The Amnesia-ville Horror

» June 12th, 2012

Pink Slime!

I’m sick and tired of hearing stories about the disgusting aspects of industrial animal agriculture. I know, I know. It’s important to broadcast these messages—pink slime!, E.Coli! cows eating chicken poop! And, I know, people need to hear the straight dope on factory farming. Still, these stories get on my nerves for at least two reasons.

First, they’re redundant, and their redundancy is alarming. It’s alarming not because the stories themselves are horrific (which they are), but because the muckrakers delivering these messages act as if they’re unearthing some deep dark secret and the consumers hearing the messages act as if it’s never been said before. It’s like we’re living in Amnesia-ville.

Folks! We’ve been bombarded with nauseating narratives about the evils of factory farming for over 40 years. The fact that we have not, as a collective gesture of consumer outrage, monkey wrenched these hellholes into oblivion speaks either to the human tendency to procrastinate or, worse, our pathological indifference.  At some point you have to wonder: are journalists hacking away at this door to no avail?

Well, they may be, as my second point of contention suggests: I despise the way that supposed food activists take these stories and cynically use them to justify a transition to small-scale animal agriculture. This one really galls me because, in making such a suggestion, the so-called activists are doing nothing more than feeding the monster they aim to starve. They fail to realize that all the monster needs to thrive is a cultural acceptance of eating animals. The activists, in their small-farm fetishization, do absolutely nothing to confront this pervasive acceptance. In fact, they only encourage it. In so doing, they encourage factory farming.

We’ll never beat the devil at his own game. Industrial agriculture is not in the least bit threatened when earnest “muckraking” journalists come on the radio or print long stories urging concerned consumers to avoid factory farmed meat in favor of “humanely raised” and “sustainably produced” options. To think the big guys are threatened is a joke. The factory farms will always ensure that the small fetishized farms are never anything more than boutique options for foodies, culinary libertarians, and pin-heads who peck away at their Mac’s in college town coffee shops (oops, that’s me).

The factory farms can ensure their dominance for two simple reasons: consolidation and scale. I don’t like this fact one bit, but it’s a fact—subsidies notwithstanding, it’s cheaper and quicker and more efficient to raise animals in concentrated conditions on a large scale. These measures lead to cheaper animals products and cheaper animal products will, as sure as gravity, lead to the mass consumption of cheap meat. Unless small-scale farms have a plan to upend the most basic principle of classical economics–not to mention human nature–their endorsement of eating animals will continue to be, however inadvertently–an endorsement of factory farming.  They will, of course, deny this.

And they will, of course, be deluding themselves. Worse, they’ll be harming animals. Indeed, their delusions are just as complicit in the senseless killing of billions of animals as are the factory farms they claim to hate so vehemently.  And that gets on my nerves. A lot.


8 Responses to The Amnesia-ville Horror

  1. Richard Grzywinski says:

    Thank you, James, for a well-written and lucid exposition of the unreasonablenss and moral paradox associated with eating meat no matter how and where it is raised. What difference does it make if, when masticating flesh, it comes from a “contented cow.”

    It reminds me of a friend of mine who was an orthodox Jew who complained in a similar manner about fellow Jews who ate non-meat bacon substitute. He thought that doing so still promotes pork eating no matter if we hide it behind a veil of vegetarianism.

    • Kelly says:

      Richard, I can see your Jewish friend’s point, but actually it is flawed and I’m not sure of it’s relevance to James’ topic. Or perhaps I have just misunderstood?

      Should one also object to faux leather shoes and jackets because one eschews the real thing? What about drinking soy milk? Dairy milk is the prevailing choice, so using that same reasoning we would also have to frown upon drinking plant milks because it promotes a need for dairy milk.

      Eating animals products, regardless of the origins, is deeply problematic and continues to strengthen the societal norms of animal enslavement. Eating non-animal based foods that mimic animal products removes a person from that chain. It doesn’t give an impression that there is a continual need for animal products, in fact it gives people a real vegan alternative that can make transition seem less daunting.

    • Ellie Maldonado says:

      Richard, what your friend says about bacon is the same thing I say about faux fur, and for the same reason. Like fake bacon, it’s fake fur, but it promotes the fur look as fashionable — so I wish people wouldn’t wear it.

  2. Joel says:

    I agree with most of what you say but if economics was made to favor the sustainable product would you still agree with your assessment? The activists you reference may say in their defense that they support an economics that takes into account the externalities as part of pricing (carbon tax might do this). Does it follow from your argument that any movement to create fairness in the economy (fair trade comes to mind) is a waste of time? Instead we should be championing an anti-capitalist framework.

  3. Ellie Maldonado says:

    Thanks, James. I agree completely, and wish we could all stop focusing on factory farms — especially animal advocates, because the industry uses this to its advantage.

  4. [...] This story was re-published from its original publication at [...]

  5. Debbie says:

    While I absolutely agree that using these stories to further small farm fairytales is a problem, I don’t agree that reporting these stories is without value. While yes this fight has been going on for 40 years most of the people who first heard about pink slim haven’t been aware of the horrors of factory farming for 40 years and even those who know about factory farming may not have known about pink slim. I didn’t.

    I’m not ready to believe that we are suffering from pathological indifference. I believe that the amount and availability of information has grown at a staggering rate over the past 2 decades. People have far more opportunity today to become aware of what it going on. I have to believe that knowledge will drive behavior, if slowly. That said, I also believe that people have very short attention spans and may need to hear something over and over before they get the significance. It takes time and it takes repetition.

    I like the pink slim story because it grabbed the attention of people who up to now may not have given these issues much thought. People I know who don’t want to talk to me about factor farming did talk to me when they realized the food there kids were getting was made from pink slim. Are they now going vegan? No. But maybe they are thinking a little bit more.

  6. Ellie Maldonado says:

    I think animal advocates should have one, clear, uncompromising message, which is that animal farming is inherently cruel. Nevermind “sustainable”, “humane”, or any other label that at best is a marketing tool for the industry.

    Should anyone doubt the harm caused to animals by the welfarist approach against factory farms, see the NYTimes Wellness section, “Can Athletes Perform Well on a Vegan Diet?”. I would love to copy and paste the comments I refer to, but I think the NYTimes may have legal rights that prohibit posting these comments on another blog.

    So to paraphrase, one person asks for compassion for animals in factory farms, and another answers, that isn’t reason to avoid eating meat, but to buy meat from “humane” farms instead.

    For anyone interested, I’ll post the link:

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