Several stories have appeared online and in the news lately about the way animals are treated on some of the big factory farms. Tyson Foods was in the spotlight recently for abuses to pigs on one of its farms, and Land O’Lakes ditto for dairy cows. DiGiorno has also been in the news after reports of cruelty to the dairy cows that supply milk for their cheese products. Everyone professed to be shocked — yes, shocked — at the goings on, including the owners of these farms, who supposedly had their employees read and sign instructions about how the animals were to be handled. This despite contradictory testimony from workers who said there were no rules or the rules weren’t enforced. Interestingly enough, many of these places are routinely inspected by veterinarians and other folks who are supposed to enforce laws against animal cruelty. Of course, the big suppliers canceled contracts and made loud statements about not tolerating such behavior…
This sort of behavior is easy on large farms in which the animals are numbered rather than named instead of treated as individuals. Absentee owners who care only about profits, as well as big companies that lay down expectations that are ignored on both sides, make the problem worse. Land O’Lakes had recently inspected one farm in which the dairy animals were kept in filthy conditions, yet passed it as acceptable. We’re not talking about a little manure pile, but animals standing hock-deep in swill. I find it less than believable that the owners of these places were unaware of these conditions, unless they simply never came around. And of course, everybody says these were just isolated cases.
Now, some of these videos are made by people with an agenda — it could be promoting a vegan diet or preventing cruelty to animals. Still, what little I’ve seen (and frankly, I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to watch all of the several videos floating around after looking at a few of the still pictures) says that there was unquestionably abuse going on. I look around my pasture at Maybelle (milk cow), Strawberry (red Angus beef cow), Pinky (pig) and Foghorn the Delaware rooster and wonder how anyone could mistreat these marvelous living creatures that provide us with food, affection and enjoyment. Yes, we butcher our animals. In the space of a few minutes they go from cud in the mouth on a sunny day to dead. We don’t force them to load in trucks and roar terrified down the highway at 70 miles an hour to a slaughter house where they can smell other terrified animals, blood and death. We express gratitude for their sacrifice and use the food wisely.
Veganism is one option, although not for me. And frankly, I can’t see how veganism solves the problem if the vegans are still buying shoes, purses and belts made of leather or the multiplicity of other products made from animal products… It also leads to the issue of too many animals, as those states which limit hunting have discovered; people find deer in downtown department stores, parking garages and even their bedrooms. And there’s no evidence that veganism is healthier or promotes longevity — quite the opposite, in fact. For visual evidence, take a look at Bill Clinton, who went “vegan” (I put the word in quotes because he eats salmon and eggs a couple of times a week) three years ago. He might be thinner, but his skin color is poor, the texture is bad and he does not look healthy.
The key is to buy local, which creates a market for the folks raising food in your area and provides you with much better, fresher and in most cases, humanely-raised food. If you buy your food locally, you have the opportunity to see exactly how the animals are treated. Of course, if you grow your own, that’s even better. One of the nice things about pick-your-own farms is that the consumer can see exactly what’s going on. So get involved; check out your suppliers and make sure what goes on your plate lives a good life.