Understanding Animal Agriculture
As you may or may not know, most GMO crops aren’t purchased by you in your grocery store produce departments. The overwhelming majority of GMOs go into biofuels or into processed foods and drinks. We've addressed the dangers of GMOs in processed foods (yes, that means all boxed foods unless certified organic) and drinks (corn syrup, people!), so this post is taking a different focus.
You see, cattle, hogs and chickens eat GMO corn and soy direct from the field. So the other rival outlet for the sale of cheap corn, mostly corn, and soy are meat and dairy producers.
This is a subject where people put up their defenses because eating beef in the US is almost a patriotic act. We eat burgers and hot dogs at football games and baseball games. Burgers are fast food and cheap for families and it can be offensive to people to try to mess with that. In addition, when you start talking about factory farms and feed lots people can feel like we are accusing the very fabric of the American way of life. Big, successful, profitable companies are all about the American dream. More so is the successful farm. We want to support farmers. We feel passionately defensive for farmers and it can get contentious to challenge farming practices.
But when we talk about high density cattle and dairy farming, hog farming or chicken farming, I believe we need to separate the romantic imagery of the family farm from the stark reality of modern corporate farm practices. The farms where modern day corn and soy crops are grown for the food industry are owned by corporations who receive government subsidies to grow the cheap crops to supply meat producers and food producers.
Today cheap GMO corn is feeding animals that were never designed to eat corn in conditions they were never designed to live in. I wonder if you know that when a cow is transferred to a feed lot to fatten up for slaughter, it will die naturally within 6 months because of the lack of nutrients in the corn and the strain on the cow’s digestive system? Prematurely fat and with deteriorating health, cows are now slaughtered at 18 months instead of 4 or 5 years. Cows raised in feed lots never graze on open pastures, they are confined to small spaces and eat exclusively what is fed to them in troughs. The lots are unsanitary as the animals live in their own feces. Does that seem right to you? Are you aware that in order to stave off life threatening diseases from the acidosis that develops in the animals stomachs and the unsanitary conditions, the animals are given doses of antibiotics that are then present in the meat when we put it on our tables?
Does that seem right to you? Did you know that in many states across the country it is illegal to take photographs of these feed lots where up to 100,000 animals are living? Or to even protest their practices? Receiving jail time for free speech and journalism; does that seem right to you? Take a step back and think about it. Put out of your mind the advertisement images of a gritty man in a cowboy hat with his pick-up truck leading a life of self-determination at his family farm.
Is this really how we are meant to be living out our responsibilities on this Earth? We do not need research studies, or academics, or experts, or political leaders, or corporate CEOs to tell us what is right or wrong about these practices. We know with our common sense and in our hearts that this is not the way of a natural life. Nor is it a responsible means of stewardship of animals, the earth and our health.
Think about this too. Did you know that the consumption of red meat (which includes beef, pork, and lamb) is cancer causing and the American Cancer Society recommends eating no more than 18 oz of red meat per week but we are actually consuming more like 30 oz? It is a fact that Americans are eating more calories per day than at any other time in history and our health is paying the price. Does it seem like common sense to you that we are engaging in these factory farm practices for the sake of producing cheap meat so that we can eat more than we truly need?
We now also know that factory farming of animals contributes to green-house gases at alarming rates. Animal agriculture is now the second-largest contributor after fossil fuels (or perhaps first-largest when you consider the impact of GMO production) of green-house gases and is the largest cause of deforestation, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss. The newly-energized and growing vegan movement is rightly focused on all of the above in addition to the ethical issues of consuming animals who are our friends. I don't think you have to be a vegan, per-se, to eliminate or greatly reduce your consumption of meat. (As an aside, be wary of "meat-alternatives" that are not certified organic as the large name-brand products have already been found to contain RoundUp, a probable human carcinogen and the main driver of GMO production.)
As a challenge to the pro-GMO industry, I pose this question: Are we feeding people who would otherwise be hungry and malnourished or are we actually merely indulging in a contemporary cultural phenomenon of over-eating? The way I see it, when agrochemical companies talk about feeding the world, I think what they are really talking about is feeding the middle-class with cheap beef, corn chips and soda. What else could they be talking about? Seriously, what else could they possibly be talking about?
#organicforeveryone I Makes3Organics.com I @makes3organics