Treatment of Animals
By choosing to be a vegetarian, or even a pescetarian, you will actively participate in slowing down the slaughter of land animals.
For us, a large part of choosing to be vegetarian and aspiring to a holistic lifestyle has to do with the treatment of animals as a food source, with a key point being the cruelty that is inflicted on them during the process. On a lot of farms, inhumane treatment of the animals is par for the course, with hundreds – if not thousands – being crammed into filthy confinements with little ventilation, poor nutrition and non-existent care. The goal of this poorly designed structure is to maximize profit at the expense of another living being! This in turn invokes bad karma.
With the goal of more money in mind, the animals tend to suffer at the hands of the owners of such factory farms, which are defined as “large, industrial operations that raise large numbers of animals for food.” Without the industrial, it sounds like a good notion – the more food we can provide to our planet, the better. But what industrial really means is that these animals rarely see fresh air and sunshine, and will never know the freedom that is a right of birth for every living creature on this planet. They will be forced to eat unnatural foods laden with chemicals and hormones while subtly being modified to be more about food and less about intelligent nature.
The statistics regarding animal slaughter in North America are discouraging and wholly unsettling. In the last seven decades, the U.S. has seen animal slaughter increase from 0.1 billion a year to a startling 9.1 billion at the end of 2013, which includes 8.6 billion chickens, 32.4 million cows and 112 million hogs. (See chart below). The largest jump was seen between1985 to 1995, where the total number increased from 4.9 billion to 8 billion. It is somewhat encouraging to see that the numbers haven’t continued to climb since 2008. In fact, there has been an overall decline in animal slaughter in the U.S. after peaking in 2008. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next 5 to 10 years with increasing awareness of animal cruelty and the negative impact of eating a diet which includes such high quantities of meat has on human health.
There are several national and worldwide organizations that are dedicated to seeing animal abuse stop completely, and information about inhumane animal cruelty for the production of food is starting to make its way into the mainstream consciousness. It used to be considered a taboo subject to approach. A recent 2008 documentary about the food industry has been making waves with everyone who sees it. Food, Inc. takes an in-depth look at the travesty known as processed food production, most notably highlighting the treatment of the animals during their short, horrific lives. The movie examines the widespread practice of corporate farming, and shows viewers what happens before that delicious Chicken Parmesan is set in front of them. This type of agribusiness, or making profitable agriculture through stringent business practices, causes more harm than good, and is dissected through the eyes of Emmy-Award winning director Robert Kenner.
The film is split into three different sections that deal with meat, grains and vegetables, as well as product packaging and labeling; all things that the conscious consumer should be aware of. The industrial production of chicken, beef and pork has been shown to have a negative health impact on the people who eat it, causing harm and inflicting undue damage to society as a whole.
Negative Health Effects
Animals that are bred for human consumption on factory farms are often kept in unnatural lighting to facilitate desired behaviours and a faster growth cycle. Stress and fear hormones are produced when animals are kept against the state that nature dictates, and can bleed into the public food source. In addition to the natural hormones, animals are fed a chemically infused diet that often includes specially selected hormones to make the animals bigger, fatter and “better”.
Take beef, for example. Cows that are raised on factory farms are often fed a mixture of six artificial and natural growth hormones to facilitate faster growth while suppressing an animal’s natural tendencies to produce the hormones that have been genetically developed over centuries of selective breeding. According to the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures, these hormones can end up in your hamburger and ultimately affect the way your body processes its own hormones. The influence on your body from a persistently unnatural source can wear down its defenses over time.
Children, pregnant woman and fetuses in utero have a higher susceptibility to these chemicals, which can significantly alter growth patterns with repeated use. There are also a number of illnesses that have cropped up since factory farms have become more prevalent, like mad cow disease and the avian (bird) flu. This happens when animals are fed contaminated feed containing the protein from other animals, like sheep, and also proteins from their own species.
Mad cow disease, otherwise known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is a disorder that affects the nervous system and causes the brain to rot. The cause can be traced to a particularly abnormal protein surrounding the brains of animals, and causes fatality to the animal afflicted. If humans eat the diseased tissue from an animal suffering from mad cow disease they can develop a condition known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which can incubate in your body for years before displaying symptoms such as depression, dementia and difficulty walking, with a rapid, aggressive downhill slide as the disease quickly advances.
Bird flu, or avian influenza, manifests when humans come in contact with sick or dead poultry, a common occurrence on factory farms where chickens, ducks and other birds are kept in poor conditions with little care. It is highly contagious and is more likely to be caught by breathing in the pathogens of the disease instead of eating the animal infected, a much more dangerous scenario than previously imagined.
If one chooses to eat meat, an alternative is to consume ethically raised and fed animals, such as free run chickens or grass fed beef, rather than promoting the consumption of animals raised for mass production.
Vegetarianism and the Ayurvedic lifestyle find a way to celebrate nature without causing undue harm to the world. A way to live without unnaturally hurting other living things. The belief that what we do to other living beings affects our life beyond this one, as well as the understanding that what we eat ultimately affects who we are, is a harmonious balance of karma that keeps the vegetarian in check. Our consciousness as a collective can only evolve when we realize we are all here for a greater purpose, and that the ill treatment of another organism can only lead to our eventual detriment.
Go to www.humanesociety.org for much more information and statistics.
Note: These data do not include statistics on the slaughter of fish, crustaceans, rabbits, and other farmed animals for which the USDA does not provide information, or on the slaughter of animals that are not farmed, such as equines. The USDA estimates that up to 2 million rabbits were slaughtered in 2001 in the United States.