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Consider it a Boycott
March 2, 2002
By nsaixphnutex

Many people are turned off to vegetarianism because of Animal Rights "purists" who take the abuse and suffering inflicted on animals very personally and let their emotions interfere with their ability to rationally present their position (although I generally agree with their position, I don't believe that the best way to bring the issue to the mainstream is through purism). I am of the firm opinion that given enough facts in a non-threatening manner, that anyone with a hint of social conscience can understand the utmost importance of at least considering the vegetarian option.

INTRODUCTION

You're not convinced by Animal Rights? Fine - I can understand the hesitancy to throw out the age-old traditions and beliefs that you've been taught your entire life, that is certainly a terribly hard thing to come to grips with (although I do encourage researching it). However, I believe, and many prominent people in the vegetarian "movement" have advocated, that the best way to present the case for vegetarianism to the mainstream left is simply a matter of boycotting an immoral product.

And no, I'm not talking about immoral in that we're killing other sentient beings so we can cook their flesh, I'm talking of the practices of the meat industry that harm the environment, laborers, consumers, taxpayers, and other entities. Therefore it is critical that every leftist read on, and consider whether they would tolerate such blatant immoral activity from companies in other industries, or whether they would be boycotting.

The vegetarian 'boycott' is already an effective force. Growing by the millions, vegetarians in America are forcing big companies to consider alternatives to their normal meat-filled products. Kellogg's owns Morningstar Farms, the manufacturer of a vast variety of imitation meats that I personally love, some of them moreso than actual meat products. Campbell's offers vegetarian soups, 'Boca' Burgers are available in national restaurant chains, and health food stores (highly stocked in vegetarian and vegan food) are the fastest growing niche food retailer.

By becoming a vegetarian, you can be utterly assured that you're not joining some fringe movement that will never be powerful enough to affect real change - the meat boycott already is, and polls show anywhere from 5 million to 15 million Americans consider themselves vegetarians, with that number growing each year. That's a hefty force, and by no means a boycott that isn't widely spread.

The meat industry is a horrendous machine of mass-production that operates with so little public knowledge of what they're doing and so little regard for anything other than profits that it's amazing the corruption of it all isn't more publicized. Many people are so attached to their steaks, veal, and stuffed turkeys that they vehemently disregard anything that tries to expose the problems in this industry. I hope that people can put aside their taste buds for a moment and learn about the reality of the situation.

THE ENVIRONMENT

The meat industry is one of the largest and widespread polluters in the country. Taking reported facts from E/The Environmental Magazine article on meat-industry pollution (http://www.emagazine.com/january-february_2002/0102feat1.html), factory farms produced 1.4 billion tons of animal waste in 1996, which pollutes America's waterways more than all other industries combined.

Every U.S. household that eats meat is responsible for 20 tons of livestock manure a year. The 1995 New River hog waste spill poured 25 million gallons of pollution in North Carolina into the water, killing 10 to 14 million fish. Over 1/3 of all raw materials and fossil fuels used in the U.S. are used for animal production. Creating 1 lb. of hamburger uses enough fossil fuel to drive 20 miles and causes the erosion of 5 times it's weight in topsoil. Every vegetarian is responsible for saving 1 acre of trees per year, that would otherwise be cut down for grazing (not to mention rainforests cut down for grazing).

Additionally, the federal government generally subsidizes all this abuse by allowing grazing on public lands and using taxpayer money to support the meat industry. Essentially, not only is meat-eating directly financing the destruction of the environment, but every taxpayer is forced to pay for the destruction through government subsidies

There is no escaping it - by purchasing meat, one is financing arguably the largest polluter in the world.

HUMANITARIANISM

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

-Albert Einstein

The sad fact is that we live in an over-populated world. We can't feed all the people who live here without destroying the things that feed us. Third-world countries have massive famine problems, innocent men, women and children die on a daily basis because of malnutrition. While we worry about the Dow and Nasdaq, they worry about where their next meal will come from.

What does this have to do with vegetarianism? Waste, that's what. Again, taking facts reported in E/The Environmental Magazine (http://www.emagazine.com/January-February_2002/0102feat1.html) and widely reported elsewhere, the reality is that eating meat is contributing to the starvation of innocent people.

It takes 4.8 lbs of grain to produce 1 lb of beef. That means, in simple terms, that we're wasting 80% of our grain on factory farming. That grain could be shipped to third-world countries to feed people. It could mean the difference between a slow, suffering death and having a meal every day for millions of people.

