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Horrorshow

October 31, 2013

This is Halloween. I don’t know when the scary got replaced by sexy. Maybe it’s more terrifying to have our daughters dress up as a sexy slice of pizza than it is to come face to face with a vampire in the chill of a dark October night.

But do you want to know what I am scared of?
Militant vegans with a video camera.
And I don’t even own a farm.

So today, in the spirit of the holiday, I have something especially horrifying for you to watch. And I’m putting the video after the jump because all joking aside, it’s terribly disturbing.

On the upside, it does feature the amazing James Cromwell.

You should know going into this video that its producers have an agenda. The group that made it is called Mercy for Animals and they really don’t want you to eat meat. I can’t get behind their strategy of trying to shame Walmart into making changes in the American meat production system. But I do appreciate the work they are doing to expose what’s going on behind the scenes at pig farms.

Not everything in the video is that upsetting. But there were parts that really bothered me. Perhaps what is more troubling is this quote from a story on the video:

In a statement, the National Pork Producers Council said practices shown in the video meet industry standards for humane treatment. The NPPC said an independent veterinarian reviewed the video and found no signs of inhumane treatment and no charges were filed.

That’s right. The video below constitutes humane treatment of animals in America. Now, it’s time to watch it and please try to hold that thought in your mind for the next three and a half minutes.

I am keenly aware of the desire we have to anthropomorphize animals. This is why people get upset with foie gras. We think of what it would be like for us to have a tube stuck down our throats. But the physiology of geese is different.

Video is a powerful medium. I do wish that the folks behind these hidden camera investigations weren’t so obviously trying to take down the meat industry entirely. For starters, I think it would make their message more powerful to a wider audience. But it would also give me less sympathy for farmers who are trying to enact Ag Gag legislation that would make such videos illegal.

The farmers’ issue, and it’s a fair one, is that they are following the law and observing what the industry holds up as humane practices. It may look upsetting to outsiders, but they are being accused of atrocities when in their view none are being committed.

But our food system has gotten out of control. It’s just too damn big. And I do think it’s important for people to see how their food is being produced. There needs to be more transparency, not less. It’s the only way for people to make informed decisions about what they want to eat, and what they find unappealing.

And it just may give a boost to smaller farmers who have to charge more money for their meats because they don’t operate on nearly the same scale as the huge ranchers.

To give you a sense of scale, here’s another horror show. Those dots are animals. And those large irregular shapes are lakes of manure. You have no idea how big they actually are until you see them.

This is even scarier than sexy Oscar the Grouch. Now get out there and drown your fears in candy. If you made it down this far, you deserve it.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kathleen Lisson permalink
    October 31, 2013 10:56 am

    Thank you so much for this video. For me, none of this is ok. Not the cages, not the thoughtless treatment of the piglets, not the explanation that farmers don’t look into their own hearts when deciding how to treat animals, but instead look to the law to make that judgement.

  2. October 31, 2013 4:43 pm

    Dan, you know how much I appreciate these posts, I really do. Thanks for bringing this video to people’s attention. My grandfather had livestock until the mid-80’s and I know he would be appalled by these factory farms of today. We seem to live in a time when everyone expects cheap meat with every meal. When did that change? Meat used to be a smaller part of our diet, an occasional treat. And OUR demand for cheap meat is the reason these conditions exist.

    Joe Schmoe omnivores aren’t going to be interested in hearing what a vegan or vegetarian has to say. I enjoyed Vegucated (despite the fact that I think they really glossed over small, family farms). It’s not going to convert me to veganism but it adds to my desire to be a more informed consumer. The bigger problem is that my parents would never watch that. You’re right that transparency in the industry is a good start, but I feel like more needs to be done. People would rather shop in a giant, shiny grocery store than ever think about the food before it’s put on the shelf. How do you inspire people to want to connect to their food? I’ve talked to my dad, a guy who was raised on a livestock farm, about how the industry has changed and while he’s sickened by factory farming, he cares more about getting steaks at Albertson’s for $5.99/lb than anything else. Even a man who understands better than you and I what it means to raise and slaughter your meat, is wooed by the bright lights and clean packaging of the grocery store that allows him to shut off his brain and disconnect from his food.

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