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Animal Science, Public Universities and the Business of Animal Exploitation

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Animal Science, Public Universities and the Business of Animal Exploitation

From Free From Harm
April 2012

“Scores of animal scientists employed by public universities have helped pharmaceutical companies persuade farmers and ranchers to use antibiotics, hormones, and drugs like Zilmax to make their cattle grow bigger ever faster” — Melanie Petersen.

In Melody Petersen’s new piece in The Chronicle Review entitled, "As Beef Cattle Become Behemoths, Who Are Animal Scientists Serving?," Petersen questions the influence of Big Pharma in animal science labs whose clients are Big Ag. I thought these three worked pretty well together to destroy our environment, limit our food choices and monopolize taxpayer subsidies, but apparently Petersen makes a pretty good case for how animal scientists working for major public universities are unduly influenced by Big Pharma, thereby compromising their allegiance to Big Ag? Hmmm. Okay. I can’t seem to find the empathy for Big Ag. I have my own allegiances.

To be honest, I’m really not at all concerned about the welfare of Big Ag or Big Pharma or even the scientists and universities that profit from them. The animal victims of all three of these animal-exploiting industries are the obvious source of injustice here. But production animals are not really animals as we think of them for industries that regard them as raw materials, for animal scientists who seek to optimize their output of flesh, eggs and mammary gland secretions, and even for a whole host of journalists who report on the politics of our food. The animals have no voice, literally and figuratively. If you enter into a discussion with these types, you’ll be flippantly dismissed as unrealistic, anthropomorphic and unqualified to weigh in on their discipline.

When they speak of animals, it’s only in the context of their value as a meat commodity: “Meat from the most pharmaceutically enhanced cattle—especially those given Zilmax—can be so tough that some packing plants are refusing to buy cattle fed the drug.” It’s this level of indifference to animal interests that is causing a greater divide between the animal-using industries and a public growing increasingly disenchanted on many levels with the food industry. Ultimately they must answer to the end user, the consumer, who holds the key to the future of how this issue unfolds.