the ecological resonance between
the animal holocaust and our inner life
If those who consume mass meat products could witness either a) the conditions 95% of the animals in the factory farm industry have to endure, or b) the loss that is accruing in humanity’s inner life due to this animal abuse - then the industry would grind to a halt overnight. Surely the human race cannot be as diabolical as its relationship with the animal kingdom suggests.
- the Earth Vision project, 2008
Recently, although an omnivore in my own diet, and given to eating some meat (organically and humanely raised), I was ready to give up on humanity, a species that was continuing to allow acute brutality and suffering to visit animals (could this be the same humanity that initiated the SPCA? Or was that a mere ruse toward humane treatment of non-human species?).
However, I was not aware, at the time, of certain developments that gave cause for hope. For example, some European countries are slated to ban the harshest aspects of factory farming. And speculation suggests that the entire European Union will go on board in the (hopefully) near future. This development, in turn, will generate pressure upon North America to eventually follow suit.
And on this continent, the state of California has recently put forward a proposition to oppose the worst aspects of factory farming.
The crowded conditions of factory farming require the use of increasing dosages of antibiotics and pesticides to maintain operations.
These chemical applications (through which the pharmaceutical industry is reaping obscene profits), it turns out, amount to the cultivation of superbugs that will almost certainly assail humanity in devastating ways.
The degradation of cattle is linked to the rise in Alzheimer’s disease, as the human brain gives way to a spongiform condition. Contrary to popular opinion, cows are still being forced to be cannibalistic, as they are fed blood, bone meal, and other miscellaneous aspects of other cows (no brain matter, but most everything else). And testing for Mad Cow currently involves only a tiny fraction of overall herds. Further, because Mad Cow can take ten years to manifest, it is estimated that thousands of infected cows per year are likely entering the system. If you are still eating beef, run like hell the other way!
(And see The Return of Bison and Wolf for an alternative.)
Environmentally, manure and wastes from combined animal operations account for three times as much waste as humans produce, wastes that commonly go untreated. This waste is contributing to emissions that are rapidly warming the planet and creating water pollution and "dead zones" nationwide.
The factory farm industry, and the wealthy and powerful agricultural and pharmaceutical lobbies, are at this moment fighting laws that would mandate the provision of information on toxic emissions.
Many North Americans and Europeans cite the cost of food as a reason to both avoid choosing organic food and to continue the barbarism against animals. In fact, the cost of food in North America is extremely low. Consider how in many Third world countries vast numbers of people are working all day just to feed themselves. That is truly expensive provision! In the developed countries, food - even if buying all organic and humanely raised food - is very inexpensive.
(Further, in defense of the organic option, one can eat well, and cheaper than most non-organic food-consumers - simply by avoiding processed food. Also, smaller quantities are needed when buying organic, as the nutritional value is higher. North American society, in particular, has a high incidence of people who are stuffing themselves into obesity, yet still coming away hungry - because they can’t feed themselves enough nutrients. They eat and eat, and are still hungry. . .)
“The UN and OIE estimate that in coming decades there will be billions of additional consumers in developing countries eating meat factory farmed in developing countries, but currently only about 40 out of the around 200 countries in the world have the capacity to adequately respond to a health crisis originating from animal disease (such as avian flu, West Nile virus, bluetongue, and foot and mouth disease). Widespread use of antibiotics increases the chance of a pandemic resistant to known measures, which is exacerbated by a globally distributed food system. Decreased genetic diversity increases the chance of a food crisis.”
The factory farm issue is not at all a question of affordability. Rather, and quite remarkably, when we consider the economic impacts of environmental damage, human health impact (already big, but only the tip of the iceberg), socioeconomic impact, not to mention the weighty load of nasty karma diners-on-suffering-flesh are surely accruing. . . it’s becoming clear now that we cannot afford to continue factory farming.
Some of the ingredients in animal factory feed translate, ultimately, into what they are feeding you: excessive grain (not a natural diet for cattle - leads to liver and digestive imbalances and illnesses); shredded bits of plastic(!) in lieu of natural roughage; meat from the same species (cannibalizing effect, leads to BSE, avian bird flu, lots more to come); animal by-products (so-called “animal protein products” - rendered feathers, hair, skin, hooves, internal organs, beaks, bones; drugs and chemicals (needed due to over-crowding).
Numerous Forms of Abuse
Foie gras, in fact diseased liver, is produced by force-feeding ducks and geese an unnatural amount and type of food until their livers become diseased and enlarge up to ten times their normal, healthy size. More than a dozen countries, California, and the city of Chicago, have all legislated against foie gras production on animal welfare grounds.
Routine mutilations, usually without anesthesia, include castration, de-beaking, de-toeing, tail docking, and others.
From the Humane Society of the U.S.: “Most eggs produced in the United States come from industrialized factory farms confining hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of laying hens in overcrowded battery cages. Arguably the most abused animals in all agribusiness, nearly 280 million laying hens in the United States are confined in barren, wire battery cages so restrictive the birds can't even spread their wings. With no opportunity to engage in many of their natural behaviors, including nesting, dust bathing, perching, and foraging, these birds endure lives wrought with suffering.”
The reader is invited to view the youtube presentations on factory farming at the end of this article. In addition to the foregoing information, witnessing the conditions of deprivation these animals are experiencing provides a taste of the real story behind our “modern” food industry.
If you are experiencing any of the following emotions in your life, emotions that run parallel to those of factory farmed animals - anxiety, stress, fear, existential oblivion, or despair - then, because these feelings become incorporated in the animal’s flesh and blood, you can eliminate a source of darkness in your life by stopping consumption of non-organic and inhumanely-raised beef, pork, chicken, meat, eggs, and dairy products, as well as farmed fish.
