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Monday, December 22, 2014 / PROGRESSIVE JOURNALISM FOR POSITIVE ACTION
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Censoring Our Food

Jill Richardson
Other Words / News Report
Published: Sunday 26 May 2013
If farms and slaughterhouses are rife with repulsive and sadistic abuses, why should we pass laws to help hide it?
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Standing outside a slaughterhouse in Draper City, Utah, Amy Meyer was horrified by what she saw. Cows struggled to stay out of the plant and employees hauled one cow that appeared sick or injured in a tractor. While standing on public property, Meyer pulled out her cell phone to document the scene. And…she got arrested.

Big Ag has found a clever new way to keep the public from seeing footage or photographs of animal cruelty. In six states (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and Utah), Big Ag lobbyists succeeded in making filming or photographing agricultural operations illegal. Similar measures are in the pipeline in other states, although Governor Bill Haslam just vetoed one in Tennessee.

Meyer was the first to be arrested under one of these so-called “ag-gag” laws. After much public outcry, the authorities dropped all charges against her. But the case raises a fundamental question about our food system: Do we have a right to know how our food is produced?

Big Ag likes to claim that farming is messy and bloody and that when we consumers, uneducated in farm ways, see the grim realities of farming, we won’t understand it. “Why are you killing Wilbur?” we cry, completely forgetting that there’s no way to produce the bacon we ate for breakfast without killing a pig. Show us a photo of a slaughterhouse and we’ll renounce meat on the spot.

And yes, some people do feel that way. A whopping 3.2 percent of Americans are vegetarians. The prevailing majority of us eat meat. In fact, our culture celebrates Temple Grandin — portrayed by Claire Danes in an HBO movie — for designing more humane slaughterhouses. On the whole, Americans aren’t offended by the simple, unavoidable realities of farming.

Animal abuse isn’t the only issue at stake – so is food safety. Remember that horrible video of slaughterhouse employees kicking sick cows, prodding them with forklifts, and even applying electric shocks? The cows were too sick to go into the human food supply — they represented a risk of mad cow disease — and the heinous acts in the video were done by employees trying to make the cows stand up long enough to pass their USDA inspection. Want a burger?

Big Ag’s other favorite claim, any time footage of tormented animals makes the news, is that “a few bad apples” are to blame for the abuse.

Like when HBO showed footage of hog farm employees euthanizing sows by hanging them from chains. The Center for Food Integrity, an industry-funded front group, came out saying, “The actions of a few ‘bad actors’ in no way reflect the high standards demonstrated daily by a vast majority of America’s dairy farmers.”

But that’s not what an undercover investigator found. Identifying himself only by a pseudonym – Pete — he described his work taking jobs around the country on farms, ranches, and slaughterhouses, documenting what he finds. “Every single facility… that I’ve worked at has been breaking the law,” he told Democracy Now! That doesn’t sound like “a few bad apples.”

Clearly, agribusiness doesn’t want activists documenting animal cruelty at factory farms and slaughterhouses. Here’s an easy way to make sure they don’t: Don’t abuse animals. If your workers and facilities follow the law, then no one can document law-breaking practices on the premises.

On the flipside, if farms and slaughterhouses are guilty of repulsive and sadistic abuses, why should we pass laws to help them hide it? As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” The more Americans know about how our food is produced, the more producers will change their ways to match the wishes of the American people.



ABOUT Jill Richardson

Jill Richardson, an OtherWords columnist, writes about all aspects of the food system, from farm to fork. She’s the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do To Fix It and her next book will be about how U.S. foreign policy impacts the world’s most vulnerable farmers.

Greetings all! Monk of Yahweh

Greetings all! Monk of Yahweh here. Recently I've been getting emails from Nation of Change Weekly, and so far I'm pleased with the insights. I thought I'd chime in here (and perhaps elsewhere), offering a different (or Yahweh-centric), non-secular perspective. Most people are only familiar with "cultural Christians" (or secular religionists; religion consumerists). I thought some might like another view. If not, skip past to the next.

