The Curious Story of the Food We Eat

Hens on grass! How extraordinary!

When you go to the supermarket and buy a dozen eggs, a bottle of milk, a carton of soymilk, a bag of peaches, a fish or pork chop for dinner and a newspaper you won’t be thinking about the inside story behind these harmless purchases.

The truth is that with intensified farming, the story is not a pleasant one for animals. People no longer grow enough for their family in their own gardens as would have been the case a hundred years ago. Now farmers have to service a market of potentially millions of people. Food is mass produced with all the nastiness that this entails. Animals are treated as disposable products.

Let’s take  the first item on our shopping list – the eggs.

In Australia we eat 12 million eggs every day.  All over the world billions of hens are sitting in cramped little cages under constant artificial light, unable to move as they lay egg after egg. They never see grass or natural light. They will never walk. Their claws are long and so twisted that they never could walk even if they wanted to. Their feathers have fallen or been pecked out. They have a very short life span. As soon as they stop  laying their life is worthless to a farmer. They are slaughtered straight away.

Of course, because roosters can’t lay eggs then they are totally disposable. At one day of age the males are separated from the females and are stuffed alive into a machine which mashes them up.

The baby hens are then debeaked with a hot bloody blade at one day old so that they won’t peck each other.

Antibiotics are added to their feed to prevent against infections.

Free range hens are in no better situation. Hundreds of hens are cramped together in a confined space in a shed. There’s no such thing as hens running freely through the fields.

So, you say, at least they lay nice eggs. But do they?

The yellow of the yolk (which incidentally should be orange rather than yellow) is formed from eating green food – ie grass.  Since there is no grass in either of these constricting circumstances, food colouring is added to their food to ensure that the yolk is yellow.  Now isn’t that a healthy food choice?

If you are a believer in the suffering of animals permeating their flesh or their by products, then an egg would be a true instrument of suffering.  That can hardly enhance the health of the eater. I choose to have hens in my own backyard so I can have confidence that they are happy and live carefree lives.

If you’d like to read more about the suffering of factory hens see www.peacefulprairie.org/freerange1.html

As for milk, the second item on the list, you’d think that would be a harmless purchase.

I don't think too many cows are hand milked anymore http://www.fotosearch.com

There has been some talk  lately about poddy calves. I recently spoke to a dairy farmer and she said that they have so many poddy calves they don’t know what to do with them so they hit them on the head and killed them all. She said that otherwise they’d never be able to sell them as there would be more calves than the market can accommodate. 

I directly quote the following from the website of the animal activists Peta. http://www.peta.org/issues/pages/animals-used-for-food/Cow-s-Milk-A-Cruel-and-Unhealthy-Product

Given the chance, cows nurture their young and form lifelong friendships with one another. They play games and have a wide range of emotions and personality traits. But most cows raised for the dairy industry are intensively confined, leaving them unable to fulfill their most basic desires, such as nursing their calves, even for a single day. They are treated like milk-producing machines and are genetically manipulated and pumped full of antibiotics and hormones that cause them to produce more milk.

A rather worrying picture if you believe that cows could be adversely affected by powerlines

Cows produce milk for the same reason that humans do—to nourish their young—but calves on dairy farms are taken away from their mothers when they are just 1 day old. They are fed milk replacers (including cattle blood) so that their mothers’ milk can be sold to humans.

Female cows are artificially inseminated shortly after their first birthdays. After giving birth, they lactate for 10 months and are then inseminated again, continuing the cycle. Some spend their entire lives standing on concrete floors; others are confined to massive, crowded lots, where they are forced to live amid their own waste. Cows have a natural lifespan of about 20 years and can produce milk for eight or nine years. However, the stress caused by the conditions on factory farms leads to disease, lameness, and reproductive problems that render cows worthless to the dairy industry by the time that they’re 4 or 5 years old, at which time they are sent to be slaughtered.

Painful inflammation of the mammary glands, or mastitis, is common among cows raised for their milk, and it is one of dairy farms’ most frequently cited reasons for sending cows to slaughter. 

In Australia there has recently been a price war conducted by Coles. A litre of Coles milk has been available for sale at $1 a litre, grossly undercutting other retailers. Coles has been prepared to wear the loss as it brings people into their supermarkets, however in due course this will directly affect the Australian dairy farmers who will adopt farming policies to further cut costs. Cows will be the end sufferers.

There is a Buddist line of thought that just as the eggs we eat are created in sad and deformed bodies lead to a toxic product, while cows suffer on factory farms, humans who drink their milk increase their chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other ailments.

Dairy farms are an environmental concern too. Large dairy farms have an enormously detrimental effect on the environment. In California, America’s top milk-producing state, manure from dairy farms has poisoned hundreds of square miles of groundwater, rivers, and streams. Each of the more than 1 million cows on the state’s dairy farms excretes 18 gallons of manure daily. The dairy industry is the primary source of smog-forming pollutants in California; a single cow emits more of these harmful gasses than a car does. (Extract from Peta http://www.peta.org/issues/pages/animals-used-for-food/Cow-s-Milk-A-Cruel-and-Unhealthy-Product)

But are soy products better?

A soybean plantation

Well no soy beans are tortured, that’s for sure. However there is lots of evidence to suggest that they are also very bad for the environment. In Argentina after the collapse of the economy after the floating of the peso in 2002, the Argentinians were coerced (no doubt by the IMF) into chopping down their forests and planting soybeans to feed European pigs. Also, a major cause of destruction of the Amazon jungle has been for the production of soybeans. Now Indonesia intends to raze millions of hectares of jungle in territory they own in New Guinea to grow, amongst other things,  soybeans. When countries have financial problems, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) moves in and tells them to destroy their environment to grow soy beans and palm oil plantations if they want money. Hence we have the deaths of untold billions of reptiles, birds and wild animals on our hands. We can expect a lot of  environmental problems to the world to emanate from the Amazon very soon and the result will not be pretty. At this moment the Amazon is poised on the edge of turning from being a carbon sink to a carbon source. When this happens world temperatures will escalate alarmingly.

As for whether soybeans are better for your health, the vast majority of soybeans are genetically modified. From a health perspective this does not seem to be an ideal situation.

Read more at http://www.slate.com/id/2195690/ where a more thorough comparison is made between the environmental pros and cons of dairy milk and soy milk.

In my next blog I will discuss what could possibly be wrong with those peaches, fish, pork chop and newspaper.

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