Monday, November 02, 2009

Chickens and concentration camps

Why the meat industry thrives on the strange concept that "ignorance-is-bliss".

A person who's very close to me recently announced she's going to give up eating chicken. Reason? She somehow found out details about the inhumane mass-scale daily slaughter of chickens and, credit when due, that was enough to put her off. It's only chicken and turkey she's quitting for now, but the step is certainly in the right direction.

Now, though I personally haven't eaten dead animals since the 1990s, I've always avoided preaching about the virtues of vegetarianism. Live and let live, as long as you leave me alone too.

But the above-mentioned episode confirms something I've long suspected: if the general public was exposed to even a fraction of how the meat industry really functions, half the population would give up dead animals as a result.

The old saying that "ignorance is bliss" seems to have been created especially for meat-eaters. The amount of times people asked me why I am a vegetarian, and the moment I start delving into details they put their hands up and go "Alright! Alright! I don't wanna know!".

Granted, many just love to argue the toss on this specific subject (i.e. "yeah but your belt's made of leather..."), but the majority would genuinely be appalled if they found out what's behind their nicely packaged burger or roast chicken.

And it's interesting. Because you wouldn't need any spin whatsoever, facts would be enough. A simple half hour documentary that shows how chickens and turkeys are routinely packed into concentration camps, de-beaked, pumped up with lovely steroids and antibiotics and then suffocated, hung upside down and electrocuted would just portray daily reality, nothing more. But a lot of people would rather not know.

Yet imagine if the same "ignorance-is-bliss" approach was applied to any other area of life. Think, hypothetically, if someone was about to break you the unpleasant news that your neighbour's a paedo, or your boyfriend a convicted rapist, or that the chef at your favourite restaurant regularly dribbles into your starter- or you name it.

Hand on heart, would you rather wake up or go: "Enough, enough, I don't wanna know!" so that your life could carry on as always?

Click here to read more about that lovely chicken you're eating (PETA website).


PhilH said...

I only buy free range eggs and avoid chicken, unless I know where it came from. I confess, however, I know little about conditions for red meat animals.

I don't eat an awful lot of meat (though I seem to have been eating a bit more than usual lately) - it's a lot more expensive than vegetables, for a start.

Anita said...

I agree with the article completely.

Also, if you can't quit meat for the animals or you're not particularly bothered with their welfare, do it at least for yourself. You can be a veggie because you care about what you put in your body. It is a proven fact that quitting meat, especially today's shitty treated steroidified meat is very bad for you.

asquith said...

I am a vegetarian. I think I would, in principle, eat pasture-fed beef, organic chicken, salt-marsh lamb or wild venison that I'd hunted down & killed myself, were such a thing to happen. I have no objection to this in principle.

But when I stopped eating factory-"farmed" "meat", I just decided I wouldn't bother letting animal flesh pass my lips again. That was 2 years ago & I haven't looked back, not even at Christmas.

Does anyone ever get cravings? Personally I'm surprised at the fact that I don't. The thought of a bacon sandwich or a steak, all that heaviness & grease, is fairly stomach-turning now.

I do eat eggs & dairy. Though I dislike cheese & avoid drinking milk, so not much.

asquith said...

Phil- you'd be surprised at how badly cows, sheep, farmed fish & game are treated. I'm not much into them.

It is all laid out in "The Killing Of The Countryside" & other works. That is a fairly blasting read which also refers to the environmental impact & is careful to blame the real culprit, the tits in government who decided the subsidy regime is a good idea.

Ben E said...

While I agree with your article, the UK has (in no small part thanks to the Vegetarian Society) some of the best labelling in the world for packaged foods. I've had the unusual honour of taking Edam to Amsterdam, because I know that at least the stuff I buy in this country is ok because the label says so. One of the things that puts me off most of the rest of Europe is their somewhat twisted definition of what constitutes 'meat' (e.g. the French don't consider bacon bits to fall into this category). At least most restaurants in this country have the decency to list the vegetarian items.

It would be nicer if the labels on things like packs of Haribo made clearer that they contain meat, although I suspect that if most kids knew what went into gelatine then the confectioners would stop using it. Kids parties can be such a minefield sometimes.

claude said...

Ben E,
I agree with you.

I have to say that's one thing Britain can surely be proud of. It's head and shoulders ahead of most other European countries(with the possible exception of Scandinavia, but I wouldn't know) in terms of veggie-friendly culture, awereness, labelling and restaurants.

Sure, there's a very long way to go, without a doubt, but in Britain at least there is some sense of what constitutes animal abuse and animal protection.

Some of the stuff I saw in southern Europe is unbelievable, from basic stuff like lack of an RSPCA equivalent to the complete absence of 'vegetarianism' as a conscious alternative, to the 'macho' points that eating giblets, brains and tongue still allegedly gives you... good god.

Helen Highwater said...

Reading Fast-Food Nation was what made me give up meat. I did know a bit about abattoirs from when my dad worked on a pig farm, but when you read about the full horror of what goes on... my god. :-O

Recently, there was news about conditions on a pig factory farm, where the mothers are forced to stand up and face a wall for months, and it made me so sad because I used to visit the pig farm and see a huge sty given over to each mother and her litter, and they would grunt away contentedly. Well, I assume they were content. It was a happy sound and one that makes me feel happy now, and sad when I see them dead and packaged up under clingfilm.

About pork gelatine - hilarious irony abounds in Marks & Spencer's "Pinky Pig" children's sweets range. Pink chewy pig-shaped sweeties made with... pork gelatine! How lovely!