copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
Late in January 2008, Americans read the startling news, Video Reveals Violations of Laws, Abuse of Cows at Slaughterhouse. Tears were shed by some; most turned away. The footage was too graphic. Countless wished to remain removed from a reality they do not wish to witness. Reports, of brutal treatment towards beefy cattle, were received by many as is steak on a plate. Those who eat the meat think it sad that a cow must be sacrificed in order to fill a human stomach. Nonetheless, numerous persons believe man kills "lower" forms of life; that is the natural order.
After the revelation, not much changed. Throughout the nation people continued as they had. Weeks passed. Those categorized as the highly intelligent, and humane, had greater concerns than cattle or the cruelty inflicted upon these beast. Matters of consequence were and are far more critical than fallen cows. Decision-makers at the morally condemned abattoir understood the more crucial issue would be public relations. If earnings are to be maintained and profits sustained some action must be taken. The reputation of the business was at stake [steak]. Embarrassed by the audio-visual documentation of doings within the plant, Chief Executives at the Westland - Hallmark Meat Company, ordered the Largest Recall of Ground Beef ever.
The meat packaging plant issued a warning. Consumers were asked to return a full 143 million pounds plus, of beef. Meat produced over the last two years was included in the cautionary measures.
More than a third of the 143 million pounds of California beef recalled this week went to school lunch programs, with at least 20 million pounds consumed, Agriculture Department officials said Thursday.
About 50 million pounds of the meat went to schools, said Eric Steiner, deputy administrator of special nutrition programs for the department's Food and Nutrition Service.
Of that amount, about 20 million pounds has been eaten, 15 million pounds is on hold at storage facilities and 15 million pounds is still being traced, he said.
Conceivably, the scope was too broad. Consumers became frightened. The public panicked Parents feared for the children. Schools worried; as recipients and distributors of large quantities of the beef would they be liable.
As awareness increased for the possibly tainted beef, an anxious public cried, "How many people need to get sick, or die, before Congress starts to repair and modernize the nation’s food safety system?" Americans remembered other recent recalls and clamored, someone must be held accountable. People blamed the Bush Administration for this "turn" of events. Periodicals offer resounding criticisms. No one spoke of the duplicity. Why is it considered cruel to abuse the animal you are prepared to kill?
Instead of strengthening the government’s regulatory systems, the Bush administration has spent years cutting budgets and filling top jobs with industry favorites. The evidence of their failures keep mounting: contaminated spinach, poisoned pet food, tainted fish.
There was and is much to speak of, more to scrutinize. Infected food can cause death. Yet, no one places the onus on those who passively accept food industry standards, the American people. The official word of the Federal Food and Drug Administration, which relaxed regulations decades ago, escapes censure as well. Citizens no longer recall that this branch of government loosened standards, and allowed the industry to define what might be acceptable fodder.
[In] 1958, the definition of pantry goods had changed substantially. New food products and a newly competitive refrigerated and frozen goods industry that developed in the domestic marketplace after World War II had literally redefined the household pantry. As the number of new processed and fabricated foods grew, the government spent less time issuing refined standards for products such as raisin bread and egg bread, and more time establishing new standards for products such as frozen orange juice, frozen "TV" dinners, frozen breaded shrimp, freeze dried coffee, and "instant chocolate drinks." As soon as the Food Additives Amendment was in place, FDA began to experiment with less restrictive food standards than the strict "recipe standards" that had predominated in the standards program.
In 1961, FDA first deviated from the recipe approach when it issued standards for "frozen raw breaded shrimp" which simply provided for the use of "safe and suitable" batter and breading ingredients, rather than listing all optional ingredients individually. A legal definition of "safe and suitable" was later codified and used to allow "safe and suitable preservatives" or "safe and suitable emulsifiers."
This action was taken at the bequest of businesses. Food producers found the shift necessary. Congress never challenged the move or the measure. Communities nationwide did not question the wisdom of this action. Just as Americans accept that we must kill animals and eat them in order to survive, we also understand that when definitions or circumstances make our daily life more convenient, that cannot be all bad. Even the skeptical among us have faith no business or government agency would intentionally harm patrons, the people, or the planet.
Hence, as long as industry is regulated, and the government classifies food, or chemical substitutes as safe, there is no reason to question what appears on American plates. Events such as the one at this particular slaughterhouse are an anomaly.
