Saturday, May 2, 2009

Industrial Meat Farming - Who's Responsible

We often talk about whether it's fair to blame lawful gun owners for the problems in America with gun violence. I say those who oppose the restrictions which would help, have to accept some of the responsibility for what happens in the absence of those restrictions. They, naturally, don't see it that way, often making a comparison to cars. I've never been convinced by that comparison and have tried to explain why on numerous occasions.

Finally I have come across a comparison that works, one which to me seems very similar to my position about guns.

People who eat meat are partially responsible for the problems caused by industrial meat farming. Since the old pig has been in the news lately due to the swine flu, the focus is on pig farming.

Tristero has an exhaustive post over at Hullabaloo about industrial farming. I dare you to read it all and continue nonchalantly eating meat.

Daisy wrote about it recently. I have too. Go vegetarian; it's my best advice.

What's your opinion? Can you see that only vegetarians should be completely exonerated from the guilt of damaging the environment and damaging human health that is an inescapable part of industrial meat farming? For this reason, I honestly can't understand how people can chew and swallow animal flesh. Perhaps they do what I used to do: just not think about it, just not examine what they're doing.

The gun issues are different, I realize, but can you see my connection? In a similar way to the omnivore public being responsible for the mess that is meat farming, so the gun owning public is responsible for the mess that is wrought by gun violence. Yes or no? What's your opinion?

Please leave a comment.


  1. The problem is the industrial meat farming, not eating meat itself. What little meat I buy at the store, is raised locally, and not on a factory farm. The rest of my meat is venison, which I hunt myself.

    We need more regulation. People shouldn't be able to farm animals as if they were running a factory. It's inhumane. They should have to give their animals plenty of space, and not have so many, and treat them well. And if that means less meat and the price goes up, well then, that's what should happen.

    IMHO, a few people going vegetarian isn't going to help anything. Most people eat meat, we are omnivores after all, and most people aren't going to change. Hence the need for tight regulations.

    A long time ago, people ate meat only a few times a week if they weren't rich, because it was considered a luxury. Now it's all about volume and things being cheap.

    Speaking of cheap, don't even get me started about all the synthetic crap they put in our food, like High Fructose Corn Syrup and Hydrogenated Oil.

  2. MikeB,

    Let's go with your analogy.

    First, industrial meat farming isn't the only industry that causes problems. There are problems with growing vegetables and fruits also.

    There isn't any moral ground to say that industrial farming of meat is worse then industrial farming of vegetables and fruits.

    Second, what evidence do you have that shows eating meat is damaging human health?
    Do you also present the evidence that shows a vegetarian diet is also damaging to human health?

    It is easy to understand how people "chew and swallow animal flesh". It is delicious, it is health, it is nutritious, it is natural.

    An non-meat diet isn't natural. As you state people are omnivores.

    So, are you responsible for the damage to the environment due to vegetable and fruits?

  3. A World Quite Mad is absolutely right, it's the industrial production of meat that's the problem. And a few people turning vegetarian is not going to change that. I might eat meat myself if I lived on a farm and raised it properly. So, I agree, your way of eating only non-industrial products or stuff you hunt yourself, is fine. Of course, I personally don't go for hunting, but that's another discussion.

    Bob, in your haste to disagree you misunderstood something. I was talking about the health problems to humans caused by the huge pig farms, the pollution and all that. I wasn't talking about the unhealthy aspects of eating meat, which is another debate.

    One thing you said is totally ridiculous though. Vegetable farms do cause pollution from the chemicals they use, but can you really compare that to the pig-shit lagoons? I don't think so.

  4. MikeB,

    You entire arguments rest on variations of this phrase:

    I don't think so.You present no evidence to support your claim that one type of farming is environmentally better then the other.

    You present no evidence that one type of farming is environmentally more friendly to humans.

    You present nothing but your thoughts and we are supposed to recognize your genius and start following your plan.

    Sorry but your thoughts aren't as convincing as the mountain of evidence out there in the case of ineffective gun control laws.

    Think again is the advice I would give, then do some research.

  5. Actually Bob S. is not to far off in his statement about chemicals. You have oil based fertilizer, chemicals used to kill or ward off insects, and of course water diversion for irrigation.

    Did you know that there was one a river in Russia, that no longer exists because of water diversion. Lost was an entire fishing fleet, several farms that had existed beside the river, as well as several communities that used the water for drinking. The ships can still be seen where the river once existed.

    If anyone is to blame for agro-farming, it is everyone who shops at Wally-world. People who know it is going on yet say noting, nor try to get their representatives to force these companies to change their practices. Of course, if people would actually support their local family farms, that would help as well.

    As for the confinement space, while many people see it as cruel, as long as the animal is kept with plenty of water, roughage, feed, and the area is kept clean, there is no issue with it. The fact is, the less space an animal can roam in, means it moves less, giving a more tender cut of meat.

    Remember MikeB, before I was a rent a cop, I was a shit kicker. When it comes to farming, I know my shit. It is after all my given trade in life. Before I was a shit kicker, my parents were shit kickers, their parents before them were shit kickers, and so on down the line. Five generations of farmers in my family, representing everything from American Bison, to tobacco.

  6. Malakh said, "Remember MikeB, before I was a rent a cop, I was a shit kicker."I'll definitely remember that. Thanks for the personal details.

  7. Bob and Malahk,

    First off, I was born in Newark, New Jersey and work behind a desk, so I don't know from farming. I'm also an enthusiastic omnivore.