I'm a fish-only eater, and even then, it's a little here and there (as I catch em); I also consume egg whites (egg beaters). Otherwise, I stick with gardened organic vegetables and fruits, tree nuts, whole oats, rice, and so on. I eat as learned from the Garden of Eden parable; from the natural world sustainably. Yahweh is not against meat-eating, per say, but Love is what prevents us from doing what is otherwise legal or acceptable to the masses. I would kill and eat any animal over starvation, but I have not gotten there yet.

Obviously, eating large animals like cattle is not going to be sustainable for long. How westerners live today is petroleum-centric; that is, most people in the past did not eat all that much red meat, exactly because it was/is a laborious (and today, costly) process. Once gasoline reaches twenty dollars a gallon, everything will change. Meanwhile, we still live in a demand-drives-supply economic paradigm: No business makes what that they know they cannot sell.

It is the consumer therefore, that is solely responsible for every action of every corporation on earth: We vote with our dollars (and we will likewise be held accountable for it)! Most people who point the proverbial finger at others, are responding from the unrecognized guilt within them. Deep within us all, is this reality: We are what we do, and no more! But most live in denial of reality, using words and self-created self-image themes to manufacture a facade for others to see. Guilt is the fuel for self-justification.

E.g. If you purchase petroleum products, you are directly responsible for every woe that will befall humanity as a result of this collective lifestyle. Likewise: If you eat beef, you (and collectively with other beef-eaters) are exclusively responsible for this injustice. I'll bet you a million dollars; if every human stops eating beef, this particular abuse will end just as quickly. The bottom-line is this; where's the cheap beef? Look at the above picture: that's where it is!

Everyone likes to blame the other guy: big businesses are not entities; they are just large groups of individuals who are collectively working to make profit. They will cut every corner they can; the goal of capitalism is maximization; that's what they're doing; only with animals instead of coal or corn. It is silly to think they are ever going to care. If you drive a car, you do not care either (knowing what we know today)! In the secular world, money is lord and all suffering is but a small price to pay in the service of that lord. Choose another God; live another life!

Be the change you wish to see in the world. Monk of Yahweh!

It goes further than merely

It goes further than merely humane treatment. Each animal is, like a human being, a sentient individual with feelings and a right to life. Many people who would eat herbivores would not eat dog, for example. It all comes down to species prejudice.

Because we have the power over these animals doesn't mean we have the right to take away their freedom and kill them at will. We just need a few animals around the farm to complete the ecosystem and be our friends, not to victimize.

I'll bet most meat eaters would be very unhappy, indignant, and repulsed to discover that maybe the human population on earth is a 'farm' or zoo maintained by 'advanced' beings who also 'feed' on us. Could this be what the Illuminati are doing? I think so.

One point is, there is no nutrient in meat that is not otherwise available. Moreover, meat is fiberless, acidforming, mucoidforming, and difficult to digest. Especially when eaten with starches. That said, you can kill yourself being a vegetarian if you don't know what you're doing.

There is a myth about B vitamins. They may be in meat, but once it's cooked, they're done for. So where are meat eaters getting their B's? The primary source for humans is, or should be, our gut bacteria, which are little B-vitamin factories. But of course in America we specialize in wiping them out with our way of life. Few people know their gut status, a monumantal 'failure' of scientific medicine, a primary murderer of gut populations.

If we apply "do unto others" without species prejudice, we might come to a more compassionate place, regardless of how cool we think we are in the slaughter. Put yourself in the animal's place, and imagine some entity sending you into a pen with goodies, awaiting the axe.

I really hate to burst your

I really hate to burst your bubble but you might want to check into a book called "The Secret Life of Plants" by Tompkins and Bird. Reading that should be quite an eye opener for anyone who thinks that animals are the only "sentient" organisms with "feelings."

Here's something else to consider, with every step you make and every breath you take you are "killing" millions of organisms (apologies to The Police). How do you know that there isn't a collective consciousness at the microbial level that is aware and has feelings.

Bottom line, in this reality, until you ascend to a plane where you can exist on air and water you are going to be KILLING other beings in order to continue your own existence. Your comment about animals as "friends" around the farm makes it pretty clear you've never worked a farm. A farm should be treated as an organism and as such different parts of the farm die so that new life can begin. The only choice is how we treat the organism and what care and respect we pay it.

