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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Animal suffering

What are the reasons we eat food? That might seem like a silly question, because we eat to feed our bodies, first of all. Many of us also obtain an emotional gratification when we eat, and most of us are omnivores, meaning we eat everything, including meat and poultry.

There are many compelling reasons to move towards a vegetarian diet, many of them health-related. But many people refuse to eat meat because of the inhumane treatment of the animals that are mass-produced to feed the population. Animal farming on the scale that it needs to be to satisfy U.S. consumption is grotesquely cruel. When you eat meat, you’re eating the flesh of an animal whose life has been artificially shortened by overfeeding it to get it to a slaughterhouse earlier. They’re kept in small pens and cages, where they endure chronic stress. If they bear their young live, their babies are taken from them, sometimes a day after they’re born. They’re fed growth hormones and antibiotics and kept from the natural behaviors and actions that characterize the normal life span. Pigs aren’t allowed to root. Calves are kept immobile. Chickens are kept in cages, their beaks seared off with a burning hot knife to thwart aggressive behaviors that are the result of unnatural confinement.

Do you really think the flesh of the animal is separate from its spirit and its energy? The agony and stress they endure in their shortened lives infuses every cell of their bodies. Consider that depression and stress can make humans ill, can infect our muscles and organs. Is an animal so very different? We don’t need meat or milk for survival. We’re no longer a hunting society; we’re merely a consuming society.

Isn’t it time we all started thinking differently of what we consume to nourish our bodies? We’re evolved from herbivores, and yet we’ve veered off our own evolutionary path. One can make a case for hunting and eating meat when it’s the only means for survival. But that’s no longer the case and our options are plentiful. Do they have to include the flesh of suffering animals? How can that possibly be considered nourishment?

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