A man is usually more careful of his money than of his principles.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes
I don’t eat animal products unless I know how the animal was raised and two somewhat terrifying recent reports suggest that neither should you. I try not to get all preachy about lifestyle. I believe that people should spend their short amount of time on earth doing things that make them happy. But the more I learn about the big food industry the more I’m convinced that they’re not in the shiny happy people business. Well, shiny maybe.
First, as reported at The Real Fitness Nerd, “The Center for a Liveable Future came out with this report recently illuminating us to the fact that 80% of all antibiotics sold in the US are used on farm animals, not so much to cure them of a sinus infection or a slight case of the clap, but to help facilitate rapid growth. From their blog:
Antibiotics, one of the world’s greatest medical discoveries, are slowly losing their effectiveness in fighting bacterial infections and the massive use of the drugs in food animals may be the biggest culprit. The growing threat of antibiotic resistance is largely due to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in both people and animals, which leads to an increase in “super-bacteria”. However, people use a much smaller portion of antibiotics sold in this country compared to the amount set aside for food animals. In fact, according to new data just released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), of the antibiotics sold in 2009 for both people and food animals almost 80% were reserved for livestock and poultry. A huge portion of those antibiotics were never intended to fight bacterial infections, rather producers most likely administered them in continuous low-dosages through feed or water to increase the speed at which their animals grew. And that has many public health experts and scientists troubled.
Creepy on so many different levels.”
Creepy indeed, and that’s the lighter half of it. In a story from the San Francisco Chronicle titled The Most Important Disease You Probably Never Heard Of, David Barash links the massive rise in Crohn’s disease in people to poor animal raising practices by the meat industry.
Welcome to Johne’s (“yo-knees”), the most important disease that you probably never heard of. It is a serious, debilitating and sometimes fatal illness of cattle, goats, and sheep (among other animals), which the livestock and dairy industry is desperate to keep out of the public consciousness, despite the fact that it costs industrial agriculture many millions of dollars every year.
The reason for such industry reticence is that Johne’s disease in livestock is very similar – and possibly even identical – to Crohn’s disease in people, which currently afflicts an estimated 500,000 sufferers in North America alone, causing severe ulcerations of the gastrointestinal tract, immense pain, and loss of appetite and weight, often requiring surgical removal of the damaged bowel. And the big, dirty secret of today’s industrial dairy and meat producers is that animals suffering from flagrant Johne’s disease currently provide milk and meat directly to the American consumer.
Of course, in the web of artificial life that is big food these topics are related. Is it any wonder that this new crop of artificially large livestock is being targeted by an illness causing their bodies to waste away? Methinks not so much. The article then delves into an interesting history of trial and error with antibiotics where we tout what goes well and bury what doesn’t. It’s all very scientific until:
This is itself an extraordinary fact, worth repeating and emphasizing: Cattle suffering from a severe bacterial infection related to tuberculosis and leprosy, characterized by pussy, intestinal ulcers and overall body wasting, and which may be literally identical to a pathogen that causes a devastating illness in genetically susceptible people, are – right now, as you read this – routinely being slaughtered, and their infected meat introduced into the food stream.
Wait! What?! No wonder he felt the need to write it twice. I don’t think you need to be a PETA activist to show a little animal compassion in this case. And regardless of the poor animals, I'm sure the cast of Jackass would enthusiastically choose a vomit omelet over a Whopper made from Johne’s-riddled livestock.
In an old western Paul Newman plays Hud, a despicable character; the black sheep son of a well-to-do rancher who is trying, unsuccessfully, to teach him to run the family business. In one scene the herd is infected with deadly hoof and mouth disease. Upon hearing they needed to be destroyed before they infect anyone else’s cattle Hud says, “They look ok to me. Can’t we sell them quickly before they look sick?” His father stares at him, almost unbelievably, with a look that conveys a lost cause as this human, surely now, is beyond the possibility of salvation says, “Son, you are an unprincipled man.” Hud kills his father and takes over the business. Given the situation as it stands, I think I may have been watching a documentary.