Americans trust they system and did as they characteristically do. They heard the warnings and worried not. Authorities would take care of the situation. We will survive. The world is a wondrous place.
Humans rather not reflect on the possibility the treatment of cows relates to a broader reality. The planet is in peril. Downer cows lifted so that they might be butchered for food, speaks of more than a single slaughterhouse or situation. Yet, Americans and other world inhabitants do not wish to discuss what is.
This story is not merely about how humans murder another mammal with malice, or how the master of the universe, man, with his magnificent mind rationalizes what he knows to be morally wrong. This tale offers a reflection too long ignored. Humans hungry, and habitual in nature, do not chew on the thought . . .
The food chain is a complex balance of life. If one animals source of food disappears, such as from over fishing or hunting, many other animals in the food chain are impacted and may die.
Man in his infinite wisdom has altered the balance of nature. People do not consider, what they have done to the animals, insects, all the inhabitants they classify as lesser beings. Humans do not wish to acknowledge they have killed off many species. One extinction leads to another, then another, and finally, if we follow the chain, to total inhalation. A productive planet can die just and its inhabitants without insight might perish sooner than later.
Perchance, nature will remind those hard of heart. Kill fellow organisms, murder the mortal, and Mother Nature will politely, slowly, and subtly punish you for your selfish aggressions.
The lovely lady who breathes life into man and beast tries to tell man-kind [sic], be cautious. Earth, in all her elegance gives humans brains enough to realize life on this planet is pained. The treatment of cattle helps to explain how man threatens Earth.
Humans brutally slaughter the cattle and the cows return the favor. Life is cyclical. Relationships are symbiotic. Try as man might to control Mother Nature, he cannot combat the fluid energy that created him.
The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.
Livestock’s long shadow, a report released by the Livestock, Environmental, and Development [LEAD] initiative tells a tale of woe that is worrisome. Worldwide, man, in his zeal to eat the flesh of cattle, degrades the land, changes the climate, pollutes the air and water, causes water shortage, and engenders loss of biodiversity. The adage, 'kill or be killed' might be better stated, 'slay and be slain.'
The livestock sector is by far the single largest anthropogenic user of land. The total area occupied by grazing is equivalent to 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial surface of the planet. In addition, the total area dedicated to feedcrop production amounts to 33 percent of total arable land.
In all, livestock production accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the land surface of the planet. Expansion of livestock production is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America where the greatest amount of deforestation is occurring – 70 percent of previous forested land in the Amazon is occupied by pastures, and feedcrops cover a large part of the remainder.
About 20 percent of the world’s pastures and rangelands, with 73 percent of rangelands in dry areas, have been degraded to some extent, mostly through overgrazing, compaction, and erosion created by livestock action. The dry lands in particular are affected by these trends, as livestock are often the only source of livelihoods for the people living in these areas.
A society dependent on meat production destroys the delicate balance that sustains life on this globe. Yet, to look at cows in the field, one would never know. Most who see cattle graze feel a sense of serenity. Few of us consider cows in the countryside a problem. After all, we were raised to appreciate these animals for what they provide.
Americans, carnivores and omnivores that we are, can claim, 'Look at all that life.' Few satiated humans whose stomach bulge, state, 'Look at all that death and destruction.' Climate change, as it slowly creeps into consciousness, does not startle us as it might. Humans barely notice the nuances.
With rising temperatures, rising sea levels, melting icecaps and glaciers, shifting ocean currents and weather patterns, climate change is the most serious challenge facing the human race. The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport.
The livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The largest share of this derives from land-use changes – especially deforestation – caused by expansion of pastures and arable land for feedcrops. . . .
It is probably the largest sectoral source of water pollution, contributing to eutrophication, “dead” zones in coastal areas, degradation of coral reefs, human health problems, emergence of antibiotic resistance, and many others. The major sources of pollution are from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feedcrops, and sediments from eroded pastures.
Global figures are not available but in the United States, with the world’s fourth largest land area, livestock are responsible for an estimated 55 percent of erosion and sediment, 37 percent of pesticide use, 50 percent of antibiotic use, and a third of the loads of nitrogen and phosphorus into freshwater resources.
The brown-eyed beauties are not the problem. It is man who has chosen to cultivate a crop of beef that destroys the planet. Humans, intent on self-service kill the cattle brutally, and will ultimately kill themselves if they continue to ignore the signs. Currently, the extinction of bee colonies throughout the planet is not considered a priority; yet, it is more evidence that something has gone wrong. As absurd as it may seem some researchers claim cell telephones emit radiation and this effects the honeybees ability to navigate. Others argue, that theory is preposterous. Numerous refute claims they deem science fiction.
