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Meet Meat Research Paper

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Josh De Freitas- 904807

Rhetoric and Composition II                                                                  

April 24th, 2015        

Dr. Krzys Piekarski

Research Paper

Meet Meat

Our love for eating a juicy steak or any meat for that matter is nothing new. Carnivorous humans go back a long way. Stone tools for butchering meat, and animal bones with corresponding cut marks on them, first appear in the fossil record about 2.5 million years ago (Mayell). The debate surrounding consumption of animals is also by no means new. Stoic philosopher, Chrysippus, wrote in the third century BCE that the purpose of an animal's soul was simply to keep the meat fresh (Engelhart and Kohler). Given the ever-increasing population and therefore meat consumption, the sustainability of meat has been up for questioning, many asking, why do I eat meat? Should I continue? Or, is there even anything wrong with eating meat?  

Today, livestock contributes the greatest to greenhouse gases, responsible for 18 percent of emissions, close to 40 percent more than worldwide transportation combined, and is listed among the top three environmental problems (United Nations). Trends in developing nations like India and China, where ballooning middle classes are boosting appetites for animal protein, suggest things will only get worse. Demand in China doubled between 1990 and 2005 and continues to rise with great intensity (Engelhart and Kohler). Demand for meat and its environmental impact can be converted into a simple picture: a typical American meat eater contributes one and one-half tons more CO2 to the environment than a vegetarian (Bittman).

With over nine billion animals raised and slaughtered for human consumption each year in the U.S. alone, modern animal agriculture puts an incredible strain on natural resources like land, water, and fossil fuel. Factory farms yield a relatively small amount of meat, dairy, and eggs for this input, and in return produce staggering quantities of waste and greenhouse gases, polluting our land, air, and water and contributing to climate change. In the U.S. alone, animals raised on factory farms generate more than 1 million tons of manure per day — three times the amount generated by the country’s human population (Farm Sanctuary). Factory farms typically store animal waste in huge, open-air lagoons, often as big as several football fields, which are prone to leaks and spills. In 2011, an Illinois hog farm spilled 200,000 gallons of manure into a creek, killing over 110,000 fish (Farm Sanctuary). When lagoons reach capacity, farmers will often opt to apply manure to surrounding areas rather than pay to have the waste transported off-site. According to the USDA, animal waste can contaminate water supplies and omit harmful gases into the atmosphere when over-applied to land.

Consumption around the world has quintupled in the past 50 years and is set to double by 2050. Sixty years ago, producers generated around 18 kg of meat per person; by 1994, production had jumped to a staggering 35.4 kg per person. In 2008, the most recent Statistics Canada numbers available, Canadians ate just over 100 kg of red meat, fish and chicken per person, more than a quarter of a kilo a day (Engelhart and Kohler).

Apart from the continuous environmental degradation associated with the increasing consumption of meat, animals experience excruciating pain to fulfill our appetite for their flesh. Chickens used for egg production are among the most abused of all farm animals. In order to meet the consumer demand for eggs, 280 million hens laid 77.3 billion eggs in 2007. Because male chicks will not grow up to lay eggs and, therefore, have little value to the egg industry, 260 million are killed each year upon hatching. Methods include being sucked through a series of pipes onto an electrified “kill plate,” being ground up alive and fully conscious in a “macerator,” or being gassed (Farm Sanctuary). 

At one of KFC’s (Kentucky Fried Chicken) suppliers, workers were documented tearing the heads off live birds, spitting tobacco into their eyes, spray-painting their faces, and violently stomping on them (Safran 67). Employees also admitted to beating pregnant pigs in an effort to get them into crates, with an incident of a sow starving to death due to a smashed in nose, also being noted (Safran 185). But are we actually connected to this type of treatment?

Less than 1 percent of meat comes from family farms, so more than likely, our consumption is linked with one kind of factory farm or another (Safran 201).

We see there is significant environmental degradation and animal suffering where meat is related, it is there, and somewhat hidden but it is there. Engel in Immorality of Eating Meat points to some of our beliefs. He understands that if we are a minimally decent person, think that a world with less suffering is better and would participate in the bare minimum to reduce suffering, it would be hard to accept eating meat as a common practice. Considering Safran and Engel, it is hard for us to come up with a reason to eat meat. It seems to go against our own beliefs. However, vegetarians make up a very small fraction of the population, but why? When surveyed, 96 percent of Americans believe animals need rights and 76 percent would prefer animal welfare rather than cheap meat, that is, the same KFC meals (Safran 73). Yes, we do not like animal suffering and effects of environmental degradation but something does not seem to add up.

There seems to be some weird disconnection. Is it between our beliefs and what we actually put into practice?

When eating meat, or any confrontation with it for that matter, we are likely detached from it. In restaurants, kitchens and supermarkets, what is meat to us? Just food? Maybe, just another item to purchase? Similarly to a variety of situations, when close contact is eliminated, we seem, not to care less, but feel a reduced connection. Engel more or less believes that we are already vegetarians without even knowing it, but are we? Is the disconnection from reality our reason for eating meat?  

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