By Mike Jaynes
It is currently a beautiful autumn here in the Southeast. Halloween is just around the corner and soon after comes a time of great joy for many people in our country: the holidays. The most celebrated holidays during this time, Thanksgiving and Christmas, are times of great joy for many Americans. And among the many things the holiday season brings is massively increased demand for the slaughter of turkeys, chickens, pigs, lambs, and other farm animals.
I’ve recently discovered an investigative pictorial series which shows in graphic detail what turkeys undergo from hatching until slaughtering, and this information is what has led to this article. It is my hope that people will consider what this increased demand for farm animals means to the sentient creatures in factory farms. As an animal ethics writer, I am working on many projects for 2008 and 2009. Presently, I am attempting to raise awareness for farm animals during the holidays. Due to this increased demand, slaughterhouses work around the clock killing pigs, turkeys, and the other farm animals mentioned, often in brutal fashion. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals presently has some great Thanksgiving suggestions and information out there, and I am thankful to them for the following information.
I hope everyone will consider eating choices during the upcoming holidays. For your information, in the United States 300 million turkeys are killed annually. The Thanksgiving-fueled increase in demand ensures that for that one holiday, forty million turkeys will be killed. Many turkeys' beaks are sliced off with a hot blade, sans any sort of pain medication whatsoever. Heavy doses of antibiotics and hormones are pumped into the birds’ systems and many-possibly most- are scalded alive in tanks to remove the feathers.
I would also like to discuss the famous Butterball Company that so many purchase their turkeys from each year. If a recent investigative report is true, Butterball may be among the cruelest companies in the industry. It is my dear wish you wouldn’t purchase any meat products whatsoever this holiday season, but if you do choose to do so please don't buy their products. For more information, here is a site dedicated to several undercover investigations of Butterball.
The investigations took place at Butterball's main slaughterhouse in Ozark, Arkansas.
One Butterball employee stomped on a bird's head until her skull exploded, another swung a turkey against a metal handrail so hard that her spine popped out, and another was seen inserting his finger into a turkey's cloaca (vagina). One worker told an investigator: "If you jump on their stomachs right, they'll pop ... or their insides will come out of their [rectums]," (investigative video) and other Butterball workers frequently bragged about kicking and tormenting birds. Full details are on that link.
Consider cooking a vegetarian or vegan holiday feast this year. In the Huffington Post, Bill Maher urged George Bush to pardon all turkeys last year. Maher was truly advocating on behalf of farmed animals during the holidays. In the piece he said:
I ask you to do what I'm going to do and pardon a turkey this Thanksgiving. It's not hard. Just eat something else. Not someone else, because it doesn't seem fair to spare a turkey and roast a hunk of pig or cow instead. If we can bow our heads in gratitude for our families, our friends and our big screen TVs, and then carve into a creature who lived a miserable life and died a horrible death, then our ethics are not very sensible.
Makes sense to me. If you truly would like to attempt a vegan Thanksgiving, recipes are plentiful and available. For example, here are several suggestions.
One of the largest misconceptions about going vegetarian is that the newly converted vegetarian won’t be able to find enough interesting things to eat. The truth is the opposite. If you get meat out of your diet, you will have plenty of other, more interesting, items to replace them.
You are alive. You have one life. Consider your diet.
Some people ignore dietary advice to cut back on or cut out animal products, perhaps hoping that a “magic pill” will come along that will make their illnesses go away. Common sense tells us that prevention is the best medicine. More and more people are finding wonderful ways to tempt their taste buds without tempting fate.
Eliminating animal foods from your diet reduces the risk of some of our biggest killers. According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, nutritional researcher at Cornell University and director of the largest epidemiological study in history, “the vast majority of all cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and other forms of degenerative illness can be prevented simply by adopting a plant-based diet.” Heart disease, cancer, strokes, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, and other diseases have all been linked to meat and dairy consumption.
It’s never too late to change your habits for the better. Changing your diet isn’t nearly as inconvenient as enduring a heart bypass operation, suffering paralysis from a stroke, or facing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer. Going vegetarian is the single best thing you can do for your health according to many experts.
Chickens, pigs, cows, and fish accumulate toxic chemicals in their flesh and fat, which is why meat and dairy products are responsible for almost all the toxic residues—dioxins, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and antibiotics—that Americans consume. In fact, 80 to 90 percent of dietary pesticide exposure, as well as 100 percent of dietary hormone and dioxin exposure, comes from eating animal products, and many of these chemicals are known to cause cancer in human beings.
- The risk of developing heart disease among meat-eaters is 50 percent higher than that of vegetarians. In fact, researchers have found that the longer and more often people eat meat, the greater their risk of heart disease.
- Meat, dairy products, and eggs are completely devoid of fiber and complex carbohydrates, the nutrients that we’re supposed to be consuming more of, and are laden with saturated fat and cholesterol, which make us fat and lethargic in the short term and lead to clogged arteries and heart attacks in the long term.
What About Protein?
In Western countries, our problem is too much protein, not too little. Most Americans get at least twice as much protein as they need. Almost everything contains protein; unless you eat nothing but junk food, it’s almost impossible to eat as many calories as you need for good health without getting enough protein.
Healthy sources include whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, beans, peanuts, peas, nuts, mushrooms, and broccoli. By contrast, too much protein, especially animal protein, can cause people to excrete calcium through their urine and increase their risk of osteoporosis. Too much protein can also strain the kidneys, leading to kidney disease. Vegans do not need to combine foods at each meal to get “complete protein.” All grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and seeds provide all the essential amino acids.
What’s Wrong With Milk and Eggs?
No species naturally drinks milk beyond infancy, and no species would naturally drink the milk of a different species. Cow’s milk is designed for baby cows, who have four stomachs and gain hundreds of pounds in a matter of months, sometimes weighing more than 1,000 pounds before their second birthday.
For humans, milk has been linked to heart disease, some types of cancer, diabetes, and even osteoporosis, the very disease that the dairy industry claims it is supposed to prevent. The high animal-protein content of milk actually causes calcium to be leached from the body. According to a Harvard Medical School analysis of the evidence, milk does not protect against osteoporosis. In fact, according to Harvard’s nutritionists, countries with low calcium intake (just 300 mg/day) tend to have a lower incidence of hip fractures (an indication of osteoporosis) than those countries with higher calcium consumption rates.
Milk is also loaded with fat and cholesterol and contains an ever-increasing variety of pesticides and antibiotics that are fed to cows. You can get all the calcium that you need from the plant world—tofu, broccoli, beans, grain, and calcium-fortified orange juice are all good sources.
Serving up just one egg for breakfast each morning can raise your cholesterol level by as much as 10 points. The human body makes all the cholesterol it needs for maintaining healthy nerves and cell membranes. The consumption of additional cholesterol through animal products, the only other sources of cholesterol, subjects the human body to a potential overload, leading to clogged arteries and heart disease.
Eggs are a primary carrier of salmonella, which sickens more than a million people and kills over 500 every year in the U.S. alone.
If you can't/don't want to go vegetarian, be aware of where your food comes from, and how it lived the one small life it was given. If you eat meat, eat meat from local organic farms.
And, if you want to do more, and get active and help turkeys, chickens, pigs, and other farm animals this holiday season, PETA will give you 100 free leaflets by simply filling out this form. PETA also allows free downloads of their “Holidays Are Murder on Turkeys" poster. You can leave these leaflets in bathrooms, at work, at school, and just about anywhere people might be apt to come by and pick them up. I’ve also pasted the text of their leaflet below simply because it gives a great overview on just exactly what the holidays means to these animals in our country.
The horrible irony, as Matthew Scully points out in his book Dominion, is that Christmas is when Christians come together to celebrate the Hope of the World and the one who came to end all suffering. Yet it is in the name of this holiday that pigs, chickens, and turkeys are most often tortured, beaten, maimed, and killed. It is this time of year believers should be most aware of the suffering of God’s creatures. Not the time we should be causing the majority of it. Please read the following leaflet for more information, think about animals every day of your life, weigh your life decisions, enter each day with joy, and please save the Turkeys. Following the leaflet is a pictorial investigative report of what turkeys go through from hatching to slaughter on the farms that supply this Christian country with its feasts to celebrate Christ.
Thank you for reading and admitting that the wholesale destruction of sentient animals does indeed disturb you. We can change the world. I agree with Margaret Mead who said “never doubt a small committed group of individuals can’t change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
Save the Animals!
Mike Jaynes is an American writer living in the Southeast. He has published on various animal ethics issues including elephant captivity and issues facing sharks.