Over a half-billion eggs have recently been recalled due to a salmonella outbreak that has sickened thousands, and the toll is expected to rise. On CNN earlier this week, Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, said that it is the fault of the farm that produced these contaminated eggs. Schlosser believes that if the factory farm where these eggs were produced had good sanitary conditions and were thoroughly testing for salmonella, we wouldn’t have had this outbreak. He thinks the FDA needs the ability to test for contaminated foods, trace them back to their source, and order the recall of those foods; it does not have those powers right now.
Schlosser stated that the factory farming industry has fought against the FDA having these powers for almost 20 years. He says that when it comes to livestock and the production of eggs, these companies don’t want you to see how it’s actually being produced because, “If you saw, you wouldn’t want to eat it.” Schlosser pointed out that we have been eating eggs for thousands of years but we’ve only been eating eggs produced by these mega factory farms for the last 20 years and we’re now seeing the results of that. He believes that people should inform themselves about where their food comes from. If you’re interested in becoming an informed consumer, Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals is a good place to start.
Jonathan Safran Foer, mostly known for his fiction novel Everything Is illuminated, spent three years conducting research for Eating Animals. He talked to fishermen, slaughterhouse workers, animal rights activists, and visited factory farms as well as family run farms. In the process of his research, Foer said, “I came face-to-face with realities that as a citizen I couldn’t ignore and as a writer I couldn’t keep to myself.”
According to Foer, 99 percent of all animals eaten in this country come from factory farms and most of them are poultry farms. There are 50 billion factory-farmed birds worldwide. In most factory farms there are tens of thousands of birds stacked in cages on top of each other as far as the eye can see. The way Foer describes poultry slaughterhouses seems like something out of a horror book.
In many other countries, it is legally required that chickens be rendered unconscious or killed prior to bleeding and scalding. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in the United States. Here in America, the USDA’s interpretation of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act exempts chicken slaughter. According to Foer, the voltage of the electrified water bath (that a chicken passes through hung upside down by their ankles in metal shackles) is kept low—about one-tenth the level necessary to render the animals unconscious. After it has traveled through the bath, a paralyzed bird’s eyes might still move. Foer writes: “[S]ometimes the birds will have enough control of their bodies to slowly open their beaks, as though attempting to scream.”
Aside from the animal cruelty on factory farms, Foer argues in his book that these farms also contribute to environmental degradation. The United Nations summarized the environmental effects of the meat industry this way: “Raising animals for food is one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems at every scale from local to global … animal agriculture should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution and loss of biodiversity.” Foer reasons that if one cares about the environment, one must care about eating animals.
The fact is that factory farms exist because they can produce cheap meat. According to Foer, in the past 50 years, the average cost of a new house increased nearly 1,500 percent; new cars climbed more than 1,400 percent; but the price of milk is up only 350 percent, and eggs and chicken meat haven’t even doubled. Foer quoted a farmer on a family-run farm saying: “If consumers don’t want to pay the farmer to do it right, they shouldn’t eat meat.”
When surveyed, 96 percent of Americans say that animals deserve legal protection, 76 percent say that animal welfare is more important to them than low meat prices, and nearly two-thirds advocate passing not only laws but “strict laws” concerning the treatment of farmed animals. With all the studies on animal agriculture, pollution, toxic chemicals in factory-farmed animals, and exposés of the appalling cruelty to animals in that industry, Foer writes, “We can’t plead ignorance, only indifference. Those alive today are the generations that came to know better. We have the burden and the opportunity of living in the moment when the critique of factory farming broke into the popular consciousness. We are the ones of whom it will be fairly asked, ‘What did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?’”
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has called for changes to be made at the Iowa farm where the contaminated eggs originated. HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle stated, “It is the very system of cramming birds into cages—in warehouses on operations that may confine more than a million animals—that exacerbates the spread of infectious diseases like salmonella. Confining more than 50 million hens in cages, as Iowa does, is a public health crisis in the making.”
The HSUS goes on to assert that 142,000 Americans suffer from salmonella infections from eggs every year. Their recommendation to protect public health is to force the egg industry to reduce risks by moving to cage-free operations. According to the HSUS, simply by switching to cage-free housing systems, the egg industry may be able to halve the risk of salmonella for the American public according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Rather than feeling as though the future is dismal, realize instead that you can make a difference. It would be nice if we could all buy our meat from family farms, but considering that less than 1 percent of the animals killed for meat in America come from family farms, this task is all but impossible (though Whole Foods is a good source). Try at least to make a conscious choice about what you eat each day and take a moment to think about where your food comes from and how it got to your dining table. At the very least, if you consume eggs, purchase the cage-free or free-range variety.
CARE4Paws’ Wags ’n’ Whiskers Festival
There will be animal training demos, agility shows, and “Pawsitive Thinking” activities for kids. You can learn about pet first aid and animal wellness programs. There will also be a raffle for dog training lessons, boarding, pet accessories, toys, treats, gift baskets, and more, plus dancing dogs and grooming on the spot! Sunday, August 29, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Girsh Park (behind the Costco mall). There will also be low-cost vaccinations, microchipping, and dog licensing at 9 a.m. For more information, visit, care4paws.org.
Bunny and Guinea Pig Festival
You can enter your bunny or guinea pig in bowling, carrot eating, or the obstacle course. Nail trimming, massage, and grooming are available at the Spa. Have a brief check up with Dr. Haskell or Dr. Lumsden, see Dr. Rugg the acupuncturist and Laura Stinchfield the animal communicator. Have a portrait of your bunny done at the Photo Booth. Shop for bunny supplies and gifts at vendors including the Bunny Bunch, Heidi Bratt, Dazzling Animals, Oreana Winery, and SLO BUNS. Get a tattoo, a bunny kiss, or have bunny tarot cards read. Find bargains at the silent auction and snacks at the Carrot Café. The Briar Patch has great children’s activities. Visit and pet the adoptable rabbits. Rest your rabbit or guinea pig in the Lagomorph Lounge. September 26, 12-4 p.m., S.B. County Courthouse Sunken Gardens, 33 E. Anapamu. For more information, visit bunssb.org.