Physically, an “interior” experience of the mass meat holocaust occurs when the pollution of factory farms that taints the water, soil, and air of the external environment finds its way into our bodies as chemical pollutants (antibiotics, pharmaceuticals in the meat and our drinking water, etc.)
On the psychological level, accepting lower quality food is reflective of an undervaluing of the self.
Tied up in the metaphysical weaving of this issue is the notion of “contact.” The more an individual feels separate from elements of nature, the more he/she feels compelled to assert some form of contact. The psychopathic extreme of this phenomena manifests as torture to animals (thus, the factory farms find ready recruits to staff its regime.)
Alternatively, the more an individual opens to the enduring inter-weave between the soul and nature, the more he/she discovers true contact.
All things considered, how could it come to pass that our relationship with animals could sink to such abysmal depths?
Just what is happening within ourselves, that we have arrived at a state in which we are willing to brutalize the very essence of our own being (as reflected by the animal counterparts within us that embody our soul qualities)?
On a very real level of our being an alarming betrayal is taking place. Because the dynamics of the mass meat industry are a direct reflection of human self-abuse, to the extent that an individual partakes of the animal holocaust, that individual visits suffering upon his/her own psyche. Factory farming, it turns out, is a regime of self-hate.
As a final aspect of exploration on this issue, let us use the domestic chicken as a point of departure, in order to explore the difference between, on the one hand, the abused and obliterated non-entity that factory farming creates, versus the dynamic being that became a close companion to humanity several thousand years ago:
Jungle fowl (Gallus gallus), ornate, exotic, adorned in fiery, multi-hued plumage, prefers forest edges. Originating in the foothills of the Himalayas, the jungle fowl is equally at home where it can retreat into the protection of a dim thicket, or emerge to explore opportunities in open spaces. When kept as pets, chickens are known to exhibit intelligent behavior. The rooster of the species displays remarkable nerve, often fearlessly confronting a being 20 times its size. Dubbed the Herald of Dawn, in more ways than one it delivers a wake up call. In the human cultural context, its call is said to mean “liberation from darkness.”
The time has come to do just that, on behalf of all domesticated species. Picture the highest form of existence - for cattle, pigs, chickens, all the beings we have domesticated - free-ranging, healthy, able to fulfill their lives. And, rather than being abused in a process of obliviation, imagine enabling our animal companions to evolve further, to a higher state of being, that which is their true destiny.
Picture humanity freeing itself, as well, evolving the qualities and resources of the inner tapestry that weaves in tandem with its companion animals. The two are inseparable.
Co-evolution is calling.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
This article was prepared by nature author, Josef Graf, coordinator of the Earth Vision project - nature in the light of spiritual ecology, at www.evsite.net.
Links, Resources for more information:
What is Factory Farming?
Do you really want to get a picture of what’s happening in the poultry industry now?
Inside Factory Farming(youtube):
Cruelty of Factory Farming (youtube):
The Meatrix Movies:
Sierra Club video, “Living a Nightmare: Animal Factories in Michigan”, a 24-minute documentary about the horrors of industrial agriculture.
New York Times article, Rethinking the Meat Guzzler,
An overview of meat consumption:
“Factory farming takes a big, hidden toll on human health and the environment, is undermining rural America's economic stability and fails to provide the humane treatment of livestock. . . . even industry representatives on the panel agreed to such controversial recommendations as a ban on the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animals -- a huge hit against veterinary pharmaceutical companies -- a phaseout of all intensive confinement systems that prevent the free movement of farm animals, and more vigorous enforcement of antitrust laws in the increasingly consolidated agricultural arena.”
“The vast majority of the public has an equivocal attitude to the industrial use of animals: they make use of the products of that industry, but are nevertheless a little sickened, a little queasy, when they think of what happens on factory farms and abattoirs. Therefore they arrange their lives in such a way that they need be reminded of farms and abattoirs as little as possible, and they do their best to ensure their children are kept in the dark too, because children have tender hearts and are easily moved.. . ”
“. . .The activities of animals-rights organisations have shifted the onus onto the industry to justify its practices, and because they are indefensible and unjustifiable except on the most narrow economic grounds ("Do you want to pay $1.50 more for a dozen eggs?"), the industry is battening down hatches and hoping the storm will blow itself out. Insofar as there was a public relations war, the industry has already lost that war.”
- J.M. Coetzee, writing for The Sydney Morning Herald - Exposing the Beast: Factory Farming must be Called to the Slaughterhouse:
“According to interviews with slaughterhouse workers included in Gail Eisnitz's book Slaughterhouse, the end of an animal's life is a torturous and abusive process. One employee elaborates on the abuse that animals endure by reporting, "On the farm where I work, they drag the live ones who can't stand up anymore out of the crate. They put a metal snare around her ear or foot and drag her the full length of the building. These animals are just screaming in pain. The slaughtering part doesn't bother me. It's the way they're treated when they're alive. Dying animals unable to walk are tossed into the 'downer pile,' and many suffer agonies until, after one or two days, they are finally killed." Animals such as cows, calves, pigs and chickens are made to live truly horrible lives, however short, while being housed in factory farms."
“All this negative energy [from animals’suffering] goes right into the meat that consumers swallow. Once consumed by a human, the energy of that meat is absorbed into that person's system, making them feel sick, angry or afraid, just like the emotions of the animal from which the flesh was taken.”
Action and Alternatives:
The petition site:
Beyond Factory Farming Coalition:
Food labels could help stem factory farming:
Citizen’s Guide to Confronting a Factory Farm:
Biodynamic Farming and Gardening:
The Return of Bison and Wolf: instigating North America’s eco-rennaissance.
Photo courtesy J Gilbert: