Jane Velez-Mitchell is the author of 'iWant: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life' and 'Secrets Can Be Murder: The Killer Next Door' as well as 'Addict Nation: An Intervention for America' which will be published in February, 2011. She hosts ISSUES with Jane Velez-Mitchell nightly on HLN at 7p ET.
"Half measures avail us nothing." It’s a profound saying that usually applies to recovery from addiction, but, it could just as well be applied to America’s food crisis. The U.S. Senate’s passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) is a step in the right direction, but, it fails to address the core issue at the very heart of our nation’s struggle to keep our food supply safe: the extreme and cruel confinement of animals raised and killed for food.
Pigs are kept in gestation crates just barely larger than the size of their bodies. They cannot turn around or even scratch themselves and are routinely driven into a form of psychosis. Chickens are crammed into cages where they live one on top of the other without being able to spread their wings. Hens routinely have their beaks cut off so they don’t peck each other to death.
What does animal welfare have to do with food safety? The animals are the food! They are living in their own excrement, developing horrific sores, stressed out and therefore more vulnerable to illness and disease. That’s why the vast majority of antibiotics consumed in this country are consumed by farm animals.
Don’t take my word for it. Go online. Just Google "pig gestation crates." Google "veal crates." The photos will pop up and they are what agribusiness doesn’t want you to see. This is why the dairy industry runs those cynical “Happy Cow” commercials. They want you to believe in the fairy tale of the compassionate, family run farm that has been almost entirely wiped out by factory farming.
Want more proof that there’s a link between animal welfare and food safety? Check out any one of the myriad undercover investigations conducted by the Humane Society of the United States, Mercy for Animals and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The vileness of the conditions are there for you to see on video. Judge for yourself. Here are some links.
Paul Shapiro, who oversees the Humane Society’s campaign to get better conditions for factory farm animals tells me, “The extreme confinement of hens in cages enables factory farms to cram hundreds of thousands of birds under a single roof, that can lead to a huge volume of contaminated airborne fecal dust and swarms of rodents and flies that can breed in massive manure pits underlying the cages and spread Salmonella around. It’s no wonder that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that this extreme confinement of hens in cages leads to increased Salmonella contamination. Caging hens is not only cruel; it’s a public health menace for consumers.” The HSUS cites numerous studies that are available for your perusal.
Ultimately, the government is just as responsible for this crisis as agribusiness. Agribusiness – with its wicked powerful lobby and its infiltration of top bureaucratic posts – essentially runs roughshod over the government agencies that are supposed to monitor it. It’s the rich fox guarding the filthy, overcrowded henhouse.
What’s the real solution? The government, i.e. the USDA and the FDA, must immediately develop a plan to phase out the torturous confinement and overcrowding of hens, pigs, cows and calves. This would automatically result in healthier, happier animals with less chance of disease. But, don’t hold your breath. The only way that’s going to happen is if you, the consumer, demand change.
You, as the shopper, are the ultimate decider on this issue. If you say no to cruel factory farm practices, only then will the government say yes to change.
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