Mad Cows and Angry Chickens

on Thursday, May 31, 2007

When you think of a farm, do you picture rolling hills with cattle grazing freely or do you see a place where the cattle are locked and immobilized in cubicles and force fed grain and feed made from left over parts of other cattle? The farm of James Herriot's books or the mechanical farm similar to The Matrix.

Photo by itsgriff
Photo by aimhmga

Desmond Morris wrote a book in 1989 entitled, "The Animal Contract". In this book, he examines the evolution of farming. He holds that when men domesticated animals, the arrangement was one of mutual benefit. The farmer for much of human history took great care of his animals, providing them with food, care, shelter and a good life. Even though, the animals were being raised as food and destined for the dinner table, he argues that they were given a quality of life they would not otherwise have enjoyed in the wild. This give and take arrangement is the basis of the social contract between animals and farmers

I know that there are many vegans who feel we should not be farming any animals at all and that all farming is exploitation. However, I believe though that from the moment we are born, we have an impact on the world around us and it is a give and take relation. To live we need to consume resources which we do at the expense of other creatures and sometimes at the expense of fellow man. Every need, every action we take impacts on our world. We all consume water, breathe air, excrete waste, wear clothes, live in houses, travel in vehicles etc. All of these impact the world and is carried out at some expense to our fellow creatures.

Our task and our challenge is to reduce the impact of such actions so as to reach an acceptable equillibrium. In the case, of traditional farming, the equillibrium or the trade off was food in exchange of a better quality (and in some cases, longer life span) than the animal might expect living in the wild. Unfortunately, the quaint traditional farms of yesteryear have been increasingly replaced by large corporate farms which follow the mantra of optimising food and biomass production per square meter. They are definately more productive but their methods are a hazard to both man and beast.

These factory farming methods has led to widespread use of antibiotics and growth hormones in agriculture which are definately deleterious to our health. Mad cow disease and avian flu are greater threats because of this high intensity farming. The impact on animals has been frightful. Animals like cows and chickens are crowded together, often immobilised for their entire life. Such animals develop behavioral problems not unlike having a nervous breakdown. This has resulted in animals injuring themselves or others. To counter this, factory farms resort to mutilation of the animals through actions such as cutting off beaks. The animals are often force fed as well. Clearly the animals are not enjoying a better quality of life. Rather they are sentenced to solitary confinement in inhumanely close quarters awaiting execution. Desmond Morris would definately agree that we have breeched our social contract with farm animals.

I like the convenience of fast food joints but I feel we need to tell these food manufacturers that we want food from ethically managed farms where animals are treated with dignity and given a quality life. We need to say no to the nightmarish torture dungeons that farms have become today.

Many native cultures give thanksgiving either to God or to the spirits of the animals that were about to be sacrificed for food for their people. Perhaps we should try that the next time we order a Big Mac. Perhaps we should add our voices to those fighting for a more ethical approach to animal treatment in factory farms.

Please have a look at this flash animation which warns us further of the consequences of our inaction. You should see this if 1) you want to learn more and 2) if you share by wacky sense of humor.


Top cat said...

I only buy cage free, free roam eggs.
It's quite a bit more expensive but I don't want to contribute to mistreated chickens.

Great post lsg.

Josie said...

That was WONDERFUL...! Cows with gunnnns. Ha!

I only buy free range chick and eggs as well, and I rarely eat beef. I prefer chicken and fish, but NOT farmed fish, only wild.

Did you ever read "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson? Fabulous book.


Cheryl said...

I'll check out that site. It's so sad to see those cows in their tight pens, their lives reduced to eating and standing in place.

Melanie said...

thanks for this. i'm doing what i can, although it can be really hard sometimes to change a lifetime of food habits. i really wish that there were more protections in place for farmed animals, since moral responsibility seems to have been completely removed from the equation.

meggie said...

I dont eat any red meats, & not a lot of pork or chicken. I often think of the spirit of the animal, or even the plants we eat. I had tears in my eyes as I read your post, because it is what I believe. We have lost the art of respecting the animals, & all forms of life.

evalinn said...

Cows are my favorit animal, and these cows rock! However it got me a bit worried, what kinda cow is a "he" and has a an udder..? The "hes" are usually called bulls...but then maybe this is the kind of genetical modification that will stirr up the cow with guns! (I may have to steal this peace from you.)

geewits said...

