Perversions, Parallels, and Paradoxes

the letter P

I’m reading Gene Baur’s Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food. It’s like reading an anthology of perverse fables. Here are four of my least favorite:

Fat Animals, Fat Humans: We breed animals to grow large quickly, unnaturally piling on pounds by using hormones (see diagram of a normal chicken and one genetically engineered to pack on breast weight. At 47 days old, chickens have grown so large so fast that that their legs and organs can’t keep up, causing heart attacks, organ failure, and leg deformities. In a sick kind of parallel, consumers, too, are gaining weight at an alarming rate: 34 percent of adults are obese (more than double the percentage in 1980), and 17 percent of kids (triple since 1980).

Causing, Treating, and Fortifying Illnesses In One Easy Step: Antibiotics are fed to farm animals to combat the disease that occurs when animals live in overcrowded, filthy conditions. Humans then ingest these antibiotics, making ourselves more vulnerable to bacterial infections that resist once-normal antibiotic treatment.

Modern Serfdom: Under the control of corporate agribusiness, once-independent farmers have become “contract growers” who are forced to “get big or get out” and who must continually meet the demands of the corporation by upgrading facilities, meeting higher production quotas, etc. The agribusiness lobby presents these choices as free enterprise, and many factory farmers defend their practices. As Upton Sinclair wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.”

One Hand Taketh: Food is meant to nourish us, but the factory farming system only takes from the earth and the animals, extracting their goodness without replenishing anything.