat. Factory workers are given almost none. If the cows are slaughtered by untrained and inexperienced workers, it makes the meat susceptible to disease like e. coli and other dangerous viruses.
Family farm cows are usually shot point blank (slaughter daughter). This is completely painless. They are killed by the well trained farmers that raised them. Before they are killed, they are often given a bale of hay to munch on, almost like the final meal received on death row. This distracts them, so they don’t suffer traumatic fear and stress like factory cows.
Perhaps the most horrifying act factories commit is the harvesting of veal calves. Veal calves are the male calves born in the factories. They are considered a by-product of the dairy industry. Male calves don’t produce milk, so they are considered all most, but not quite, worthless. They can still be eaten. They are taken from their mothers before they are a day old, to prevent them from drinking the milk intended for consumers. Cows are very attached to their young, so this event is traumatic for both the mother and the baby. The calves are only allowed to live for 14 to 26 weeks, but a shorter time might be more humane, considering pain they endure. They are kept in tiny crates, called hutches. Hutches restrict movement, and prevent muscle from developing, as muscle makes for a less desirable taste. In the 1980’s an animal welfare movement released photos of veal calves tied to their crates in a way that completely prevented movement. Their living conditions today are not much better.
There are several different types of veal. The most common is called milk-fed veal. The calves are fed a milk substitute that has nearly no nutrients. The lack of nutrition produces the white meat and velvety texture that consumers look for. These calves are often sickly and almost all are anemic. There is also grain-fed veal, which has the highest fat and pesticide content, and bob-veal which comes from calves slaughtered at only a few days old. There is only one type of veal in the United states that doesn’t completely violate animal rights. It’s called free raised- veal, and it is found on family farms. These calves are raised in a pasture, free to socialize with other calves. They live at least 24 weeks and ultimately taste better and are healthier.
One of the most popular animal rights movements is Farm Sanctuary. The animal bill of rights they are trying pass says “No animals shall be ill-treated or be subject to cruel acts” Malnutrition, physical abuse, poor living conditions and being torn from their families certainly doesn’t follow this law. Although there are laws all over America saying the proper length of a dogs leash and how much a cat must be fed, there is next to nothing defending the rights of livestock. Who is to say a cat or dog is more deserving of respect and well being then a cow? Cows have long been symbols of love, kindness and power, and for good reason. They are gentle, loving creatures, that deserve our respect.
Cows everywhere are being treated unsafely and inhumanely. It doesn’t have to be this way, but there are steps that must be taken if we are to change the path we’re on. The power really does lie with the people. How you spend your money determines what ends up in the deli. By getting your dairy and meats from local farms. You will be doing yourself, your communities and the cows a huge favor. Regardless of the ethics involved, do you really want to eat and feed your families these dangerous products? After all, you are what you eat.