The article goes on to illustrate that a 10 acre farm can feed "60 people growing soybeans, 24 people growing wheat, 10 people growing corn and only two producing cattle." Furthermore, the article brings a much better illustration to light, with the following example. "...imagine sitting down to an eight-ounce steak. 'Then imagine the room filled with 45 to 50 people with empty bowls in front of them. For the 'feed cost' of your steak, each of their bowls could be filled with a full cup of cooked cereal grains.'"

LABOR RIGHTS

What is the single most dangerous job in America? NY taxicab driver? Police officer? Wild animal trainer? Nope - slaughterhouse laborer. That's right, working in a slaughterhouse is the absolute most hazardous job in the country. Why? It's simple, thousands of live cows are brought in daily, some of them remain conscious after the initial shock/beating on the head/whatever the slaughterhouse uses to knock them out. They then, fearing rightfully for their life, go nuts and start charging, kicking, etc. The diseases spread by millions of pounds of raw meat cycling through the slaughterhouse spread like wildfire. Having to work in conditions where you must wear rubber boots up to your waist to keep the, literally, lake of blood off your skin and open wounds inevitably leads to accidents.

The U.S. Labor Department in 1998 reported that 29.3% of meat workers suffered injury or illness, compared to 9.3% for the rest of manufacturing. Meat companies, always worried about the bottom line rather than human life, put enormous pressure on their laborers to work faster. Working faster, inevitably, causing more mistakes and 'accidents'.

According to Eric Schlosser, author of "Fast Food Nation", a former meat factory nurse said, "I could always tell the line speed by the number of people with lacerations coming into my office." (http://www.purefood.org/irrad/slaughterworkers.cfm) Slaughterhouse labor also has one of the highest turn-over rates in the country.

The factory-farming industry also is responsible for massive abuses of immigrant labor. According to an article on purefood.org (same url as before), a beef company bused workers from the Mexican border to a Minneapolis homeless shelter.

Meat workers are paid very low wages and generally have no basic benefits such as health insurance.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The meat industry is guilty of virtually every unpardonable sin that the left generally condemns other industries for, yet the left is eerily silent when it comes to meat. Vegetarianism is not unhealthy, quite to the contrary, many studies have shown that vegetarians are far healthier than meat-eaters. Additionally, most people who turn vegetarian report that their initial fear over being 'bored' at mealtime was unfounded, and that contrary to their anticipations, they've actually found they've discovered far more enticing options to eat for dinner than when they were meateaters. They also often report a more intense relationship with their food, where they learn to appreciate it's nourishment more.

Many people in a very noble first-step often turn to 'free-range' meat products, where the animals are not fed the massive amounts of hormones (linked to early puberty in children, immune deficiencies, and cancer) and other drugs and where the animals are allowed to live a semi-normal life and slaughtered 'humanely'. This is definitely a great step in the right direction.

The problem lies in that there is absolutely no legal restriction on the use of the term 'free-range'. Many 'free-range' eggs are produced by hens who are only allowed out to stretch their wings and scratch the ground for one hour a day, for example. Moving to more-expensive free-range meat is a good step, but it's not a solution, as the problems listed above are generally still relevant to free-range farms as much as factory-farms.

Furthermore, the arguments above, deliberately, do not touch base on animal rights issues and human health issues much, if at all. This is on purpose, as I feel the controversy regarding these issues can lead to an all-around dismissal of vegetarianism rather than presenting the argument purely from a boycott perspective.

In the end, I can testify that after approximately 9 months of being a vegetarian, that it's been nothing that I expected. I ate meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I couldn't get enough. I loved my medium-rare steaks with cajun, pepper, garlic, and salt. My medium-well burgers with cheese, mayo and lettuce. My sausage and bacon for breakfast, oh it was delicious. I didn't think I could ever be a vegetarian.

Nowadays, I get physically ill (literally, that's not an expression) if I accidentally ingest some meat-grease or other meat product, and as much as my taste buds yearn for those steaks, I can't stomach (again, literally) the idea of eating meat. And not only has my physical body rejected meat (as, I believe, is natural for humans) but my logical mind rejects the idea of financing such a corrupt and immoral industry.

In short, despite the strongest opposition to vegetarianism in the world, I've become a true believer... And so can you, if you give it the chance it deserves.

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