If you haven’t read the shocking, eye-opening report by the New York Times on the secret, government-operated US Meat Animal Research Center and its “one overarching mission: helping producers of beef, pork and lamb turn a higher profit,” you owe it to yourself and to the animals to check it out.
The article is much more than just a litany of horrors; it’s a meticulous description of living creatures being used in experiments to turn them into bigger, better, tastier, faster-growing units in the vast industrial machine of factory farming. For example:
- Retooling cows to produce twins instead of single calves
- Retooling pigs to have litters of up to 14 piglets, many of whom are born hideously deformed
- Using rape stands to study bull libido, leaving cows with broken legs and other fatal injuries
- Retooling sheep to grow fine hair that falls out rather than wooly coats that need shearing
- Developing sheep who don’t need warm sheltering, and injecting pregnant ewes with male hormones to produce larger lambs
- Locking pigs in steam chambers to test their appetites at various temperatures.
Every one of these and many more have hideous side effects, like twin calves (sometimes triplets) getting their eight (sometimes 12) legs tangled to the point where they can’t be born.
Industry-paid hacks like Temple Grandin are now advising the research managers on ways to treat the animals “more humanely.” (Referred to in the article as a “renowned animal welfare expert,” Grandin is celebrated for redesigning slaughterhouse ramps so that the cows don’t know they’re being killed until the last moment. It’s smoother and more efficient.)
The Times quotes a former director of this facility, Robert R. Oltjen, as even invoking the Bible to defend not only the horrors that he was conducting, but also the facility’s right to do so shielded from public scrutiny.
Quoting the Book of Genesis on man’s dominion over animals, he assailed “this era of overregulation,” arguing that he and his fellow scientists could police themselves.
Even if, in the interests of damage control, some minor steps are taken to institute a few welfare improvements (Congress officially exempted facilities like this one from having to comply with the Animal Welfare Act), the animals will still be there. And they will be there for only one purpose: to make the meat and dairy industries more profitable. What’s so desperately wrong is the treatment of these animals as resources and cogs in a vast industrial machine of death.
Hundreds of blogs and letters have been commenting on the report all week. But most of them fail to address what’s so desperately wrong: the very fact of these animals being treated as resources and cogs in a vast industrial machine of death.
The Washington Post, for example, notes that many people are calling for “humanely raised meat” and that “the U.S. government appears to be one of the longest standing and even most notable offenders.” But the writer never questions the evil of treating these animals as commodities in laboratories and factories.
Mother Jones appears to do a little better in acknowledging what it calls
The cold, industrial vision of livestock farming … animals as inert commodities to be manufactured as cheaply as possible, like microchips or screws. Physiology becomes a production process to be hacked for the convenience of producers.
But it concludes by agreeing that
Publicly financed ag research is vital to maintaining a resilient, plentiful food supply in an era of climate chaos and ecological crisis.
No it isn’t, Mother J. At this stage, the only thing that might save us from the destruction we’re wreaking on the animals, the planet and ourselves would be a decision to shut down these horrific industries altogether.
Sure, it would be good for the atmosphere (less methane), good for the lands and rivers that are polluted by industrial sewage, and good for our health.
But most of all, it would simply be the right thing to do.