The Belly Of The Beast
December 15, 2013 3:20 PM   Subscribe

Industrial farming and animal cruelty (warning: very distressing images and sound) Rolling Stone reports on animal abuse in American factory farms...and the attempts by agribusiness to stop the exposure of this cruelty.
posted by turbid dahlia (82 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just in time for Christmas. Please consider where your meat is coming from.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:21 PM on December 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


That story had an excellent design, it really grabs a hold of you. Regardless of your political leanings, it is a great read.
posted by Renoroc at 3:44 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Take a trip anywhere in W. Kansas; this is how it is. Take Highway ! in Cali; and this is how the veggie/strawberry world is.
Ninety percent of the hamburger is from the worst 10% of the cattle.
The modern "Turkey" is a GMO abomination.

Bon appetite.

Oh, a cow can get cancer; and still be slaughtered. For donation to local Indian tribes. As hamburger. Cheers.
posted by buzzman at 3:51 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is why I'm a vegetarian.
posted by freakazoid at 4:06 PM on December 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Political leanings? What, whether or not you lean towards being a sociopath?
posted by incessant at 4:10 PM on December 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm glad this article was written; I'm glad it was in a high profile publication like the RS. But I doubt it's going to make the difference & impact I want it to. People are entirely cozy w/how their meat gets to the table. They can handily ignore any & all exposés & videos about the horrors perpetrated on these animals. They bust out their "oh,but I buy HUMANE meat!" (no such thing) arguments. It breaks my heart.
posted by Kitteh at 4:13 PM on December 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Please reassure me that Rolling Stone didn't reach into its celebrity archive and land on 'Steve Perry' as a pseudonym for an animal abuser.
posted by gimonca at 4:14 PM on December 15, 2013


Too much government regulation, that's the problem here.
posted by uosuaq at 4:29 PM on December 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


.
posted by mondo dentro at 4:32 PM on December 15, 2013


I know the locavore and organic movements sometimes use local or organic as a proxy for all sorts of things (sustainability, ethical, humane) and I don't actually know the conditions under which my local eggs are produced. But the logic of industrial agriculture (efficiency, scale, return on investment) seems antithetical to humane conditions for the animals themselves and the workers. Is there a "right" or at least a better scale of production? I'm also easily and willingly seduced by food labels that promise my deli meat was "humanely raised" but that phrase is not actually a certification, it's just marketing.

It's been about a year since my household started thinking about ethical meat. We have stopped buying bacon because none of the nearby grocery stores carry ethical alternatives, and on the rare occasions we buy steaks, they are purchased from local ranchers or food coop. This sort of cash register activism soothes my guilt, but consumer-only actions are far from sufficient. Donating money directly to organizations seeking regulatory or legislative changes would be a start. Or supporting political candidates who are opposed to ag-gag rules and actually want to put money into government inspectors.

Anyway, the globalized industrial food system makes it impossible to "do no harm" when it comes to your food choices. Whether tomato pickers in Florida, farmers in India, or the chickens that produced the eggs in your Sunday omelet, someone or something is being impacted by our individual and collective purchases.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:33 PM on December 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, the organic/locavore thing is for people in parts of the country with decent infrastructure for food distribution and the money to support the habit and while I like my Whole Foods and farmer's markets as much as anyone, I think chiding people to buy only locally or from farmers they know is going a step too far when a lot of people are stuck with a Walgreen's or gas station as the only place to buy food.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:41 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure the tiny group of people who are into the locavore/organic/humane side of things are just creating a new prestige market, rather than acting as a mass force to reform the wider industry. But if it makes you feel good, then that's good, I guess.
posted by Jimbob at 4:45 PM on December 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


But if it makes you feel good, then that's good, I guess.

Makes me feel good, tastes good, is good for the environment, is good for the animals, is good for my local economy.... so yeah. Good.
posted by Ghost Mode at 4:50 PM on December 15, 2013 [19 favorites]


This is why I'm a vegetarian.

Me too.

People are entirely cozy w/how their meat gets to the table. They can handily ignore any & all exposés & videos about the horrors perpetrated on these animals.

I agree to some extent. But the first time I came across this stuff was about 5 years ago. I was killing time in an airport bookshop and was flicking through a copy of the Skinny Bitch diet book, which had a section on animal cruelty in the meat industry. I read one abattoir worker's account of a sadistic act on a pig, and I've never eaten meat since. I just could no longer justify being an animal lover and participating in something which caused animals to suffer. So hopefully this article will shock at least some people into rethinking where their food comes from. It won't change everyone's mind but I doubt it won't change anyone's.
posted by billiebee at 4:53 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


It doesn't make me feel good that I can't afford to eat entirely local and/or vegan and still get enough protein.

I'm all for locavorism. Many of my friends are vegan. But, yeah, from down here in this economic rung it looks and feels a lot like a prestige market, and a "let them eat cake" attitude.

There's a reason why I eat a lot of $1 microwave cheeseburgers (literally) from the local Walgreens. It's because they're cheap, dense calories and I'm often on a budget as low as $2-4 a day to eat. (Sometimes less, sometimes more, but overall throughout the month it's less than $4 a day.)

And I just know I'm eventually going to see some report about how they've long been contaminated in some sketchy processing plant.

