Studies show factory farms harm health

In recent years, the media has frenzied over new studies concerned with the pros and cons of consuming red meat or processed meat, such as those published in the Harvard Health Publications and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s Iron and Health Report from 2011. Such studies have made many allegations of both benefits and detriments from eating red meat or processed meat.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, “Studies show we can eat up to 18 ounces a week of red meat without raising cancer risk. Research on processed meat shows cancer risk starts to increase with any portion.” Essentially, eating the appropriate portions of red meat is perfectly healthy, it is only the consumption of processed meat that poses immediate detrimental effects.

So why even consider becoming vegetarian, when the most important step for healthy eating in regard to red meat is portion control? My reason for renouncing meat is not related to religion or centered around health benefits; it is based upon the treatment of the animals before they are killed. Regardless of whether you attribute faith or science as the cause, humans exert dominion over other creatures, and with authority over other life comes the duty to exercise it responsibly. Humankind, through advancements in technology, philosophy and understanding, are necessitated to act as the stewards of the planet. The current widespread practice of factory farming is an appalling abuse of that power.

As with all businesses, the minimization of costs for the maximization of profits is the ultimate end-goal. In factory farms, this practice had been radicalized to extremes at the expense of the animals. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, animals are confined to cages for the overwhelming majority of their lives, and live in conditions so abysmal that they would otherwise die if it were not for the antibiotics being pumped into their bodies. A resulting risk of the extensive use of antibiotics is the development of drug-resistant bacteria. The majority of federal and state laws, including Washington State as defined in West’s RCWA 16.52.185, exclude farm animals from anti-cruelty laws, allowing the horrific treatment to continue unchecked. The consumption of meat is far from a condemnable act, but the inhumane treatment of creatures that are biologically capable of registering pain is another matter entirely.

In recent years, attention has been drawn to the sickening conditions factory farms provide. According to ASPCA, “[pig] pens are too small and crowded for adequate movement and exercise. Ammonia fumes rise to dangerous, uncomfortable levels due to the pigs’ waste.” Consequently, meat and animal products have begun to be labeled in order to promote awareness, thereby allowing consumers to choose what treatment of animals they believe to be acceptable. An informational and user-friendly label guide can be found at www.stopfactoryfarms.org.

How is this information applicable to you? Executive chef of Sodexo Timothy Grayson said Sodexo currently does not distinguish Whitworth’s meat suppliers based upon the conditions the animals are raised in, but roughly 75% of its eggs are cage-free. When it comes down to it, converting to only pasture raised meat is not a realistic option for Whitworth, due to the lack of availability and significant cost differences, Grayson said. However, Sodexo has expanded its vegetarian offerings at Whitworth, which makes reducing one’s meat intake a much more feasible adjustment.

I don’t ask or expect you to renounce meat. I simply desire consumers to be educated in their decisions. What choice they make is entirely up to themselves. My hope is that one day all meat products may be appropriately labeled at Whitworth and all animal product vendors. Let the consumers decide what kind of animal treatment they choose to support. Decisions should always walk hand-in-hand with knowledge.

 

Matthew Boardman

Columnist

Contact Matthew Boardman at mboardman18@my.whitworth.edu

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