In a small American city of green trees and fresh air, a suburban house dweller, Bob, heaves himself out of bed and drags his rump into the kitchen. Greasy bacon strips sizzle on the grill.
Bob throws the bacon on a plate full of scrambled eggs and as he engulfs it, he packs an extra-large roast beef sandwich for lunch. His wife smiles at him and asks if chicken potpie is alright for dinner.
Americans love meat, and according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, in 2012, an average of 9 billion animals were slaughtered for food in the United States. Amongst these were cattle, chickens, ducks, sheep, lambs and turkeys. Fish and crustaceans were not included in this number.
But, love for meat does not mean love for animals, and Bob’s meat-based meals, three times a day, comes at a high price.
The food industry is run on almost complete disregard for the animals going through it. Processing such huge quantities of meat and making it accessible —at “capitalist” prices—to contemporary society’s fast paced individuals requires a well oiled assembly line of slaughter, in other words, minimal expenses, speed and absolutely no empathy.
McDonald’s Dollar Menu McChicken is possible and accessible to suburban Bob and his fellow compatriots, not because Ronald McDonald is a nice guy and wants to give a friendly discount, but because of the thousands of chickens who have been forced to cram in a one-star fleabag motel room with no right to television or room service.
According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals organization (PETA), chickens raised for meat, “broilers,” as they are called by the industry, are raised in huge excrement-filled, windowless sheds and receive heavy doses of growth promoting drugs that will make them ready for processing in only six weeks. In their normal life cycle they reach adulthood at three months. Furthermore, these intensively reared chickens are so heavy that most cannot stand, and they will plop down on the floor.
The enlightening documentary, “Earthlings,” narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, follows the painful stories of not only chickens, but other food animals as well, as they venture through the several stages of the meat production industry.
Due to severely overcrowded cages, stressed out chickens will peck their cage mates to death. Consequently, the non-empathy feeling, assembly-line workers are required to cut off baby chicks’ beaks with a hot blade – without the use of anesthetics. The rapidity of the process, 15 chicks each minute, does not allow time to consider the extreme pain and injuries inflicted as a result.
Similarly, baby pigs have their ears, tails and teeth cut off (male piglets their testicles as well), also without the use of anesthetics. Their living environments are so stressful and crowded that most have turned to cannibalism, eating off each other’s ears and tails, hence the need to remove them at an early age.
For veal, the conditions are little better. Two days after they are born, the cows are taken from their mother and placed in hutches. To restrict muscles from developing, they are kept tied by the neck in a way that prevents them from moving. They are kept this way for four months, eating nothing but an iron deficient liquid diet, and they are then taken to the slaughterhouses, where their pain should technically end, but it doesn’t.
Animals arrive at slaughterhouses, and—with the exception of chickens—are placed in holding pens. The chickens are shackled, hung upside down by their feet, and lowered into an electrified bath called “the stunner.”
Cattle receive a forceful blow on the head from a captive bolt pistol, and hogs are stunned with a tong-like instrument designed to induce cardiac arrest. Shaking frantically, they collapse. They must then be killed within three minutes if not, they could regain their senses. In many cases, however, they regain their senses and are alive and conscious while being skinned and dismembered.
Cattle and hogs are then hung upside down by one of their hind legs. The skin around the neck is cut with a knife until the jugular is reached and slit. The animal fidgets uncontrollably as blood drains from its body, and death is caused through exsanguination.
Recapitulating, the intensively reared plopping chickens that make up the not so nice guy Ronald McDonald’s Dollar Menu McChickens are born, and are immediately subjected to torture. They are raised on drugs, and after almost two months of physical and mental pain due to lack of space and inappropriately cut beaks, they are taken to bathe in electrifying water.
Nevertheless, these are the chickens that Bob and his generation were reared. Most of these plopping-chicken eaters would rather plop down also than open their eyes to the truths of the world that make Ronald McDonald a not so nice guy.
No matter how hard these chickens close their eyes, they will never escape their miserable existence and electrifying death spa.
We are all inhabitants of planet Earth, with equal responsibility in taking care of it and one another. A drastic change in lifestyles, which does not include plopping, is long overdue.