However, if we (as a country) subsidized and supported meat and dairy farms as much as we did organic vegetable and soybean farmers and the like - eating vegan should be cheaper than eating as a carnivore/omnivore. But it's not. It's more expensive per pound for me to go buy a one pound block of even cheap tofu, much less the decent stuff, then it is for me to buy a pack of hotdogs or maybe some discounted ground beef or a frozen dinner or something.

I'm not alone in the US, here. It's not just an education issue, or a taste issue, nor is it merely a "meat is addictive and/or tasty" issue.

It's a fundamental flaw about how we deal with food production, distribution and subsidies that give cheap meat and dairy false lower price. Good firm tofu should be as cheap as cheap bread, but it's sold and marketed as a luxury item here in the US.

See also: Whole Foods, which is about as elitist and expensive as any large chain of stores can be, without the local community benefit of being a co-op.
posted by loquacious at 5:02 PM on December 15, 2013 [48 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure the tiny group of people who are into the locavore/organic/humane side of things are just creating a new prestige market, rather than acting as a mass force to reform the wider industry.

The problem with this sort of claim is that it's true, but only in a rather trivial sense: every group of people seeking social change is "tiny" to begin with. That doesn't make them elitist. My direct experience with local food activists and community organizers is that they are focused on reducing waste and improving the sustainability and resilience of my community's food system. These people are definitely trying to change things, one bio-region at a time, not merely create a "prestige market". On the contrary, from what I've seen such actions are tied in with equally local efforts to rethink what we mean by markets, re-establishing relationships between local producers, consumers, vendors, and value-added processors that have been trashed by globalization.
posted by mondo dentro at 5:09 PM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I stopped eating red meat when I visited one of the large hog confinement operations in Iowa. This wasn't a "tourism" sort of tour, but rather the owner was a family friend. We had to wear little surgical booties on our feet and the buildings were amazingly clean. Being up close to the wage lagoons, watching the animals be castrated, etc. It was enough to put me off pork forever. I gave up beef when the mad cow scare was going around and the industry was burning entire herds. It's not that I am afraid of mad cow, but I refuse to contribute to an industry that is so incredibly wasteful. It takes 5 pounds of grain to make one pound of meat. I'll pass.

Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite because I still eat fish and fowl, but I can go see the chickens I eat. I pay more, but if I am partial to one I can point it out and probably have it (I joke here, but I have held the chicks that grow up to lay my breakfast). I'm done with factory farms.

The "ag gag" laws are clearly unconstitutional. I would love to challenge them if my lawyer was licensed in Iowa.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:14 PM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


loquacious, is it elitist to suggest that you might benefit greatly by upgrading your food imagination and cooking skills? When my budget goes south, I don't turn to cheap, crappy meat of dubious quality and low nutritional value. I think rice and beans, pasta with greens, etc., just like my impoverished Sicilian immigrant grandparents did.
posted by mondo dentro at 5:14 PM on December 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


loquacious: beans and rice are truly cheap. Add some hot sauce and you may find something a bit more appetizing than 1$ microwave cheeseburgers (it makes me wince to even think about such an abomination - that really *can't* taste good).

If you buy your rice and beans in bulk the cost is ridiculously low.

"Good firm tofu should be as cheap as cheap bread, but it's sold and marketed as a luxury item here in the US."

I'm not sure about that assertion, IMHO cheap bread is inedible crap (yay bread machines!), and Tofu is processed food - to expect dirt cheap high quality processed food seems an unreasonable expectation.
posted by el io at 5:15 PM on December 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


But I doubt it's going to make the difference & impact I want it to. People are entirely cozy w/how their meat gets to the table. They can handily ignore any & all exposés & videos about the horrors perpetrated on these animals. They bust out their "oh,but I buy HUMANE meat!" (no such thing) arguments. It breaks my heart.

There is such a thing as humanely-raised and humanely killed meat. I am comfortable with my omnivorous nature, and part of that for me is to seek out farmers who treat their animals in a humane manner. I am lucky enough to be able to financially support this choice, and I have visited the farms where my eggs, beef, pork, and chickens both live and die. The visits were unannounced, and I am confident that what I saw was daily routine.

I was happy to see the end of the article where they talked about the small and mid-size producers who are doing it right.
posted by Concolora at 5:15 PM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


is it elitist to suggest that you might benefit greatly by upgrading your food imagination and cooking skills?

Can we not go here please.
posted by zennie at 5:16 PM on December 15, 2013 [52 favorites]


See also: Whole Foods, which is about as elitist and expensive as any large chain of stores can be, without the local community benefit of being a co-op.

... and run by a CEO who says things like, "[a] careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That's because there isn't any. This 'right' has never existed in America." If this is what he thinks of his fellow Americans, I'm not about to trust his judgment about what constitutes humane slaughter, or his company's self-policing as far as their "Animal Welfare Standards" are concerned.* No, Whole Foods is not the answer, and I don't think that anyone is advocating that.

*Their website notes that they work with Global Animal Partnership to certify farmers and ranchers, but GAP itself was created out of "the intellectual property developed during the creation of [Whole Foods'] own standards."
posted by Austenite at 5:18 PM on December 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


Can we not go here please.

