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We Ate a Lot of Hearts, Because You Could Get Them for Nothing

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We Ate a Lot of Hearts, Because You Could Get Them for Nothing

By Marji Beach (Education Director, Animal Place Sanctuary) on Challenge Oppression
June 2013

How can we move forward with cherishing life if we demean that most powerful muscle? The value of a heart - nothing.

When I watched hens dumped into trash bins to be gassed at A&L Poultry last year, I distinctly remember thinking, “Well, isn’t that appropriate…this is exactly how the egg industry sees unwanted hens. They’re trash to them.” It was such a powerful visual metaphor.

The title of this article is a partial quote from a recent Smithsonian article, a sit-down conversation between two food critics – Ruth Reichl and Michael Pollan. [For more about this, read Michael Pollan Talks Trash about Chickens Just Like Big Ag He Denounces.]

The full quote from Reichl, “We ate a lot of hearts of every kind because you get them for nothing.”

The heart, that incredible muscle beating, pumping to keep living beings alive diminished to nothing. How can we move forward with cherishing life if we demean that most powerful muscle? The value of a heart - nothing.

Of course those of us who feel other animals are not here for us to eat, wear, or exploit beg to differ. Reichl does not advocate we stop suffering, in fact, through this flippant statement, she enables the suffering of billions, the violent cessation of so many hearts.

Later in the piece, Pollan talks about how empowering food choices are, that they are one of the decisions we make in which we have complete control. He’s absolutely right. The food choices we make have an impact on our friends, family, colleagues and social peers. They also have an impact on other animals, the environment, our health, and the welfare of workers employed/exploited in various food industries.

Afterwards, he shares a story about a pig he raised who ended up dying during a poorly executed introduction between two pigs. He could not eat that pig (Kosher) but goes on to say, “I think now I could raise a pig and kill a pig for food. I didn’t feel a sense of attachment. Clearly a pig is a very intelligent animal, but I think I could probably do that.”

It’s true, pigs are smart. They can learn to turn on heaters when they are cold and turn them off when they get warm. They have learned to play simplified video games. I love telling visitors about the intelligence of pigs, because few people think of pigs in terms of their cognitive abilities. Even if pigs were not smart, though, they have an inherent right to be free of exploitation and harm. Intelligence should never be a determining factor in whether we violently end the life of another being.