The Atlantic’s James McWilliams penned a confrontational piece last week arguing that in the gourmet world’s quest to serve the finest and tastiest, it sidesteps the huge, glaring issue of animal rights, welfare, and even the Darwinian consequence of our relationship to animals. In “Foodies vs. Darwin: How Meat Eaters Ignore Science” he writes,
Sure, food writers trip all over each other to express their righteous outrage over the many evils of factory farming. Wonderful. But not a single one has decided to take a shot at reconciling their outrage—an outrage that ipso facto acknowledges that an animal has inherent worth—with their promotion of heirloom birds, grass-fed beef, and fried pork bellies cut to perfection by “artisanal” butchers.
[Regarding the inconsistency of investigating food taste but not origin]…I wonder what we might discover if, somehow or other, we careened over the edge and seriously explored, in the popular press, the ethics of animal exploitation. What if we discussed the moral and legal rights of animals with the same level of detail we bring to discussion about where to find the best prosciutto?
McWilliams says that “what’s being butchered here is logic” and I agree. I loved America’s Next Great Restaurant. But every time I saw Steve Ells get excited about someone’s beef compote or slow-roasted pulled pork (and man was there a lot of pork on that show!) I winced. Chipotle (Ells is the founder) serves pork exclusively from “pigs [that] are raised outside or in deeply bedded pens, are never given antibiotics and are fed a vegetarian diet.”
Chipotle, according to their website, is working to eventually source all beef, chicken, and dairy products from more “humane” farms too; pastured instead of feed lots, no hormones or steroids given, etc. I’m not jaded enough to think these places aren’t still cruel, but the point is that at least they’re trying and doing something different. So for Ells to come in and invest in a company like Soul Daddy’s restaurant (the winner of the contest) who made no claims whatsoever about the food source, well, that’s some logic being butchered.
And this sort of thing is commonplace. The “whitewashing” of the dairy industry is huge, and every chef or foodie who relentlessly uses milk, eggs, and cheese in their recipes succumbs to the pressure of the dollar to make use of these foods in their recipes. Even organic milks and cheese are laced with cruelty. I propose the dairy industry as the target for a bold foodie to take aim at first, because, well, why not? The recent article from World Peace Diet author Will Tuttle explains in graphic detail the innumerable cruelty behind the milk mustache:
As soon as she gives birth, the cow’s baby will be quickly stolen from her, and she will be milked two to three times per day by the milking machines. No longer something done by her, milking is something inflicted upon her. The machines often cause cuts and injuries and can lead to mastitis, infection of the udder, which is rampant in modern dairies. Sometimes the milking machines give electrical shocks as well, causing considerable discomfort and fear. The cow may also be “drenched,” a procedure routinely performed on some cows after giving birth to reduce metabolic diseases in early lactation. Many gallons of nutrient-dense solution are forced into her through a seven-foot tube shoved down her throat. She may drown if the liquid is pumped too fast or if the tube is stuck into her windpipe.
Tuttle goes on to describe the four possible outcomes of a baby calf, in addition to the re-selling into slavery listed above. The calf may be raised as beef, if male, and castrated immediately after birth, then sent to eat, eat, and eat some more until fat enough to slaughter well before its actual lifespan. The other two options include slaughter immediately after birth for the rennet in their stomachs (used widely in cheese-making) or to be sold into the veal market where they have a lifetime of confinement and anemia to look forward to. No option is good, and, as Tuttle says:
The whole dairy business is founded upon stealing: forcibly stealing calves from their mothers and mother’s milk from calves. We have become desensitized to just how cruel this actually is, and how it underlies, perhaps in large measure, our culture’s basic repression, confinement, and exploitation of the female and the feminine principle.
When will this end? How do we get consumers to wake up to this nightmare that 9 million dairy cows are being tortured, raped, and endure child-theft every year? If, as McWilliams asks, we can get the food elite to start discussing this issue, then perhaps it will change the minds of dairy consumers. As always, a vegan diet remains a great way to abstain from supporting this senseless industry. I pose to you, the readers: what steps can we take to inform our friends and family of these practices?