No, we can't not go there. Especially since I don't know where "there" is.
posted by mondo dentro at 5:18 PM on December 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Just in time for my annual end-of-year charitable donations. Godspeed, Humane Society of the US.
posted by nev at 5:29 PM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Never underestimate the propensity of Profit to motivate evil and extinguish humanity.
posted by sarastro at 5:30 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's really infuriating to me is the power big corporations have to hide this crap.

We need to demand transparency.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:36 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't handle most beans without massive gas which lasts awhile, days after eating beans. Mr. Roquette doesn't deserve that.

So we do eat meat. We go as local as we can afford. We go to a good local butcher. All their meat comes from within 50 miles except for their lamb, which comes from California.

While we are on the subject of animal cruelty, dairy cows really get a raw deal.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:37 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's easy to call Whole Foods elitist and expensive. But the desire for locally grown, organically grown, and humanely grown produce and meat has had enormous repurcussions in the big supermarket chains and in the big fast food markets as well.

It's not ethical or accurate to say that "So what - that's meat for ya. Go bacon."

Fighting for better treatment for animals (and only tangential to this thread, more organic produce) has resulted in vastly cheaper organic produce and a slowly but surely turning of agricultural practices in raising animals more humane. All efforts are appreciated, whether it is going vegetarian, reducing meat consumption, pressuring fast food restaurants toward pressuring suppliers to be nicer to their animal, etc.
posted by kozad at 5:39 PM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can we not go here please

Well we have already gone down the 'localvores are elitist' route, if we're gonna reset we need to back up a fair distance.

I suspect a part of the problem is we are encouraged to over consume protein, most people just don't need as much as we think we do, for starters.
posted by edgeways at 5:42 PM on December 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


These kind of abuses should be known far and wide -- I have no guilt about being omnivorous but for fuck's sake, those animals raised for my meals had better have a decent life and a rapid, humane death.

I am willing to pay whatever taxes it takes for legal enforcement toward that goal and whatever at-the-store premium it takes to be able to eat meat knowing that, however short, the animal's life was comfortable and protected from such horrors.
posted by chimaera at 5:53 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm vegetarian, and an ethical one at that--but I don't think the primary issue for everyone is or should be meat eating per se. It's eating waaaaaaaay too much animal protein, more than the human body can even properly process. Food critic Mark Bittman, an omnivore, has said some helpful things about this.

Unfortunately, virtually all of humanity came to associate eating animals with social class, so in "modern" times, when middle classes spring up, everyone says "yay! now we can eat meat 3 times a day, every day!!". As recently as, say, WWII, people (in the West) ate meat much more sparingly, maybe a few times a week, followed be eggs and dairy in frequency, with the bulk of calories and nutrition (not the same thing) coming from plant sources.

Given that, for most people just holding their meat budget constant and buying local meat from producers they know and trust would solve two problems at once.

Now, the problem of eating well for those in poverty is, of course, crucial. That's why so-called reskilling workshops, shared kitchens or kitchen "libraries", and organized gleaning operations are being organized by the very same groups working on food relocalization. The flip side of food deserts (whether urban or rural) is a loss of cultural knowledge in the populace about how to select, store, and prepare food.
posted by mondo dentro at 5:55 PM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


mondo dentro: "Now, the problem of eating well for those in poverty is, of course, crucial. That's why so-called reskilling workshops, shared kitchens or kitchen "libraries", and organized gleaning operations are being organized by the very same groups working on food relocalization. The flip side of food deserts (whether urban or rural) is a loss of cultural knowledge in the populace about how to select, store, and prepare food."

I've not heard of such a thing, but I will research to see if there is anything like that near me. I would absolutely volunteer somewhere like that to teach basic home economics when it comes to food budgets, planning, storing, simple prep and recipes, etc. I think that dropping classes like that from school curricula has had a major impact on how most Americans relate to food.
posted by dejah420 at 6:04 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Given that, for most people just holding their meat budget constant and buying local meat from producers they know and trust would solve two problems at once. "

This a million times.
For me, it means reducing the number of lovely bloody juicy steaks that I eat alone and in total silence to about 2 times a year.
My meat loving, omnivorous diet is about 2% meat. Meat is very special (take bacon for example) and should be treated as such.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 6:53 PM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am vegetarian and I try not to rub people's faces in it, especially on Facebook. But I do post these types of links from time to time and try to fight the good fight whilst remaining passive about it, usually with gentle push to end the ignorance without making someone feel bad about their dietary habits. My dietary habits are far from perfect, but I refuse to eat CAFO meat ever again, even if I start eating meat.

The quote I used from the article is:

"People need to fight while there’s still time. We’re not trying to end meat or start a panic. But there’s a decent way to raise animals for food, and this is the farthest thing from it."

This sort of allows my friends and family to know that may not know where their meat comes from, but hopefully, will spark enough interest so that they will care enough to at least look for alternatives, grass-fed, local, hunted, whatever, anything but the CAFO.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 6:53 PM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


So I think a good campaign would be 'Half'

Consume

- Half the meat
- Half the bottled water
- Half the driving

As a longtime food ethics dilettante, I think this would get some who might never consider absolute denial to think about what they *could* do.
posted by j_curiouser at 6:56 PM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you’re a broiler chicken (raised specifically for meat), thanks to “meat science” and its chemical levers – growth hormones, antibiotics and genetically engineered feed

I get we're going for drama but no chicken in the US is allowed to be fed growth hormones. We have enough trouble with credibility among the American people without this kind of blatant falsification leaving their credibility wide open.
posted by Talez at 7:11 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a longtime food ethics dilettante, I think this would get some who might never consider absolute denial to think about what they *could* do.

Hell, the Meatless Mondays campaign lately is a great start.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:18 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, we can't not go there. Especially since I don't know where "there" is.

"There" is comments like " is it elitist to suggest that you might benefit greatly by upgrading your food imagination and cooking skills?" Nobody here knows anything about loquacious' cooking skills or ' food imagination,' or why beans may not be a viable choice but loquacious.

This post outlines several reasons why the "why don't poor people eat beans?" argument can come off as tone-deaf and patronizing. See also this FPP from a couple weeks back.

I don't eat meat often and don't cook it at all. I will gladly make you a chickpea burger or a vegan cookie that will knock your socks off. I'm one of the founders of this community garden, and I love that it's taken on a bigger education and cooking class component since I moved away and stopped volunteering there. I'm outraged by the content of this article, and so impressed by the tenacity of the undercover activists who've made a career of exposing these abuses.

But I also believe that individual people know their own food situation best, know their own time, budget, and cooking limitations. Let's talk about how awesome these undercover agents are and how to stop ag gag bills, not turn this into another venue for judging how poor people eat.
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:30 PM on December 15, 2013 [32 favorites]


In my family, we buy our beef by the quarter from a producer who lets them graze under the open sky until their final day -- as he puts it, "they don't know a bad moment in their lives, except one." I am comfortable saying that this meat is raised humanely. It's a big outlay, especially when you factor in the chest freezer we need to store it in, but it works out to about $4/lb cut and wrapped. If we can get another freezer, I'm going to do our pork there too. I make my own sausage and my own bacon already.

Beans and rice are cheap as hell, but my daughter has a digestive / metabolic condition that means that she can't eat beans; her only safe sources of protein are animal in origin. We buy our eggs from a family friend, our meat as described above, and I'm trying to work out a humane source of poultry that I can afford, but this child really does need to eat animal products three times a day -- her alternative is plain white rice.
posted by KathrynT at 7:43 PM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I ate hoppin' john yesterday and today and I gotta tell you, my farts have been frequent and loud. They smell fantastic too!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:12 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that some individuals' dietary needs might necessitate animal proteins in no way contradicts the general statement that meat eating should be greatly reduced in the population at large, any more than the fact that some people benefit from taking adderall contradicts the observation that it is being over-prescribed.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:14 PM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


It does, however, mean that it's a bit glib to suggest that the only reason people aren't eating beans and rice is because they need to "upgrade their food imagination and cooking skills." There's a lot more to choosing the appropriate diet for your situation than that.
posted by KathrynT at 8:23 PM on December 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


Metafilter: You might upgrade your food imagination & cooking skills
posted by Going To Maine at 8:29 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Talez..."I get we're going for drama but no chicken in the US is allowed to be fed growth hormones."

Honestly curious... how do you know this to be a fact?
posted by matty at 8:30 PM on December 15, 2013


From The Poultry Site: Chickens Do Not Receive Growth Hormones: So Why All the Confusion? (tl;dr: legally banned since the 1950s.)
posted by Going To Maine at 8:35 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The characteristic of the factory planet is the capitalist subsumption not just of production, not just of consumption, not just of social reproduction (as in Fordism), but of life’s informational, genetic and ecological dimensions, with the implications reverberating back on all the other moments of its circuit.--"Twenty-First Century Species-Being" / Nick Dyer-Witheford [pdf].
posted by No Robots at 8:42 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


any more than the fact that some people benefit from taking adderall contradicts the observation that it is being over-prescribed

Someone's been reading a bit too much NYTimes. Reset your perspective, man.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:14 PM on December 15, 2013


HOWEVER, my gripes about people who promote a plant-only diet as though it's a panacea aside, CAFO and industrial meat operations are a sin and a shame. We eat a LOT of meat in my family, between my daughter's fructose malabsorption and my blood sugar issues, but I work hard to make sure I avoid industrial meat production as much as possible because it horrifies me. I place my family's health above the wellbeing of animals, sorry to say, but that doesn't have to be a zero sum game; we can all do something to help undo this horror.
posted by KathrynT at 9:17 PM on December 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


This article was kind of 'duh' for me. If you don't know how animals are treated in factory farms, then you probably live under a rock. It says a lot of the same stuff that's been said, time after time. I don't know. Just once, I'd like a big article like this to talk about animal cruelty and the poverty/food crisis in the same breath, and with the same depth. I waver before making this comparison, but the people who cry for abolishing factory farms without also talking about the millions going hungry remind me an awful lot of people who want to ban abortion but don't offer alternatives/help after the fetus is born.
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:34 PM on December 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


"loquacious, is it elitist to suggest that you might benefit greatly by upgrading your food imagination and cooking skills? When my budget goes south, I don't turn to cheap, crappy meat of dubious quality and low nutritional value. I think rice and beans, pasta with greens, etc., just like my impoverished Sicilian immigrant grandparents did."

Look, man, I know Loq. I've also lived my whole life as a vegetarian, including some times as a desperately poor one. Getting sanctimonious about this shit is counterproductive and just makes you look like an asshole.

Sure, you can get by on $2 of beans a day (buy 'em dry, soak 'em, etc.), but that's not easy to keep up, and requires things like a reasonable kitchen and living space. There's more infrastructure than you think, especially if you've got other issues going on (homelessness, mental health, shit like that).

This shit isn't even really solved on the individual level anyway, so getting all het up about Loq's cheap burgers isn't going to solve anything.
posted by klangklangston at 9:54 PM on December 15, 2013 [18 favorites]


As a side note, anybody know what this kind of web design is called or tutorials on how to set it up? Is it jscripts that let the multimedia pop when you get to a certain scroll point? I'd like to play around with something similar, but I want to start a lot simpler than what they've got here.
posted by klangklangston at 9:56 PM on December 15, 2013


A wave of new laws, almost entirely drafted by lawmakers and lobbyists and referred to as “Ag-Gag” bills, are making it illegal to take a farm job undercover; apply for a farm job without disclosing a background as a journalist or animal-rights activist; and hold evidence of animal abuse past 24 to 48 hours before turning it over to authorities.

There are aleady laws against industrial espionage and fraud. It seems hugely counterproductive for the meat industry to single themselves out like this.
posted by three blind mice at 10:16 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: looks like CSS3 transitions at first glance. It's pretty straightforward to apply different transitions to a list of items over time (which makes the bubbles slide up over the image, for example) using jquery, a popular javascript library that makes it easier to manipulate the underlying html. Trigger the animation when you scroll past it, job done.

jquery waypoints for example, will let you run a javascript function when you hit a certain point in the viewport (ie. what you want to mess with is on screen), and this is a decent site to get you started on css transforms and transitions.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:55 PM on December 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


But the logic of industrial agriculture (efficiency, scale, return on investment) seems antithetical to humane conditions for the animals themselves and the workers. Is there a "right" or at least a better scale of production?

Right. It is the nature of markets to maximize exchange value above all other concerns. Since money is being used as the sole determining factor here, if it becomes a problem for their customers, if it's cheaper to fight it with a PR campaign than by changing how they keep their animals, or by trying to avoid exposure of their practices, that's absolutely what managers are going to use.

I'm not going to say "I don't see why anyone's surprised," because rightfully cases of suffering and neglect should always shock, but the system is set up this way. I'm not going to say on purpose -- rather, it's fallen into this low-energy state because of the primacy of economic concerns above all others, and it's a convenient state for powerful interests to be in, so they have no interest in changing it.

This is a perfect case for the use of regulation. And that's why those companies fight regulation tooth in nail -- because it's cheaper for them to do so than to change their means of caring for their livestock.
posted by JHarris at 12:03 AM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Might be interested in 'Every Twelve Seconds' a PhD thesis from an anthropology student who worked in one for a while (excerpt tab has the intro).
posted by YouRebelScum at 12:16 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


klangklangston, try googling for "Parallax Design or Parallax Scrolling." I'm not sure everyone accepts this label, but it should get you started.
posted by interstitial at 12:57 AM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


JHarris: Aren't these companies clamoring for regulations (to make whistleblowing illegal)?
posted by el io at 1:39 AM on December 16, 2013


I suspect a part of the problem is we are encouraged to over consume protein

It's not just protein. I've tried going vegetarian, with iron-rich foods, including eggs, and promptly got anemic. "Promptly" like three months out. My body seems to tend towards anemia; since puberty, every single year I go through a period of more or less severe iron deficiency, shown by red blood cell counts that have never been near normal. (Iron is used to make hemoglobin, part of red blood cells, and carries oxygen through your body. Not enough iron = fewer and smaller red blood cells.) My red blood cell counts only veer into sub-normal territory without supplements when I'm eating meat regularly. The issue with iron, too, is that, no, you cannot just take supplements. My body clearly doesn't take in non-heme (non-meat-origin) iron well, even when vitamin C is added. It only does well when iron from meat is also present. From that NIH link: "Total dietary iron intake in vegetarian diets may meet recommended levels; however that iron is less available for absorption than in diets that include meat. Vegetarians who exclude all animal products from their diet may need almost twice as much dietary iron each day as non-vegetarians because of the lower intestinal absorption of nonheme iron in plant foods." Don't take supplements without a blood workup and doctor OK, either: "Iron overload is a condition in which excess iron is found in the blood and stored in organs such as the liver and heart. Iron overload is associated with several genetic diseases including hemochromatosis, which affects approximately 1 in 250 individuals of northern European descent."

In other words, yes, it is a privilege to be able to be vegan or vegetarian. If you can't afford to go to a GP for a blood workup, which often requires another paying visit to a separate laboratory, and then a third visit to return to your GP for analysis of the results, then you don't have the luxury of saying "I'll go vegan and take supplements" without risking potentially severe consequences. And then, even if you do have a medical green light, what happens if, like me, your body goes, "nope, I'm gonna pass out without warning, tremble unpredictably, forget basic tasks, and sleep 12 hours a day until you start eating meat again"?

