Gene on Ending the Cycle of Violence

We continue to revisit Gene Baur’s writings from the past decades. This article, from early 2011, remains as relevant and insightful today as it was then.

In addition to the meat, dairy, and egg recalls and exposés of factory farming cruelty that made national news in 2010, a number of other headlines appeared in agribusiness trade publications that weren’t so widely circulated in the public eye.

On the last day of 2010, (an online meat industry site) published their top 10 most-read news stories of the year. The list included articles with the following titles:

• Bomb found in employee locker at Hormel plant
• Man dies after fall at Cargill beef plant
• Morrell to close Sioux City plant; 1,450 lose jobs
• Pope paints a bleak picture for future of meat industry
• Smithfield stock leaps on takeover rumor
• Texas meat company apparently closes doors
• Tyson production shifts to eliminate hundreds of jobs
• USDA halts operations at Tyson plant
• Worker killed at Wis. beef plant
• Worker loses legs in meat grinder accident

These examples indicate just how dangerous and violent work in the meat industry can be, with two worker deaths, one worker who lost his legs in a meat grinder, and one who had a bomb in his locker. But as tragic and dramatic as these events are, the chronic misery and widespread suffering wrought by animal agriculture goes much further. Billions of animals suffer intolerable abuse and untimely deaths every year, while millions of Americans experience debilitating and preventable health problems (and premature deaths) related to the excessive consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs.

We are what we eat, and our food choices have profound consequences for animals, ourselves, and the environment. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth?” And as Pythagorus observed thousands of years ago, “For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” Such wisdom speaks to the fact that violence only leads to more violence. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Fortunately, we all have the chance to live better simply by choosing to eat plants instead of animals.