Thoughts on Eating Animals:
Regardless of the thoughts I have toward this book, I will continue to eat animals on a nearly daily basis. I love animals of all kinds, including cows, pigs, and especially chickens, but I will still eat them at nearly every meal of the day. However, I will admit that this book changed my perspective on the food industry. In many classes I’ve learned about the horrors of the food industry and the torture the animals go through, as well as the environmental implications of establishing factories to prepare the meat and ship it off to wherever it needs to go, but for whatever reason it never seems to phase me. I wouldn’t say I’m numb to the thought that this world is full of hidden horrors, much like the food industry, but it definitely doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it should. I believe that meat provides proteins that humans need in their diets on a daily basis, and depleting these nutrients is not an ideal approach to getting humans to stop eating meat. I think that simple education has gone a long way, though, like showing people documentaries such as Food, Inc., but that hasn’t changed my opinion on what I’m putting into my body.
My favorite section from this book is under the chapter “Hiding/Speaking,” called “I am the Last Poultry Farmer” (110-115). I would like to start off by saying that this section made me feel sad yet also relieved. I’ve grown up with turkeys running around my neighborhood, so I understand where Frank Reese is coming from. I entirely agree that turkeys, while not humans, possess characteristics that make them unique as a species. They produce a variety of sounds as Reese described, and each has a different personality. While often aggressive, turkeys are intelligent creatures that can comprehend pain and misery, love and affection, and various other emotions. This is not to say that other poultry and farm animals cannot feel these things, but turkeys are animals that have a special place in my heart due to their role in my life. The way that Reese treats his turkeys gave me a sense of reassurance that there is still some humanity left in this world, especially in the food industry.
A passage from the text that I found particularly interesting starts on page 110 and concludes on page 111. Specifically, I am focusing on Reese’s description of the turkeys on his farm to the part right before he goes on to talk about biosecurity. Turkeys evidently are thinking, feeling animals, and to have the audacity to treat them with such disrespect is absurd. Later in the section, Reese goes on to talk about the mistreatment of turkeys at other larger companies. Reese is considered the only poultry farmer left that hasn’t turned his business into a living hell for his turkeys. The passage itself made me think about the cruelty that not just turkeys but all livestock are put through for the sake of human consumption, and the funniest part about it is that humans never want to hear how their food is made. No one ever wants to get into the details because they’re disturbing and inhumane, so knowing that Reese provides his turkeys a place to roam and a livable area to stay is comforting. He talks later about the turkeys’ deaths, and how people say, “Well, if they’re just going to die in the end, then why does it matter how they live while they’re alive?” It always strikes me as complete ignorance and downright stupidity when people ask this question, because that’s the equivalent of saying, “Well, if your baby only has a few years to live, then why does it matter how that baby lives anyway?” This is similar to what Reese stated at the end of his section, and that thought was flashing through my mind the entire time I was reading this section. Just because the turkey is going to end up being slaughtered doesn’t mean its entire life on this earth should be miserable. The same could be said about all living organisms; we all are going to meet the same fate someday, so why does it matter how we live our lives when we’re all just going to die? It makes no sense why anyone would even propose this question.
This reading gave me flashbacks to Cronon’s ideas on nature. I feel that, in this sense, there is a more natural way of going about livestock. And if natural cannot be applied to this situation, then humane ideals can be applied. A more “natural” approach is to do things the way Reese does, but even if some environmentalists refuse the notion of “natural,” then one can replace that word with “humane.” Reese most definitely has a much more humane way of going about his business than any company that forces their turkeys to hang by their feet or never see the light of day. This section about Reese and his turkeys had me cheering the entire time. Poultry and livestock in general deserve so much better. I think that human consumption is still okay, but raising animals the way Reese does is far more humane than assuming that animals are strictly machines and have been designed to be domesticated animals only.
Overall, I thought that this book was definitely one of the better books we’ve read for this class. It was entertaining enough, as well as informative. I also liked the formatting of the book and the random tidbits of information strewn throughout the pages. I’d recommend this book to others.
Environmental news item:
Access to sunflowers and their pollen could supposedly help keep vulnerable bee populations pathogen-free. Scientists found bees that fed on sunflower pollen enjoy lower rates of infection by two common pathogens, Crithidia bombi and Nosema ceranae. Bumble bees feeding on sunflower pollen enjoyed a lower mortality rate than control groups. Colonies of sunflower pollen-feeding bumble bees showed signs of improved health and growth rates.