Thankfully I grew up across from a humane meat processing plant and knew the cows we eventually ate. They were happy cows; a couple friends from that area have ended up taking over their parents' ranches. They care about their animals. Now that I live in France, there are several labels, the best-known being Label Rouge, for food origins. That also includes humane treatment requirements all along the line, which are verified by regular, independent, third-party inspections. The English Wikipedia translation is far too terse: the Label Rouge (FR) is mostly used for poultry, beef, fish, and pork. This does mean that meats without a label should be viewed warily, and unfortunately they are still around, as are inhumane practices of shipping live animals across the continent. It is at least possible, though, to find affordable, humanely-raised meat, and work towards increasing awareness of abuses elsewhere so that they can be reduced (hopefully eliminated one day).

I'm continually surprised that there is no such independent regulatory oversight in the US. It really is tragic. It is an embodiment of the cruelties visited upon those with the least privilege in a system that refuses to take responsibility for its darkest sides. It's vicious towards people too: who buys meat most likely to be the product of animal abuse before it became "meat"? Those with the least means, because it's usually the cheapest. And then as we can see even in this thread, those with the least means are told that they should just do better. "Do better" should be told to those with the power to actually regulate the system and enforce regulations. Dictating diet will not and cannot work. We all have different needs.
posted by fraula at 1:55 AM on December 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


You realise your specific iron requirements are unusual fraula?
I am sure you know all this, but I find living on a vegan diet can easily provide enough iron, the trick is to make sure you are ingesting vitamin C at the same time as the iron rich source. This is also easy because the foods that are high in vitamin C are likely to be ingested at the same time as the ones that are high in iron. Cooking in stainless steel or cast iron also helps. Vegans should aim to have twice the amount of iron in their diet due to the fact that it is less well absorbed than iron from animal sources.

Recommended daily intake of iron for male adults is 8mg and 18mg for women.
Iron content per 100g

10. Sprouted Lentils – 3 mg
9. Raw Scotch Kale – 3 mg
8. Pinto Beans – 3 mg
7. Tofu – 5 mg
6. Dried Peaches or Apricots - 6 mg
5. Baked Potato with Skin – 7 mg
4. Raw Cashews – 7 mg
3. Pumpkin Seeds – 15 mg
2. Spirulina – 28 mg
1. Enriched Cereals – the amount of iron per 100 g serving varies, but these topped the list for sure.

Thyme has 17.4mg/100g. Cocoa powder has 13.9mg iron/100g. Red meat has around 1.5mg iron per 100g.

Sources of vitamin C, per 100g

1. Hot chili peppers 242.5mg
2. Guavas 228mg
3. Bell peppers 184mg
4. Thyme 160mg
5. Kale (raw) 120mg
6. Broccoli 89mg
7. Kiwi fruit 93mg
8. Papaya 62mg
9. Orange 59mg
10. Strawberries 59mg

So the winner is thyme with 17.4mg iron and 160mg vitamin C (parsley also has 6.2mg iron and 133mg vit C). For me that means a zaatar fatira (£1) from the Turkish place every now and then. Zaatar also contains sesame seeds, a good source of calcium. The other winner is cocoa powder, with 13.9mg iron per 100g. Or more specifically, the other winner is anyone that likes hot chocolate or high percentage chocolate because it's a superfood! No excuse necessary.
I would also suggest tempeh is superior to tofu in many ways and now I can get fresh tempeh from Holland at £1.50 for 500g it is no longer an expensive luxury.

Having said that, I know that some for some conditions red meat is pretty much necessary for iron intake. I have a relative who suffers from anaemia has been prescribed red meat once a week (as well as avoiding gluten, solanaceae and some fruit) and is much the better for it. She was not vegetarian, she just dislikes red meat.

So yes, everyone is different, but most people can live well on a vegan or vegetarian diet. When I give blood it just serves as an excuse for increased chocolate intake and making spinach and peanut butter for dinner!

Admittedly it is a lot easier to find cheap and nasty food than it is to find cheap and good food, but that is the same for most things in the consumer paradise that we live in.
posted by asok at 4:38 AM on December 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


JHarris: Aren't these companies clamoring for regulations (to make whistleblowing illegal)?

They are. I didn't say that regulations could not be misapplied. Your point?
posted by JHarris at 5:16 AM on December 16, 2013


I remember watching a documentary about vivisection and animal rights activists and there was a bloke on there who seemed like a philosopher or something and he said something like:

"We're very immature as a society. No one wants to know whats happening behind the closed doors and that's what enables abuse. How many people would still make these purchases if they knew the suffering involved in the production?"

Its stayed with me ever since, in general we've got our collective head in the sand regarding the horrors inflicted on animals. Kudos to RS for opening our eyes again, may we forever be awake to it.
posted by misterG at 6:09 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


... and run by a CEO who says things like, "[a] careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That's because there isn't any. This 'right' has never existed in America." If this is what he thinks of his fellow Americans, I'm not about to trust his judgment about what constitutes humane slaughter, or his company's self-policing as far as their "Animal Welfare Standards" are concerned.

Ok, I'll bite. Can you point me to the provision in either document where this right is guaranteed? I'm not a Constitutional law scholar, but I think point to the founding documents and making this statement is fine if it's true. It doesn't negate the other side of the argument. We have all kinds of laws not covered in those documents.

