This is from People Magazine: “American’s bacon craze is far from over. During the bacon-obsession boom we have been blessed with bacon pop tarts and bacon boxers, and we now know what happens to your body when you eat too much bacon: cancer. But the trend will never die. Maybe that’s a good thing, though, because it’s given us yet another way to celebrate this hallowed breakfast meat: Camp Bacon.”
This is from Food & Wine: “Bacon Explosion is a football-size, bacon-wrapped cake made of bacon-stuffed sausage. We brag about eating bacon. Bacon may not be a controlled substance, but it is pure pleasure, sensual to its core, a concentrated wave of ecstasy. Nothing brings the bliss like bacon: a sudden rush of saltiness and sweetness and fat and smoke, and no fewer than six types of umami. A bite of bacon is candy and cream and sizzling steak and smoky barbecue, all at once. It is, in a word, explosive, and it’s an explosion that will only stop when its fuel—our appetite for it—runs out. Which is to say, never.”
This is from PIG TALES: “Pigs can’t even turn around in factory farm pens, and develop raw wounds rubbing against their bars. If the ventilation system failed they would die by suffocation from the noxious gases. Farmers are not required to treat the vast amounts of waste, and they spray it onto fields where it is washed into waterways. 97% of hogs are raised on factory farms, forbidden to be filmed by the press. They are fed a continuous dosage of antibiotics that leads to the development of drug resistant superbugs that sicken or kill thousands of humans each year. Pigs have their tails and testicles removed without anesthesia, and are often dipped alive into scalding water. USDA inspectors who report such things are disciplined or transferred.”
Having done research on hogs for my novel THE METHUSELAH GENE, I know them to be intelligent creatures that are used to grow human organs due to their being similar to us genetically. But whenever you challenge belief systems you run into criticism. This happens on all levels, especially in a culture of confrontation and “my opinion is as good as yours.” In the case of animal rights, there are the opposing views that food animals have no rights (mostly the meat industry) versus the vegan argument that animals are not property (and all consumption of them is morally unjustified.) There is a third view in which largely vegetarians argue that factory farms abuse animals, and so they point to consuming only grass fed or free range animals in small amounts, if at all. The first two sides are adamant and unlikely to change. The third gets attacked by both sides. What I would argue is this third view. Why? Here are some reasons to contemplate.
1) A law of logic states that “differences in degree constitute differences in kind.” Of course it would be great if everyone stopped eating meat. Beef production is bad for the environment, and grain fed beef is bad for both the animals and the people who eat them. Cows were not meant to eat grain, and when they are fed grain in crowded environments (with or without hormones) they get sick and are slaughtered just before collapsing, many of them. If one focuses on the idea of diminishing the amount of meat eaten (highest of all in the USA, which also has the highest cardiovascular and cancer cases, shown to partly be a result of eating red meat), along with the kind of meat eaten, fewer animals would suffer. Sticking with the first two stances (wrong or right) is quite simply illogical and uncompromising. Both end up preaching to their respective choirs, pounding their podiums and inspiring yawns (or ridicule from the other side.) Like the Trump philosophy versus the EPA. (He loves to eat pork.)
2) To convince people to eat less meat, science stands ready. Read HOW NOT TO DIE, and PIG TALES, among other books. Diseases and hormones are less prevalent on free range farms than in factory farms. Healthy animals are healthier to eat. This obvious fact is ignored by the other two sides. Also ignored is the fact that the animals live better lives. Is healthy not better than unhealthy? Is it not less cruel to let animals run free than to keep them in pens above their own feces, never seeing the light of day? Their waste pollutes the environment, and few report on it or investigate it. The meat lobby sued Oprah just for saying she was afraid to eat burgers (for a while.) Finally, in the book THE MIND SPAN DIET the director of genetics studies at Harvard shows that dementia is the result of too much iron in the diet. The worse type of iron comes from red meat, while Americans already get 100 times the amount of iron than they need, “and the dosage is toxic.” Alzheimers, Parkinsons, and iron: there is a link. Only in America is iron added to all flour products, labeled as “enriched,” too. In countries which don’t do this, (and which eat less meat) the rates of dementia is far lower. Big Pharma sells more drugs due to diseases caused by eating cheap meat advertised 24/7 on TV. This fact too is not mentioned by either of the first two sides in this argument. So the latest science says eating less meat is healthier, but the vegans pounding their podiums never mention it. What if they did? Would not fewer animals suffer as a result?