If you can live on a vegetarian diet go for it. I tried it in college and never felt right and my health declined. We are omnivores by design and some of us need more meat in the balance, others less. A question you need to answer for yourself is how much of your statement is based on reality and how much of it is based on social conditioning. I've eaten dog while in Asia. I've also eaten grubs, grasshoppers, crickets, worms, and some things I don't know the name of and would prefer to not eat ever again. Truth of the matter is, if you're hungry enough you'll eat darn near anything.

I'm happy for you that you have the means to chose what you decide to eat or not eat. That is a luxury that billions of people on the planet don't enjoy. Grass fed livestock provide the means to turn an energy source "grass" into a food source humans can use to continue their existence. At the same time those animals are renewing and improving the fertility of the pasture they're grazing on. Do you see a pattern here? By the way our land is not tillable but very fertile and raising sheep or goats is the best means to utilize the gifts it has to offer.

As to your comment about the earth as a "farm" or "zoo", if it is, there isn't really anything we can do about it is there? I'd be content if those "advanced beings" treated me with the same care and concern I show my animals. Remember, like it or not, in this reality if you're not a photosynthesizing organism you are FEEDING on other organisms for your continued existence.

As to your last paragraph, you are welcome to come visit our farm this fall and then you can see "how cool we think we are in the slaughter". The year butchering our animals is ever easy is the year we'll quit raising them. My only hope for you is that when it comes time for you to die you'll be able to pass on as easily, cleanly, and quickly as we make it possible for our animals.

I admire your passion and concern I simply wish it was better thought out, reflected a deeper understanding of our existence and was just a tad less judgmental and self-righteous.

I was raised omnivore and

I was raised omnivore and helped slaughter & cook at least one of every kind of animal I've eaten, so I'm not in the "meat is a sin" church. But becoming a vegetarian for economic reasons in college helped me to effortlessly drop all the excess weight I'd carried throughout my childhood, while eating and enjoying more food than ever before. I was vegan for 10 years before my husband's B-12 deficiency (he was vegan 30 years) caused us to add local dairy and eggs back into our diet. I'm moving towards being able to produce our own eggs & cheese at home, and when the animals get too old to thrive on their own, I'll likely even eat their meat. But I agree that agri-biz methods of producing animal proteins are gross and unhealthy for people and the planet, and I'll never buy from them again.

My food may be censored but

My food may be censored but not by this latest ploy. I'm vegan.

Because I am willing on occasion to say that I'm vegan and to give my reasons - in other words, exercise the right to free speech and the duty to use it cogently - commenter RVGUY2525 could complain that I'm a 'militant vegetarian'.

Especially because I agree that de facto it IS a 'sin' at almost places and times in today's USA to choose to eat meat. A sin against the environment and climate, a sin against humane rearing as well as slaughter of animals, and a sin against your own health.

And short of consumer rejection and boycott this won't soon change. Even in respects that can't be censored and which in fact are well documented (e.g. the consequences of grain-feeding of cattle and resulting massive methane-fart greenhouse-gas emissions) and which moreover are known to be disastrous for the environment and health and as such can readily be researched by truly caring consumers - the meat industry is dis-interested in change.

When you consider all the implications behind the summary statement that 'it's a sin to eat meat' , militant vegetarianism helps, not hinders, our ability to REALLY understand and 'improve our food system'.

Unfortunately, militant

Unfortunately, militant vegetarians hinder our ability to improve our food system, by focusing all discussions on their premise "it is a sin to eat meat." This is their religion. Their aggression combined with failed logic gives the Corporate Meat Industry an easy target to divert attention away from REAL measures that could be taken, to improve the quality of life and humane treatment of livestock at every stage from birth to death.

Lawmakers have made the process harder by allowing Big Ag to write the rules for the USDA, rules that make it hard or impossible for small-scale operations to serve customers directly. Food safety regulations require million-dollar processing plants in order to avert the disease outbreaks that ONLY OCCUR in large scale meat processing plants! Over crowded conditions, low paid workers, grueling work schedules and myriad other factors contribute to an environment where, in truth, no amount of "food safety inspection" or regulations can change the fact that s*** will happen. So, the USDA's rules are inadequate to stop food borne pathogen outbreaks from happening via the large plants that process 80-90% of our meat. Meanwhile, those same USDA rules make it financially impossible for the small farmer to market his/her own meat directly to consumers, despite the fact that grass-fed animals butchered in the home farm environment make the safest, cleanest, healthiest meat.

