In a seminal piece of writing, and a turning point in American journalism, Upton Sinclair exposed the atrocities of the meat-packing industry, which constituted a threat to public health, an extreme danger to the workers in the industry, and deplorably cruel treatment of animals. His monumental opus involved undercover research into the industry, which eventually changed the regulatory processes that have ensured safe food in this country up to the present. Interestingly, Teddy Roosevelt tried to suppress his work from public awareness (was he in the pay of the industry?) Now again, thanks to to the mindless deregulatory fervor of recent governments (in the pay of the industry?), those abominable conditions have returned, to our peril.
CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) is the acronym for the factory farms in which our meat is processed. I can tell you that these are not nice places. Deep down we all probably know about this, but without seeing it, it's not real. If one decides not to look, isn't that because if you knew, you could not continue to support this industry?
The conditions under which these animals live are indescribable. Words can describe the heat, stench, noise, injuries and fear these animals face, but only pictures can make it real. And that's just the animal ethics side of the issue. Then there's the fact that livestock production is responsible for 20 percent of all climate change gases, and cows alone drink up about 10 percent of the world's fresh water. The largest toxic spill into an American waterway was from a hog waste lagoon which burst during a hurricane in North Carolina. Everything in the river died. Is eating meat really worth it?
But that's still not the issue here.
The CAFO operators are trying to sneak through a law that would ban taking pictures of CAFOs. Of course they don't want you to see their operating conditions, you might stop eating meat. The very cornerstone of the "fourth branch" of government is at stake here, arguably the branch that maintains our freedoms, however feebly. And once the CAFOs get the law passed, what's to stop all the other disaster industries from spending the proceeds of our consumption to prevent revelation of anything derogatory?
If we scream now, we might get this stopped. For your health, for your dog, for your children, call your congressperson and insist that this bill not pass. We have a right to know how our pigs are raised.
Caution: Some images may be disturbing to some readers.