Nevertheless, honeybees are the most important insects in the human food chain. Little buzzers are the principal pollinators of hundreds of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and nuts. In the last three scores years, or more, the number of bee colonies has declined. In October 2007, as honey bee colonies collapsed, a study by the National Academy of Sciences, Colony Collapse Disorder and Pollinator Decline, suggests American agriculture may place too great a reliance on one type of pollinator, the honeybee. Other investigations focus on the reason for the threat of an apparent bee colony collapse.
Genetic testing at Columbia University has revealed the presence of multiple micro-organisms in bees from hives or colonies that are in decline, suggesting that something is weakening their immune system. The researchers have found some fungi in the affected bees that are found in humans whose immune systems have been suppressed by the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or cancer.
“That is extremely unusual,” Dr. Cox-Foster said.
Meanwhile, samples were sent to an Agriculture Department laboratory in North Carolina this month to screen for 117 chemicals. Particular suspicion falls on a pesticide that France banned out of concern that it may have been decimating bee colonies. Concern has also mounted among public officials.
“There are so many of our crops that require pollinators,” said Representative Dennis Cardoza, a California Democrat whose district includes that state’s central agricultural valley, and who presided last month at a Congressional hearing on the bee issue. “We need an urgent call to arms to try to ascertain what is really going on here with the bees, and bring as much science as we possibly can to bear on the problem.”
Science is endorsed as the solution. However, the discipline remains part of the problem. Man cannot study as quickly as Mother Nature moves. Anthropoids do not understand that nature is fluid, chaotic, and not easily categorized. It cannot be controlled, but it can be corrupted. What humans have yet to comprehend is the effect they have on what they have and have not discovered.
Life on Earth is in the early stages of the worst mass extinction since the end of the Cretaceous. Many species are likely go extinct before they are even discovered and named by biologists. Of the estimated 10 to 20 million species living on Earth, only 10 percent have been described in the past 250 years. Dr. Edward O. Wilson, Professor Emeritus at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, proposes that the remaining 90 percent must be described in one-tenth that time to save millions of species from extinction.
According to Doctor Wilson, a renowned expert on biodiversity, megafauna are dying out. The tuatara, the lizard-like reptile on New Zealand, the kagu, a crane-like bird with a big plume of feathers in New Caledonia an island in the south Pacific, the Sumatran rhino and the hairy rhinoceros of Europe "were wiped out before humans even had a conscience." If we continue to consume or 'control' as we do, complete extinction may be inevitable, with thanks or no thanks to the knowledge gained by the study of the physical world.
The statistics are staggering. Annihilation in the animal kingdom is ample. If we were only assess to what is observable among the insect community, we might realize there is reason to be startled. A known fact is, in America alone, 27 states have experienced bee colony collapse. Countries abroad document the same disorder.
Bee Alert Technology Inc., a company monitoring the problem. A recent survey of 13 states by the Apiary Inspectors of America showed that 26 percent of beekeepers had lost half of their bee colonies between September and March. . . .
These bees may suffer from a diet that includes artificial supplements, concoctions akin to energy drinks and power bars. In several states, suburban sprawl has limited the bees’ natural forage areas.
So far, the researchers have discounted the possibility that poor diet alone could be responsible for the widespread losses. They have also set aside for now the possibility that the cause could be bees feeding from a commonly used genetically modified crop, Bt corn, because the symptoms typically associated with toxins, such as blood poisoning, are not showing up in the affected bees. But researchers emphasized today that feeding supplements produced from genetically modified crops, such as high-fructose corn syrup, need to be studied.
The food now available to the honey bees harms them. The fodder that humans ingest is arguably not healthy. The analysis absent in each of these scenarios, stories of beef and bees, is how humans destroy the gift of life. In our fervor to fulfill self, we sacrifice our souls. Man, in his infinite desire to control and consume, alters crops, raises cattle only to satisfy a stomach too large, and gratify a spirit too small. Humans hurt honeybees, the helpers of every man, woman, and child. All suffer at the hands of those beings who pride themselves on having a brain; yet have forgotten what it might mean to have a heart.
The Beef, The Bees, The Brutality . . .