Friday, December 18, 2009

What the HELL are you eating?!

Hold on to your hats, errbody, cause it's about to get rul preachy up in here.

So B and I have both been reading the new book by Jonathan Safron Foer, "Eating Animals," and by "have been reading" I mean I obsessively poured over every single page in about two days because I just couldn't turn my head away, the same way you sit through those gory horror movies pretending to shield your eyes every time some poor moron gets a cleaver to the jugular but really you just can't stop looking because HOLY SHIT, YA'LL. This shit is DISGUSTING. It puts the lotion in the basket.

Yeah. It was kind of like that. DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE EATING?!

I've been sitting on the post for a few days, skimming over particularly horrendous passages from the book that I wanted to share here. The ones that would turn your stomach. The ones that made B put his head between his knees because he thought he was going to blow chunks all over our living room. The ones that horrified me and made me angry at myself and at all those people who allowed it to get to this point where no one wants to know where their hamburger comes from because they don't care and they're going to eat it anyway thankyouverymuch. Or if you do care, the paragraphs that would make you feel like the biggest asshole on the planet for even considering putting a hotdog in your mouth ever again.

Because I think people need to know. And as someone who writes words that occsionally get read by my mom, I feel like I have the responsibility to tell.

Throughout the book, Foer also examines the question of eating meat from a practical standpoint. Why would you want to give up something that means so much to you for reasons beyond just "eating?" Thanksgiving turkey at your grandparents. Seven fishes on Christmas Eve. Family barbeques in the backyard. What are those moments without that meat? At what point does eating become more than nourishing yourself?

Because he hopes, and so do I, that by learning about the way these animals live and die before they ever make it to your plate, you will care. Is a life filled with suffering and disease followed by a gruesome, painful death worth more than your ham sandwich?

But these animals -- these cows and chickens and pigs -- are different than our other domesticated animals -- our dogs and cats and horses. They are dumb, you think. They don't know any better, you say. Did you know that pigs are as intelligent as dogs? That they love to play, thrive with mental stimulation, and seek affection?

What would you do if you heard of a factory filled with thousands of caged dogs -- diseased and dying from lack of care; crazed from lack of social interaction and the ability to move, to even turn around in their confinement; with bones that are too brittle to support their weight; covered in painful open sores; never having stepped foot in grass or felt the sun or heard anything besides the buzzing of the artificial lights designed to control their gestation periods, the screaming of their neighbors, and the churning of the fans that, if stopped, would lead to the suffocation of every living creature present within minutes because of the amount of gases and pollution produced from such an environment? And I'm not even gonna get into the damage we've done to the environment.

You must know: This is not necessary to create meat. Humans have nourished themselves with meat for thousands of years. Factory farming however, is relatively new. Our grandparents didn't eat meat from factory farms. Our parents might not have either. But we do. And we have a responsibility because of that.

The price of meat has only slightly increased over the past 50 years (about 30 percent). While the price of everything else -- cars, home, clothes -- have increased by up to 140,000 percent. Because by taking these animals out of the pastures and stacking them in cages so small they cannot turn around; by altering them so significantly that those that survive suffer from horrible birth defects, deformities, and disease; by branding them, pulling out their teeth, chopping off their tails, and pulling off their beaks without anesthetic (because anesthetic costs money and they already spend money on antibiotics to keep the animals alive in such deplorable conditions long enough to kill them), the production of meat is faster and cheaper than ever before.

I'm also not going to get in to exactly how these animals are slaughtered because I just ate my breakfast, yo, and I'd like to keep it in my stomach. You're welcome. But I will say this: It is violent. It is painful. It is often inaccurate, leading to prolonged suffering. And it implores the use of tools and techniques you assumed were thought up by the sick minds that bring you movies about horror and torture. Where do you think these cinematic sickos got their ideas, after all?

One more time for effect: What if you learned a dog had been skinned alive and left on the feces-covered floor to finish dying?

I'm sorry, I had to.

We don't have to stop eating meat. But being as over 99 percent of meat sold today comes from factory farms, it would be hard not too. But there's always free range, right? Actually, when that package of bacon says "free range," it simply means the animals had "access to outdoors," and that in almost all of those cases "access to outdoors" means there was a window in the factory that lead to outside? Tricky bastards, no?

But again, we don't have to stop eating meat. But we can take responsibility and demand better meat. Meat that is actually meat, not cuts that've been injected with so much water and flavoring that it quadruples the actual weight of the flesh. Meat that comes from a real farm, that lived a real life, and that was slaughtered humanely.

Or we can just preheat the oven to 425 degrees and continue doing what we've done for the past 50 years.

I made the decision to not eat meat anymore. I could write a book about why I made this choice, but Jonathon Safron Foer already did. And don't think this will be easy. There's nothing I enjoy more than a juicy cheeseburger with some lettuce, tomato, onion, and extra katchup. So now, I'm just asking you to take responsibility too. To make smart decisions about the food you choose to nourish yourself. To know where it comes from and why. And to decide what that drum stick is worth to you. A moment on the lips, forever on your conscious's hips. Don't have a fat conscious. GET IT?!

Just think about and don't be an asshole, okay? GAD!

WOOF! I feel so much better now that THAT's out there. It was like holding in a fart all week. It was all I could think about and it was getting rul, rul uncomfortable. I'm sorry if it smells, but you're gonna have to live with it now. Enjoy your cheeseburger, you murderous murdering murder assholes!

We now return to our regularly scheduled Yellaphant program: WHO'S GETTIN' SHITTY WITH ME TOMORROW NIGHT?!?! SHOTS ON ME! God, that feels good.


Jen A. Miller said...