Cows are scary. My first husband was raised on a ranch. About 20 years ago I was in a truck camper with his aunt in the middle of a field in New Mexico where the men were castrating young bulls. The Momma Cows were very distressed by the cries of their young and were raising holy hell. I thought they were going to tip over the camper. I was scared to death!

Jay said...

I can never quite reconcile myself to those over-stuffed farms. When I was growing up the family farm was mostly crops, but we lived in a place where the other local farmers were all still doing it the old-fashioned way.

Becky Wolfe said...

Interesting. I always felt like I was doing my part a bit because I buy local free-range chicken eggs (or go home to my parents & grab them from the nests for free) and I try to stock my freezer with half a local hormone-free cow each fall and then pat myself on the back for our healthier choices - but then I also think of how often we eat out - burgers here, chicken nuggets there and realize, yes, the meat or products for this meal were probably from one of those inhumane farms. Not that a world-wide fast food chain like McDs will likely change their policies, but at least we can be informed better about our choices :)

Always makin me think my friend!

Molly said...

I like the James Herriot version, but I know that kind of farming is not so common any more. Still, cows can still be seen, grazing in fields, over the stone walls in the Irish countryside. Even here, in this part of Florida, it's a common sight, when out driving, to see cows chewing langorously under huge spreading oaks, bedecked with trailing scarves of Spanish moss--- the oaks, not the cows!

As for the chickens, it is unbelievably inhumane to pack them tightly together for their whole lifespan. Cutting off their beaks?? Shouldn't that be illegal?? I always buy organic or free range eggs, as I don't think any creature should suffer unduly to provide me with an omelet or a tasty chicken cutlet.....

Mystic Wing said...

I'm comfortable with the fact that the human species is an omnivore for whom carnivorousness is perfectly acceptable. But having grown up surrounded by genuine farms where animals were lovingly cared for, even if they were raised as food, I too, am disturbed by how Chicken McNuggets are obtained.

Thanks for a very thought-provoking post.

kimber the wolfgrrrl said...

Thanks for such a thoughtful post, LGS. I think our culture has forgotten to be respectful of many things we rely upon: environment, forests, air quality, oceans, animals, the list goes on and on.

I have been a vegetarian for almost twenty years because yes, changing what I choose to eat is an easy way (relatively easy, that is) to lessen the impact that my actions have on the environment. If I've killed it myself, I'll eat it, but if I don't know where it's come from, then no thanks. :)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

You're such a wonderfully caring cat.

The song was stuck in my head for hours. I give presentations and talk about Rachel Carson and her book all the time but *confession*, haven't actually read the book yet.

yeah, its just cruel.

I too am a work in progress, trying to improve and reduce my impact on the environment.

first we lose respect of mother earth, then for animals and ultimately for each other. Let's swim against this tide!

Congrats for noticing that Cow Guru and his lads are not anatomically correct and in fact should be called bulls!

exactly why we should take the bovine threat seriously.

Farm girl?

Thanks for doing the right thing. As for MacD's, I too patronise far too often because of convenience. But let's keep trying to improve.

Let's bring back the old farms. Chickens have the tip of their beaks cut off so that they cause less damage when they lash out and peck. this is brought on by the over-crowding.

mystic wing,
thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. Yeah, I too worry about McNuggets!

you are way ahead of me in acting and living with a greater world consciousness. Keep it up and thanks for the encouragement here.

Proxima said...

Ah, yes. I think you already know I'm on your side for this one. I did a similar food post that I'm pretty sure you commented on.

Open Grove Claudia said...

I just love Big Macs. I'm certain I will spend an eternity in hell for it.

evalinn said...

...bulls with tits?

CS said...

I spent the latter half of my childhood on a small family farm where were slaughtered our own cows. I was saddened by it, but felt that they at least had a good life until then. My stomach churns when I see cows in their cramped pens, or chickens being carted away in cages on the chicken trucks. Now I buy eggs from cage-free chickens and wild-caught fish when possible, and no other meat. Just trying to remember my place on a very small planet.

Lisa said...

It's easy for me. I don't eat flesh.


And I grew up in an Italian family on the most flesh based foods one could find.

Then I saw a slaughterhouse video.

It ended there.

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