Frankly, we don’t need any new reasons to resist factory farms. Perhaps it is the 50 billion animals they manipulate, torture and slaughter each year. Or the fact that they contribute to climate change at a level higher than all the cars and planes in the world combined. Or perhaps it is that our addiction to meat is causing heart disease and cancer deaths at astounding rates. And then there is the uncomfortable fact that poor, desperate immigrants do our dirty work in such farms so that we can eat artificially cheap meat. My new book argues that there are also good theological reasons to question factory farming as radically inconsistent with the vision God has for human/animal relationships.
Any one of these reasons should be enough for most of us to buy something other than factory farmed meat. Together, the case is absolutely overwhelming.
But if all of this this just isn’t enough, consider the growing fear in the medical and global health communities over our inability to treat Super-Bugs. The associate director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently told Frontline:
“For a long time, there have been newspaper stories and covers of magazines that talked about ‘The end of antibiotics, question mark’…Well, now I would say you can change the title to ‘The end of antibiotics, period.'”
Over 23,000 people die each year from Super-Bugs which are “pan-resistant” to all known antibiotic treatments, and that number is growing exponentially. Indeed, drug companies are now refusing to invest in new antibiotics because they don’t see a way to make money on them in the future. (Watch the whole Frontline piece for more disturbingly important details.)
But as Melinda Henneberger noted last week in the Washington Post, over 80% of the antibiotics given out in this country are given to animals in factory farms. The editors of the USA Today wrote a scathing editorial yesterday undressing the Obama administration for giving in to the lobbyists of big agriculture and not doing enough to curb the problem. And while government regulation is essential, the huge problem of Super-Bugs is the latest in a series of very important reasons individuals and smaller communities should refuse to cooperate with the grave structural evil of factory farms.
Especially as we head into Thanksgiving, let us reward businesses who provide us with healthy food that is produced justly, in line with the common good, and let us avoid businesses who do not do this.
It isn’t meat that is causing cancer and heart disease. It’s altered fats and carbohydrates plus endocrine disrupters like BPA.
I agree that antibiotics are grossly overused in industrial farming. But your anti-meat views are getting in the way of making a good case.
By the way — how do vegetarians ensure they are getting adequate B12?
The science is clear about relationship between eating meat and heart disease and cancer:
Most have plenty of nonmeat sources of b12:
Thanks, Charlie, for drawing more attention to the horrifying reality of “Super-Bugs” as well as the deleterious effects of factory farms. I agree with you wholeheartedly on those points and second your clarion call/prayer in the final sentence.
However, my struggle too involves a blanket identification of meat with early death and disease. As far as I’ve read on the link between meat and disease–and also the links you share in the comment above–there is an important uncontrolled variable, specifically related the the concerns that you raise. That is, no effort is made to distinguish between factory-farmed, hormone and antibiotic-laden meat and meat from small-farmed, well-treated animals. The authors of these studies and the articles about them seem to jump to the conclusion that the problem here is “fat” or “read meat” or “processed meat.” I worry that such a conclusion ignores important differences that perhaps aren’t readily apparent. For example, we now recognize that lard and butter are better for cooking than margarine and trans-fats, but of course margarine was initially lauded as a healthy alternative to the former two. Specifically on the issue of fat, we know that grass-fed beef contains greater balance in the ratio between Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s more suitable to an overall healthy diet. I find a study suspect in which a grass-fed ribeye is lumped together with a Big Mac, both under the category of “red meat.” Further, I find it difficult to place Johnsonville sausages or Hormel salami in the same category as artisan or homemade fresh or cured sausages, “processed” with responsibly farmed meat. Because something undergoes a “process,” it cannot, therefore, be placed in the same category as everything else that under goes a “process,” right?
I have yet to find a study that makes an attempt to control this variable in order to give us a deeper insight into the dietary effects of eating meat. Do you know of any such study?