I just finished Eating Animals. It’s our summer reading book at Carolina (and Duke) and I have come to a couple of quick conclusions. I’m never buying Smithfield products again. And I am still eating meat. Okay, so I admit to feeling a bit apprenhensive, not about eating animals, but about eating animals that were treated so inhumanely. I am appalled that the only way to eat meat nowadays is to support such cruel, secretive, moral-less companies like Smithfield, Tyson, and others. It is a travesty of which we are all involved.

The statistics really get to me, because when I read the facts about bycatch, and slaughter, factory farm living conditions, and environmental hazards, I am disgusted that we allowed our country to reach this point. Note, not surprised, but disgusted. However, I do not feel that eating animals is wrong, and I don’t feel that becoming vegetarian is the only way to combat the problem. Yes, hearing the atrocities committed at the factory farms should influence us to make changes. Whether that means eating less or no meat, eating meat from family farms, protesting, joining PETA, or something of the like, we cannot be silent any longer. I firmly believe that. We can’t keep supporting these bad companies. But something else is horribly, horribly wrong. Almost as wrong as the blantant abuse within the factory farms: Our Government.

Lord knows I love the United States. I thank my lucky stars that I was born here, and I take pride in everything that makes us who we are, and in how far we’ve come. But Jonathan Foer’s book shed light on yet another source of travesty of justice in this country – the USDA. The NC State Legislature. The Federal Government. All of these organizations had a hand in continuing the unacceptable behavior at the factory farms.

For example, USDA officials aren’t allowed on the kill floor. How can that be? The government does not give proper laws for slaughter and living conditions, and they don’t enforce the ones in place. The USDA does nothing to uphold humane animal welfare, or to make sure the companies follow good practices. I think this should be addressed. Why aren’t these companies reprimanded? Officials catch them in the act, and still nothing becomes of the evidence. What sort of message is our government sending? That’s what makes me mad. They know about it, and still they do nothing.

Which brings me to the point. Most of our reactions are in reference to the animal abuse. If the USDA and other organizations did their job and stopped the abuse, would we feel better about eating animals? Would it bother us less if we could get all of our food from places where there was no inhumane treatment? I know this reality would be a very difficult one to produce in our current society, but I thinks it’s important to know what we are reacting to. Is it truly “eating animals” that is the problem, or is the the “means” of eating them? If it’s the latter, then we have more issues to deal with than becoming vegetarian. Because yes, we could stop supporting the factory farms, we could try to put them out of business, but whether we eat meat and dairy or not, someone will still be in there bashing a baby chicken or piglet into the floor. That will never be right, and that we need to address.

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