On Blaming Vegetarians for Factory Farms
I gotta hand it to Nathan Deuel, author of "The American Way of Beef," in The Atlantic for managing to blame vegetarians for making the situation worse for animals. The article is from October of 2007, obviously before the latest beef recall, but during the time of the Topps ground beef recall, which put the company out of business. After not mentioning the effects of farming from the cows point of view (it’s all about the consumer, the rancher and the environment, as if there are no cows in the equation at all!), he concludes:
Ironically then, those who cared most about what they were eating and who had therefore opted for organic vegetarianism may have themselves played an indirect role in the degradation of our nation’s meat.
Let’s back up a bit and deconstruct:
- We appropriately end the first paragraph with a B.R. Myer’s quote: "Livestock are treated better in Europe because Europeans want them treated better. They are treated worse here because we hardly think of them at all. It’s as simple as that." At which point Deuel doesn’t consider them at all, either, which is sort of ironic.
- Standards in meat have declined, what with feeding them the brains of their cousins topped with some corn, when they would rather eat grass (oh, and that’s what they’re made to eat). Evidently the taste of meat (beef, really) has declined with said standards.
- We are reminded, through an example by one Page Stegner who attempted to buy a steer at auction and fatten him up in search of an old fashioned meal. Many challenges and expenses befall Stegner, none of which pertain to slaughtering the steer, which I found odd. In the end, he finds raising cattle to be a difficult, expensive business. And I guess from that we’re supposed to understand why subsidies and feedlots and feeding cows cow and corn makes sense and are natural solutions to the challenges and expenses-problems?
- Ranchers and environmentalists should work together, as it’s best for the environment and for consumers for cattle to be raised with "a holistic approach to the ecosystem." However, many environmentalists are back-to-the-land hippie types who are vegetarians and don’t want to keep animals. But animals are necessary, some people insist. "There is a contradiction between the aims of organic farming and the notion that we should cut back to a more vegetarian diet."
- Because of the movement to get animals off of farms, they went to feedlots, according to Deuel. This brings us full circle to: "Ironically then, those who cared most about what they were eating and who had therefore opted for organic vegetarianism may have themselves played an indirect role in the degradation of our nation’s meat."
In my mind, this is completely absurd. People who don’t want animals on farms also don’t want them anywhere else. We don’t want to use them because it’s not right, and blaming us for the rise of factory farms is ridiculous.
Finally, I find it difficult to understand why Deuel doesn’t consider the animals after he quotes Myers. All he does is perpetuate the notion that the animals are unimportant except as a means to an end. Using them is either good or bad for the environment and for consumers, and we should find the most effective way to use them so the impact of what we do with/to them is the way we want it. He considers the animals only in his blame of those who do care about them, adding insult to injury.
However, the real story is that we care enough about them not to treat them better, but to leave them to their lives, and it seems Deuel has never been introduced to this idea.