It's been said that "As Oprah goes... so goes the nation." And in case you missed it, last week Oprah, and almost 400 of her staff, went vegan. Last Tuesday's show documented her "vegan challenge," and a segment of the broadcast focused on a slaughterhouse run by Cargill. Journalist Lisa Ling was allowed a polished guided tour inside, and filmed cows being processed for food.
After the footage aired, we were assured by the Cargill plant's general manager Nicole Johnson-Hoffman that her slaughterhouse was stamped and approved by none other than Temple Grandin, and that the cows do not suffer at this facility. In truth, the place did look clean and orderly, as I'm sure any would when you know you have Opie coming for a look-see.
But what about every other day of the year? And what about the 20 other slaughter facilities that Oprah said turned her down? What happens in these places when no one is looking?
This week Mercy For Animals, a Chicago-based animal advocacy organization, released a 12-minute documentary called Farm to Fridge. Narrated by James Cromwell, it shows that other reality, caught on film by undercover investigators -- no media-savvy slaughterhouse managers here.
In Oprah's show, celebrated food expert Michael Pollan told viewers that if they could not watch where their meat came from, they probably shouldn't eat it.
I'd like to offer my own challenge: watch the following images, which haven't been pre-arranged or pre-approved by the food industry, and draw your own conclusions about where your meat really comes from:
In case you got too squeamish, here's a sampling of what you missed:
- Piglets having their testicles ripped out and their tails chopped off without painkillers
- Male chicks being ground up alive in giant macerators, and egg-laying hens packed into tiny wire cages so small they cannot even spread their wings
- Fish being skinned and dismembered while still conscious
- Hens, mother pigs, and baby calves confined in cages and stalls so small the animals cannot comfortably stand up, turn around, lie down, or extend their limbs
The obvious and undeniable truth of all of this is that animals on factory farms do suffer. It's not because huge companies are sadistic, it's because there simply is no way to humanely care for and kill 10 billion animals a year, the amount we eat in the United States. That's roughly 316 animals every single second.
Michael Pollan has suggested that we could all just switch to "humane meat" and problem solved. But surely even Pollan must know that at the rate that we consume animals, his fantasy farms simply cannot exist. There just is not enough land on the planet to do it.
The truth is that if we really care about animals, we must take steps to drastically reduce or, better yet, completely eliminate our consumption of animal products.
That is the only way to ensure that scenes like this stop for good.
Follow Ari Solomon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/VeganAri