Those documents also mention nothing about the space program or digital downloading of music. That doesn't make these things good or bad. It just means they weren't mentioned.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:13 AM on December 16, 2013


The constitution expressly only enumerates a limited number of rights. The whole idea at the time was that inalienable human rights were self-evident and natural and didn't need to be spelled out because they were so obvious to everyone. But indeed, "life" is spelled out explicitly as a right, and even the more nebulous "the pursuit of happiness"; it's hard for me and I suspect many others to see how you can guarantee a right that depends implicitly on others without also implicitly guaranteeing those lesser supporting rights. America has long held (at least, in its rhetoric) that there are universal human rights not merely established formally in law, but that actually lend authority to the law itself (if the state is legitimate, the authority for it to establish law is derived from the self-evident, inalienable rights of its people, which are the sole justification for the law--think social contract). In that view, even if the state doesn't explicitly define or establish a right, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. The state is supposed to be an apparatus for protecting and furthering human rights, not a machine for defining what human rights are.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:43 AM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I definitely think of Whole Foods as where rich people shop. We are in a good financial situation now but my wife still makes one trip there for meat and some produce and a separate trip to a "regular" store for staples and any processed foods such as boxes of cereal. When I was a musician I knew a lot of people who worked at Whole Foods, but nobody who shopped there. That was where the university professors and the like shopped.

Having said that, I would venture that it's *great* that more people are eating locally, buying organic, et cetera. It's a good influence on the system, and people should feel good about doing it, even if not everyone has the time or money to do it. But we definitely need more outreach to promote healthy eating at all income levels, and don't need to make people feel bad for their choices. Let's just give them better choices.

I am also going to point out that my wife is a saint. She works full time and still cooks super healthy food almost every night (don't worry, I do other equivalent things I hope). We eat a lot of veggie/vegan soups and stews, seasonal veggies, etc. We eat meat but we really appreciate it because it's not every night. In the last couple of weeks I've had some amazing bacon, a salad with a grilled chicken breast, and the best steak ever on our anniversary. All of those were ethically sourced, as much as that's possible.
posted by freecellwizard at 7:41 AM on December 16, 2013


Whole Foods prices really depend on where you are. Back in Michigan, it was a little pricier but pretty competitive, especially on produce and staples (canned beans, etc.). Here in LA, it's insanely overpriced, with $9 loaves of bread and shit. But back in Michigan, Trader Joe's actually has decent produce, whereas here it's totally remaindered shit from Von's and Ralph's.
posted by klangklangston at 7:52 AM on December 16, 2013


Getting sanctimonious about this shit is counterproductive and just makes you look like an asshole.

Since when is making a suggestion in the conditional mood "judging the poor" and "making" one look like an asshole? How asshole-ish one looks is, like beauty, very much in the eye of the beholder, and I can assure you the gaze extends in both directions. I mean, we were what, 10 comments into this FPP about animal torture for profit before the elitism fairy showed up. Vegetarians are accused of elitism and sanctimony all of the time, and frequently they deserve it... but just as often, if not even more frequently, they're just dealing the the guilty consciences and bad faith of the meat eaters.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:10 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since when is making a suggestion in the conditional mood

Since it's done in every thread about poor people and food and some person or people *always* come around to offer suggestions as if those things could not possibly have occurred to the poor person. It would be one thing if you knew the poor person personally and had an idea of what they could or could not do, and offered suggestions based on that. It would be one thing if the suggestion-offerer were like "Hey, I've been there. Memail me if you want to strategize."

Even if I didn't know loq - and I do - I would find it condescending and not-at-all helpful to see people assuming that loq didn't know about rice and beans. Yes, even if the advice is well-meant. Well-meant things can still be condescending as shit.
posted by rtha at 8:48 AM on December 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


Systemic problems require systemic solutions. Tasking the people with the least amount of institutional power to solve the problem through rearranging their personal lives is disrespectful and exposes our tendency to want to download problems onto those least able to solve them, rather than questioning the power structures that create and maintain these problems. People who care and who are able (financially, healthwise, skill-wise, etc.) should absolutely deal with their meat consumption better. That is a nice, and morally consistent, thing to do if you care about these issues. But it is not the be-all, end-all answer to this very large and complex problem. The answer has to be bigger than that. The answer has to be something that forces those in power (large food producers) to act decently from the top down.
posted by Ouisch at 8:49 AM on December 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


That video half way down - its so hard to watch. This is the Stanford Prison Experiment writ large. Here is a question, in the face of all this suffering, what are the good reasons for eating meat in countries where we're not deprived of other sustenance?
posted by misterG at 8:51 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


what are the good reasons for eating meat in countries where we're not deprived of other sustenance?