3) In a recent Pig Trial in Canada a woman was arrested and judged for giving water to pigs en route to slaughterhouses. She would get out at stoplights to water the hot, panting dehydrated pigs. Her lawyer argued that she did not impede the progress of the company, or cost them money. She won the case, but the hog industry actually won because it is now on the record that as long as they water their pigs they cannot be sued for exploiting them in other ways. In short, her lawyer had agreed that the company “owned” the pigs, as property. See how tricky the system is? In America the lobby for meat is very strong. Or as Trump would put it, “very, very strong.” There are lobbyists for Big Pharma too. Is there a connection? You bet. These CEOs know each other on a first-name basis. As the author of THE BLACK SWAN and ANTIFRAGILE put it, “They don’t make money if you eat vegetables grown in your own garden, or run on rocks barefoot without a cell phone.” Not that everyone should get off the grid permanently, but he makes a good point: Less is more. Small business is better than big business, both for the environment and for consumers. “Artisans make wine, giant corporations make soda and other things that clog up your body’s signaling system. Then they argue that they employ many thousands of people, so they get favors from the government in getting taxpayers to clean up their messes.” No one in the traditional media ever states the true cost of eating a burger at a fast food chain, including the health costs borne by increased premiums due to ER emergency procedures from uninsured poor people targeted by junk food ads featuring grain-fed cheap meat. (Read MEATONOMICS.) Why don’t they cover it? Those ads pay their salaries. Meanwhile the public is hooked, duped, and the dogs in America eat better than kids do. (Many dog food products are “100% Grain Free, Grass Fed Beef, with Added Vitamins and Minerals.”)
4) Speaking of dogs, the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in China is history. That’s good news, and cause for celebration. Dogs stolen in the countryside were tortured under the belief that the more cruel you were to them, the better the meat tasted. Some were torched alive, their muzzles wired shut. Those people deserve prison, but in China even human rights are violated, so animal rights are “back burner.” This sad tradition continues elsewhere in Asia, including Korea. It’s a different culture. In India cows are sacred. One man’s pet is another man’s dinner. All animals deserve better. Turn on the TV, though, and you are bombarded with ads for the “Baconator” (like the Terminator) from Wendy’s or with Arby’s “We have the Meats!”
5) There is also a religious aspect to it neither side talks about. Take Chick-Fil-A for example. Closed on Sunday, they are proud of Christian beliefs, and advertise that their chickens are hormone free. This does not mean that the birds are treated humanely, however. (A recent article in Scientific American showed that chickens are smarter and more aware of their surroundings than most people believe.) Most Chick-Fil-A chickens are not free range, and come from Tyson. What do they believe? That humans are not animals, but above all animals, created in the image of God. With Jesus returning soon to build a better world, in which “the lion shall lay down with the lamb” it follows that trying to save the environment is futile. Nationalist philosophy amplifies this hubris with a self-validating conceit, but everyone’s beliefs are certainly reinforced by social media filter bubbles, which feed back to consumers exactly the things they already believe (keeping them from seeing other viewpoints. Read THE FILTER BUBBLE.) To “win at all cost” is the goal of ISIS, which sees Earth solely as battleground for paradise in the next. Should it also be a Christian’s goal? Did not Jesus reject hubris and ego, siding with the poor by saying, “Except a man humble himself as a little child, he shall not see the Kingdom of God”? Certainly no Buddhist feels such pride or wears a bomb and attacks crowds of innocent people. They are more likely to be vegetarian, too. Neither is the NFL gridiron (temple for prayers and religion in itself) a major attraction to peaceful people. Patriots QB Tom Brady is considered the pinnacle of achievement in America, yet his wife Gisele recently revealed that he had a concussion in 2016 that went unreported by the NFL. The NFL denied it, but who should you more likely believe: his wife, or an organization with billions in revenue to defend, including from fast food and soda purveyors? Gisele is now involved in charity and environmental concerns, as was Kendall Jenner for a time. (Of course Kim & Kanye wear furs, too.)
People can change. Changing minds involves changing viewpoints, and speaking out against injustice. Seeing things through other people’s eyes. Including animal eyes.