I've told you this before, and I shall say it again: Please read Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (and I know you will because you LISTEN TO ME!) A lot of what is said in the book you're reading is already IN Omnivore's Dilemma (and it's 1000x better written).

Anyway...yeah. Know where your food comes from. The area you're moving to has a mega huge foodie community and a lot of farms nearby.

De in D.C. said...

Ever read the pork expose from a couple years ago that was published in Rolling Stone? It probably doesn't say anything that Foer didn't cover in his book, but might be a bit more accessible for some people to read. Highly highly disturbing stuff.

Krysta said...

I first want to say that I totally agree with you. The conditions in factoring farming are so unbelievably appalling it is both heart-wrenching and disgusting to read about. It should also be pointed out that unless you are getting your meat from a very small and probably local farm where the farmer is slaughtering each and every cow and pig himself, chances are even the more “humane” animal farms send their animals off to traditional slaughterhouses to be killed. Similar, horrible, conditions exist in other farming industries where animals aren’t ultimately killed, i.e. dairy farming.

Even if you don’t believe that animals shouldn’t have to live and die in such deplorable conditions, meat and dairy consumers should consider exactly what is going into their own bodies when they eat or drink the flesh or milk of an animal who has lived in their own excrement, been pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, and are often full of disease. All of that goes right into your own body.

But it isn’t just food that people don’t want to know the origins of. In general, and especially in this consumer-driven world of abundance and consumption, people like convenience. They want what they want, when they want it. Regardless of how it got to them. Would people still buy those newest running shoes, or $5 t-shirts, or whatever else they just have to have if they really knew who was making these items and under what conditions. People, by and large, don’t want to know. Because they don’t want to have to make a choice between what they want and what is the most globally responsible choice.

I know that this comment has been, like, super preachy. And I don’t mean it to be. I, am far from perfect. While I have DRASTICALLY reduced the amount of meat or other animal products I consume, I will still have a piece of fish or slice of cheese pizza from time to time, maybe once or twice a month. I just think that it is interesting to consider if you would still eat and buy the things you have become accustomed to if you really knew exactly where they came from and what it took to get it to you. If you knew the impact it had on the environment, on future generations (your children, your grandchildren and they world they will live in), and on other human beings around the world.

Aura. said...

I've been a vegetarian since I was 15. John Robbins' Diet for a New America did for me what "Eating Animals" did for you.

I highly recommend the movie Fast Food Nation. Don't get your hopes up tooo high, it's not a very good movie (so why am I recommending it? highly? huh?), however it portrays the corruption and social exploitation found in the meat industry.

Even as a long-time vegetarian, I was surprised by the human-cost the meat industry presents. (BTW, I've read the book too, but it doesn't really *sell* it's message like the film)

Kait said...

Yeah, read Omnivore's Dilemma. When I read Foer's book I was like, "But Michael Pollan already did this...better."

rory said...

And let's don't forget veggies.
Take corn for example. One minute it's hanging with it's bro's, swaying softly in the warm summer breeze, minding it's own business, and the next a combine comes along and chops it down, shucks it, strips the kernels, and spits the cob out like a used condom.
I'm not eatin' anything anymore.
Just don't tell me any bad things about beer.

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LiLu said...

I did stop eating hot dogs for a few years when I found out what they were made of?

That's all I got.

omchelsea said...

You know, I've been called cynical multiple times in the last few days... and now I feel so much better about that.

Deidre said...

I've been a veggo since I was ten, and although I didn't stop eating meat because of the animals were treated it certainly reaffirms my choice to not consume those products. Good on ya, Bridget. And thanks for spreading the word.

Anonymous said...

good thing you're moving out of philly..hating on the cheesesteak

Xenia said...

Let me add yet another recommendation to read "The Omnivore's Dilemma". Totally brilliant. Hands down, the book that has had the biggest impact on my life of anything I've read in my 60+ years of life

Also recommend Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", which sensitizes you even further re how dangerously dependent we have become on the insiduous evolution of the agribusiness industry, which we've mindlessly nurtured. (That includes me, BTW.)

I love Pollan's mantra: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Vote with your feet -- and your wallet. Find out who's in the food production biz in your area. Buy as much as you can from them. When possible, ask about the origins of the meat you buy, then check them out. Ask them how they "grow" the flesh they sell.

To the extent we put pressure on the sellers at every level, we add to the groundswell. It won't change overnight, but it might change in a generation or two? It might even be the 'cure' to the obesity epidemic in America? And you will have been a positive influence.

At the end of your life, what more could you ask for?

Good on ya', Yellephant, for raising the battle-cry: THINK before you eat!

Lora said...

I've been wanting to read this book. I read Fast Food Nation, and all it did was make me crave fast food, which I never eat. Seriously, I maybe eat it once or twice a year, but in the week or so that I read that book, I ate it every other day.

I'm anti-meat, in general. I don't restrict it or abhor it, but I hate the industry. I maybe eat it a couple times a year.

Also, watch Corn King.

I am obsessed with the corn industry.
It's disgusting.

Nose in a Book said...

Yeah, I've been veggie more than half my life for these and other reasons. I've been determined not to preach at those close to me to stop eating meat but I am happy that my teachings about eating organic, properly free range meat are seeping through. My parents live in the countryside and always have, yet it took my bugging for them to discover great local farms that sell well raised meat and eggs.

Well done on having the courage to say these things. And here's to sticking with it.

kateyleigh said...

i ordered the book from amazon yesterday. i'm nervous. i don't do well with cruelty to animals. but i had to buy it... as soon as i read your post, that book has not left my mind... i had to buy it. i gave up red meat almost 15 years ago... i have a feeling i'm about to give up the rest of it... things are about to CHANGE


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