Again, some of us have health conditions that mean that eschewing meat results in much, much worse health. That doesn't mean that we don't have the same responsibility to try and minimize the suffering we cause, but you asked about good reasons for eating meat, so there you go.
posted by KathrynT at 8:57 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Most of the "good reasons" are, I suspect, a powerful industry that heavily lobbies the government to ensure regulations remain lax in order to produce cheap meat, a consumerism-oriented culture with several meat-heavy diet traditions, and a population that actually does have a fair amount of food insecurity, which has recently been increasing in prevalence. Mix all those together and you've got a good recipe for a brutally unethical industry to have a strangle-hold on food production. The question to ask is, where is the root of the problem? The neoliberal answer would seem to be, "On individual people's dinner plates. Let the market correct itself." A more collectivist answer would seem to be, "In a power structure comprising government and industry that allows these abuses to occur and continue, and fosters a context within which individuals are either ignorant of the problem, or have little choice but to participate in the current system."
posted by Ouisch at 9:04 AM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Honestly curious... how do you know this to be a fact?

http://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/safetyhealth/productsafetyinformation/ucm055436.htm
No steroid hormones are approved for growth purposes in dairy cattle, veal calves, pigs, or poultry.
Growth hormones have been banned in poultry farming since 1956.
posted by Talez at 10:23 AM on December 16, 2013


Someone may have said this already, but the workers come to mind for me immediately when I watch these videos.

Remember that old line about the boss yelling at the man, who yells at his wife, who yells at the kids, who kick the dog?

More than just "animal cruelty" here, I see "release of pent-up frustrations by the socially marginalized onto the only available beings less powerful than themselves."
posted by jefficator at 10:46 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the impossibility of defining a new "work of man," it is now a question of taking on biological life itself as the last and decisive historical task. The "work" of the living being in accordance with logos is the assumption and the care of that nutritive and sensitive life on whose exclusion Aristotelian politics had defined the ergon tou anthropou--"The work of man" / Giorgio Agamben. In Giorgio Agamben: Sovereignty & Life / Matthew Calarco, p. 6.
posted by No Robots at 11:24 AM on December 16, 2013


el io: "
"Good firm tofu should be as cheap as cheap bread, but it's sold and marketed as a luxury item here in the US."

I'm not sure about that assertion, IMHO cheap bread is inedible crap (yay bread machines!), and Tofu is processed food - to expect dirt cheap high quality processed food seems an unreasonable expectation.
"

When I buy tofu directly from the maker, Lotus Markets in Pittsburgh's Strip District, it is cheap. The packaged stuff is expensive.

That fascinates me... but mostly I adore that I can eat so-fresh-it's-still-warm tofu cheaply.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:36 AM on December 16, 2013


buzzman: "Oh, a cow can get cancer; and still be slaughtered. For donation to local Indian tribes. As hamburger. Cheers."

Since the vast majority of cancers are not infectious across species borders... I'll agree this qualifies for "yuck", but not for "health concern."

OTOH, bruised meat cannot be sold for human consumption (quality control), and animals that cannot walk cannot be sold for human consumption (health control).

These articles always make it sound like the meat industry is composed of horrific nazi-esque death-camp guards who delight in torturing animals before slaughtering them, dumping poisons onto the raw meat, and packaging them under false labels to the unsuspecting consumer market.

When in fact, that describes less than 10% of the industry...
posted by IAmBroom at 11:47 AM on December 16, 2013


"Since when is making a suggestion in the conditional mood "judging the poor" and "making" one look like an asshole?"

Uh, since it starts like, "Loquacious, is it elitist to suggest that you might benefit greatly by upgrading your food imagination and cooking skills?" That's condescending.

I eat well, and even when I was dirt poor I still ate well, but I had a roof over my head and a fair amount of food preparation skill (God bless restaurant jobs). I think that most people can eat vegetarian and well, while being dirt poor, but that doesn't mean that I think everyone can nor that those who don't are moral failures. They've got their own shit to deal with, they don't need me judging their cooking skills or food imagination.

The best way to describe my moral relationship with vegetarianism would be Aristotelian habit; I was raised that way, it takes no special effort for me to eat that way and I happen to think that it's the best choice for me. It's not the best choice for everyone, and moreover I recognize that social problems require social solutions, not progressive in-fighting based on, as aptly put upthread, neo-liberal individualist assumptions.

(I'll also point out that plenty of organic, vegetarian, whatever food producers are unethical shits too — Eden Foods is run by a right-wing loon who wants to restrict birth control, and Organic Valley is as industrial as organic gets, and knowing more than a few Southwestern Wisconsin farmers, I don't have an entirely rosy view toward them.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:49 AM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


"When in fact, that describes less than 10% of the industry..."

If my sandwich is 10 percent shit, I'm not going to praise the bread.
posted by klangklangston at 11:50 AM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


That whizzing sound overhead was the punchline, klangklangston.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:44 PM on December 16, 2013


Er, then I didn't get it either?
posted by JHarris at 6:37 PM on December 16, 2013


No. I would have thought that "only 10% are horrific nazi-esque death-camp guards" should have tipped you off.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:05 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thyme has 17.4mg/100g. Cocoa powder has 13.9mg iron/100g. Red meat has around 1.5mg iron per 100g.

This is misleading. For you to manufacture blood cells the body needs iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid. Red meat? You get all three in one go. Red meat also has better bioavailability from its haem form of iron than that of vegetables so you're literally comparing apples to flank steaks at this point.

The problem is we eat too much red meat. You should only eat 2-3 ounces of red meat if you're having it as the animal protein part of a main meal.
posted by Talez at 5:28 PM on December 19, 2013


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