I’ve spent a large part of 2016 depressed about the state of the world. I’ll use this space to talk about one thing in particular.
Last night I met up with a small group of people outside Farmer John slaughterhouse, just south of downtown Los Angeles. We watched dozens of trucks crammed full of young pigs pull into the processing plant, and attempted to provide these animals with some water before they were unloaded and slaughtered. I was able to pet some of the pigs, and their responses were like those of frightened, confused dogs. I listened to their piercing, incessant cries. Even from the street, the smell of the animals being killed and cooked inside was putrid — acidic, sulfurous, rotten. It’s no coincidence, of course, that this process of delivery and slaughter happens exclusively in the middle of the night.
If you’re upset about the imminent nightmare that is a Trump presidency, it’s not much of a leap to connect the dots to the American food system. How can we claim to be upset about what Trump stands for — his willingness to dominate, suppress, and exploit those he deems “other” or less deserving of respect — while blindly participating in the very same practice with regard to other sentient beings? If we stop to consider our existential place for a moment, we can all likely agree that the mass confinement, transport and slaughter of various species with whom we share this planet is simply unacceptable.
These animals are abused not because factory workers want to abuse them, but because their jobs and our eating habits demand this abuse. Birds on a slaughter line are now expected be killed at a rate of 140 per minute, for instance; as a result, millions of chickens and turkeys are boiled alive every year in U.S. slaughterhouses. Capitalism demands that the lives of pigs, cows, sheep and fish on industrial farms be as miserable as their bodies will endure. Or, in the case of the hundreds of millions of male chicks that are ground alive every year because they can’t lay eggs, as short and painful as possible.
It’s not about identifying as vegan or vegetarian or carnivore, it’s about being mindful of and vigilant about what we consume. If we blithely make meat and other animal products the center of every meal, we are accepting and enforcing an extremely unsustainable and abusive food system. If we consume meat and dairy as if they were endless, consequence-free natural resources, we are demanding that they be cheap, disposable commodities. As clearly as we now know climate change is real, it is now scientifically accepted fact that animal agriculture is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet.
When we sit down to eat, we must consider whether we need to take the lives of other sentient beings in order to enjoy our meal, or if, perhaps, we find that we can often be sated without doing so. For those of you that have tried, please try again, keeping in mind the fact that meat and dairy are addictive — it takes a bit of time for our bodies to readjust from constantly, habitually consuming them. Amazing things happen in just a few short weeks.
Thanks for reading this and watching the video.
Love to all of you.