    But doesn't meat farming inherently have more "environmental impact" than vegetable and grain farming because you need to grow the vegetables first to feed the meat? That is, aren't all the health costs of fertilizers, pesticides, and clear-cutting built into meat farming on _top_ of whatever is done to support the livestock?

    This seems like common sense to me, but not knowing the issue I'm reluctant to assume my "common sense" is right. ;)

  8. I say those who oppose the restrictions which would help, have to accept some of the responsibility for what happens in the absence of those restrictions. They, naturally, don't see it that way, often making a comparison to cars. I've never been convinced by that comparison and have tried to explain why on numerous occasions.

    I've missed those discussions, so I'm sorry if you've already covered this.

    But I asked you a question a while back, and am curious whether you have a response to it now.

    As a driver, I oppose a law lowering all speed limits to 20 mph. Now, cars kill more people than guns, and I suspect that the great majority of car deaths are due to accidents, not malice. Lowering the speed limit to 20 mph would mean that even people doing ten over the limit would be at a survivable speed in crashes. Hell, even head-on highway crashes would almost never be fatal.

    Just like further gun laws, this would burden and "inconvenience" lawful and safe drivers, and it would, to be very charitable, have at least the same potential for saving lives as more gun laws would.

    Since I oppose a nationwide 20 mph speed limit, do you consider me partially responsible for car deaths the same way you consider me partially responsible for gun deaths?

    This isn't a rhetorical question, and it isn't meant as a "gotcha!"; I honestly think this analogy may help us understand each other better.

  9. MikeB,

    Given the poisonous nature of farming and meat farming; how is there a moral difference between the two?

  10. Micheal there is no crime in not knowing. Its not like all farmers are gun totting nuts who want to kill for having a lack of knowledge. Just so you know, I'm just joking. The fact is, far to many people do not know about farming.

    The fact is, we have large companies that raise crops, and livestock. While livestock requires feed (corn, oats, etc.), and roughage (Timothy, Alfalfa, etc.) many family farms grow their own. While I never grew crops, I have a brown thumb, I would sell my farms waste (shit) to other farmers who would then use it to fertilize their fields. Many small farms, who produce crops and livestock also look for natural means to protect their product. Using predatory insects, snakes, and the likes. As previously mentioned they take shit from their farms to fertilize fields, and they rotate their crops, including not using a field one season or two.

    Now in the summer, most farmers graze their livestock, unless it is for dairy. I cannot speak for farmers in Jersey, but most where I have lived, once they are done with the crops, will turn the livestock loose in the fields to feed off the remains of corn. I even grow things like pumpkins for the livestock to eat. Most of the small farms are self sufficient.

    Industrial farms, and some small family farms, cannot support themselves. They require feed and roughage from outside sources. Now that is not entirely a bad thing, as small farms buy their needed products from other small farms. I trade my shit, for your extra hay. You use my shit to produce your hay. You then by my beef, that I produced using your hay. Industrial farms, buy huge tracks of land, turn 1000 head of cattle onto 500 acres, run the land until it is useless, pump chemicals into it, and repeat. It is the same with industrial crop farms.

    In a sense you are right. Well it is more than a sense. Industrial farms rape the land, and are an abomination. I am in no way for them, and they should be shut down. They have great sums of money, and as such they can circumvent the laws, that the family farms have to play by, and those we do not have to play by, but follow as an unspoken law, they ignore. Family farms try to preserve the land, as best we can. We have learned that it is the only way to provide for everyone. Respect it and love it, and it will do the same.

    Your common sense is pretty good for a city slicker. I will say this, they have quantity, but we have quality. There is no way to compete with it. As for your cost question, industrial farms write off those expenses, family farmers do as well, however, many family farms do not clear cut land for livestock, it gives them shelter from heat, and storms. Many industrial farms do not grain livestock. I think I said that before. I hope this has answered your questions, if not let me know, I will give it another swing.

    Here is a fun fact, a pig will eat anything. If you should fall into a pig pen at an industrial pig farm, they will find no body.

  11. Industrial mass production of anything is bad news, meat and vegetables. Michael made a good point about the double whammy you get with the meat production because they first need to produce grain to feed the animals.

    But here's my thing, chewing on animal flesh is sick shit. That's a personal opinion, I'm not judging anyone else and usually I keep that idea to myself. My kids and wife eat meat, for example and I don't try to interfere with their enjoyment of it or whatever nutritional value they might get from it. For me, though it's akin to cannibalism, and the only way I was able to do it in the past was by not examining too closely what I was doing.

  12. As I said previously, many industrial beef farms simply put the cattle out to pasture. As for other types of industrial meats, they have to buy their feeds.

    Feeder calves, are typically stalled in a eight foot round area. This is a way to control disease. Diarrhea, TB, rabies, and various other illnesses can be contained. It also causes the meat from the animal to be tender.

    Pig farms keep pigs confined, to keep meat tender, and for safety reasons. As previously mentioned, a pig will eat a human being. They often have to buy their feed for the pigs. However many medium, to small farms work deals out with local nurseries, and grocery stores to buy produce that is not fit for human consumption.

    We all know about chicken farms.

    "For me, though it's akin to cannibalism". Well MikeB, that is your opinion. However eating a totally vegan diet is not always healthy either. My niece went down the road of being a total vegan, and after a month she spent time in the hospital. Only vegan diets, tend to leave one with a protein deficiency.