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Factory Farming: Beef

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How much do citizens of the world love beef? All we need to do is look for the nearest Golden Arches, which surely aren’t far, to answer this. That glowing yellow beacon can be found almost everywhere one turns, an ever-present symbol of instant gratification and grease, a fluorescent ‘M’ that hums deep into the night and which eerily seems to be whispering, “I will be here long after you will be.”

Sinister talking signs aside, the point is that beef is everywhere around us, whether it be in fast-food chains, upscale restaurants, grocery stores, farmers markets, the list goes on. The McDonald’s chain is present in 119 countries. In-N-Out is commonly referred to as God in the form of a food product. We love burgers. And steak. And jerky. Etc.

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Similar to our relationship with other animal products nowadays, humans tend to push aside thoughts regarding the origin of the slab of meat they are inhaling. After all, how could some delicately charred, juicy patty, so innocently resting alongside a slice of tomato and some withered lettuce, once have been a living, breathing creature just like you or I?

By now, the men and women behind the scenes of factory farms must have realized that most people would likely lose their appetite faster than one can eat a french fry if they realized exactly how the burger they know and love dearly was actually produced. As a result, these industries are less than transparent. Hence the disconnect. But, these farms are not completely secretive. Thanks to the internet, we do for the most part understand how they operate.

Essentially, herds of cattle are reared on grassy ranches, where they graze away happily, until reaching the hearty weight of about 650 pounds. They are then transferred to a feedlot, where they are kept in some type of pen and fed a special mixture which is any combination of roughage, grains, and supplements. They hang out at the feedlot for a couple hundred days until they are fattened up another 400 pounds or so. From here, they are transferred yet again to a slaughterhouse.

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Often, the transfers can be the most stressful part of a cow’s life. They are crammed into trucks where they must stand with limited air flow for hours upon hours. They are legally allowed to go for days without food or water.

Upon arrival, many cows are too terrified to leave the truck which has been their home for the past any number of hours, and so they may be prodded with electric rods in order to make them move. Once in the slaughterhouse, the scared, confused, and likely injured cows are forced into a chute where they are stunned and then shot.

It’s a tough image to conjure up. It begs the questions: is this necessary? Is this right? Any vegan or vegetarian will probably answer ‘no’ to both of those without hesitation, but I’m willing to bet that a decent handful of meat-eaters may have trouble answering ‘yes’ to them as well. Because deep down, I think we all know that this isn’t right.

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It’s also not necessary. Often, people attempt to argue against my dietary preferences, citing evolutionary evidence by claiming that “we’re natural meat-eaters! Just look at our teeth! Look at our ancestors!” And I see where they’re coming from. For those who believe in evolution, then you know that around 2.5 million years ago, our ancestors were indeed eating meat (raw, since fire didn’t come around until about 800,000 years ago). Eating raw meat required stronger jaws and bigger teeth. Stone tools were also involved. This style of meat-eating seems to be in a different league than our current style, don’t you think? Of course, there are many differing beliefs and theories about the history of meat consumption, and it’s probably true that practices differed by region and culture.

Regardless, I don’t think it can be disputed that these days, eating meat is simply an exploitative, unnecessary, torturous practice which mostly serves the companies on top. It’s my wish that one day we can stop thinking with our taste buds and our wallets and start examining things using our brains and our hearts.