Consumers need to start making politicians pay for failing to represent citizens. The "department of Agriculture" needs to be re-named "The Department of Food" with the understanding that 300 million Americans are affected by every ag policy, not just the powerful Corporate farming interests.

A nation's morality can be measured by how it treats its weakest citizens, AND by how it treats the animals we eat. We consumers need to be more pro-active in demanding humane treatment of our livestock.

Amen brother, boy did you hit

Amen brother, boy did you hit the nail on the head. We don't sell anything we don't eat ourselves, what better endorsement of the safety of our food could anyone ask for?

Not only does meat " butchered in the home farm environment make the safest, cleanest, healthiest meat", it also is the least stressful for the animal. When we butcher for our own consumption we are able to take a few animals, put them in a pen away from the rest of the flock, and let them enjoy their favorite treats. One instant they're chowing down, the next instant they're gone. Life and death doesn't get much better for an herbivore than that.

Compare that to our having to load our animals into a trailer, haul them 2 and 1/2 hours to the nearest USDA, humane slaughter certified facility. While this establishment holds them overnight to reduce stress generated chemicals in their meat, it's still nowhere near as easy on the animals as just staying on the farm from birth to death.

Glad you appreciate what we're trying to do. It took years but now our operation makes a little money without compromising quality or our obligation to honor our animals. That said, if I were to calculate our hourly wages, we'll let's just say that minimum wage burger flippers are making out like bandits compared to anyone in my family :)

After rationalizing my

After rationalizing my consumption of meat for decades by eating only organic, I have finally realized that I can't spend one cent to support an industry that mutilates animals for me to eat. I am now vegan. It's more than just animal cruelty - and that is unconscionable - but they are pumping them full of chemicals and then refuse to label it! When did we lose the right to know what we eat? To truthful labeling? To truthfully reporting the abuses we see?! Why do the purveyors of filth have freedom of speech but we have lost ours? As long as the majority of Americans sleep through this problem, it will never changes.

As someone who raises sheep

As someone who raises sheep for meat I'm the first to admit that even done correctly and humanely, the process of turning a living animal into food is never easy.

Currently there is less than 1% of the population that has first hand knowledge of how our meat is produced because that's how many of us are producing food in the US. Contrary to popular belief, the meat you buy from the supermarket was not raised in that styrofoam tray with plastic over it.

It is possible to buy meat that comes from animals raised humanely, treated with respect and processed with care and kindness. Here's the problem, you're not going to get that kind of meat for $2 or $3 a pound. You have to pay the true cost of someone creating that environment and doing the work necessary to maintain it.

Until people are willing to put more of their resources into paying the true cost of producing wholesome, nutritious food we will continue to encourage and continue the sort of abuses that happen daily in the feedlots and slaughterhouses in the nation.

a way we can make sure they

a way we can make sure they don't abuse animals is don't eat their meat. articles like this are a must read around memorial day. they remind us what fighting and dying for freedom is all about. freedom to make a profit no matter what you have to do to get it, even send other people's children to war to die for it.

As much exposure as this

As much exposure as this problem has gotten over the past decade, the only progress is that the meat packers now have the RIGHT to keep us from seeing what they are doing with the meat we will be eating!
Again, you see who's interest your congressman and senators are concerned with.

I think we should organize

I think we should organize people by the hundreds, by the thousands, to line up to take photos of what they see.

caroline, that's a good idea.

caroline, that's a good idea.

It would seem that a citizen

It would seem that a citizen has a constitutional right, even a mandate, to document and report cruelty where and when one sees it. If said citizen is on public property and the cruel actions are easily viewable from that vantage point, then how is a law being violated, except an unconstitutional one.

Indeed, it's all right for

Indeed, it's all right for the government and private corporations (Google) to record citizens going about their legal business, but watch out if the shoe is on the other foot.

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