Slaughterhouse: What the Meat Industry Hides

Slaughterhouse: What the Meat Industry Hides

Directed by Tras Los Muros (2017)

Film Review

In this documentary, filmmakers have secretly compiled haphazard slaughter techniques in 50 Mexican abattoirs that exported meat to the US between 2015 and 2017. It covers the slaughter of chickens, pigs, horses and cows.

Under Mexican and treaty law, workers are required to employ “humane” slaughter techniques that minimize animal suffering. In most cases, this means the animals must be stunned by electrocution, CO2 asphyxiation or a captive bolt pistol prior to slaughter.

As the video reveals, nearly all aspects of the slaughter process have been mechanized. The failure of stunning, in many cases, leaves many animals to suffer horribly as they are skinned alive.

Industrial Agriculture: The Truth About Where Your Meat Comes From

Land of Hope and Glory UK Earthlings Documentary

Surge (2017)

Film Review

This is a documentary about the brutal conditions under which factory farmed animals are raised in the UK, Australia and the US. This type of footage is extremely rare because Food Inc makes every effort to conceal the disgusting conditions under which our meat is produced.

Factory farmed pigs and chickens seem to fare the worst. Even though pigs are as intelligent and emotionally complex as dogs, they are raised in extremely confining cages and forced to lie in their own feces, as well as being routinely tortured and beaten by their keepers. Pigs, like most other factory farmed animals, are fed massive doses of antibiotics (contributing to antibody resistance and the rise of “superbugs”) while continual exposure to feces makes factory farmed meat a major source of food borne illness.

Chickens and more than 90% of ducks and turkeys are also crowded into pens. In chickens raised for meat, 45% suffer painful fractures because their specially bred bodies are too heavy for their skeleton.

What seems most consistent among all factory farmed animals (besides their continual exposure to feces) are the inhumane conditions under which they are killed. Although most jurisdictions require them to be asphyxiated or electrically stunned prior to slaughter, abattoir personnel are rushed and poorly trained. As the film clearly shows, many animals are still alive when they’re butchered.

 

The True Cost of Cheap Meat

farmageddon

Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat

By Philip Lymbery with Isobel Oakeshott

Bloomsbury Press (2014)

Book Review

Farmageddon is about the false economy of industrial meat production. While the corporations that promote factory farming applaud themselves for producing “cheap meat” for poor people, when societal costs are counted, industrially produced meat costs society approximately 25 times the sticker price. So as not to infringe on corporate profits, the excess costs (for environmental clean-up and a myriad of health problems) are transferred to the taxpayer.

Lymbery, a long time organic farming proponent, provides an extremely thorough and compelling expose of the numerous drawbacks of raising livestock in concrete warehouses. The side effects of living adjacent to a factory farm include air and water pollution by toxic herbicides and pesticides, nitrates, pathogenic bacteria and arsenic; loss of songbirds, bees and other insect species; reduced life expectancy,* increased exposure to disease carrying mosquitoes, loss of earthworms (due to fertilizer-related soil acidification), increased incidence (by threefold) of childhood asthma; increased antibiotic resistance (due to routine feeding of antibiotics to factory farmed cows, pigs and chickens); reduced sperm counts and increased breast cancer and renal tumors related to Roundup, the herbicide used with GMO crops.

Lymbery also includes a section on industrially farmed fish and they risks they pose to the health of wild fish populations.

His final chapter includes a variety of policy recommendations that could facilitate a move away from industrial farming to safer, less environmentally destructive traditional farming.


*Individuals who live adjacent to intensive dairy farms have a ten year decrease in life expectancy.

Prince Charles’s Organic Farm

The Farmer and His Prince

Bertram Verhag (2014)

Film Review

The Farmer and His Prince is an English language film produced by German film director Bertram Verhag. It features an in-depth tour of His Royal Highness Prince Charles’s organic farm at High Gatehouse in Gloucestershire and substantive discussions with the Prince of Wales himself on industrial agriculture, factory farming, genetic modification, global warming and sustainable organic farming.

Prince Charles, the world’s most high profile organic farmer, converted his estate to organic agriculture in the 1980s. He raises sheep, dairy cows, rare breed pigs and a range of foot crops. Although he plays little role in the day-to-day management of the farm, he conducts tours there and is active in lobbying government policymakers and the food industry – both in Great Britain and internationally.

His farm supplies local hotels and markets and presently turns a small profit.

 

Don’t Eat the Chicken!

512px-Industrial-Chicken-Coop

The Problem with Chicken

Directed by Rick Young (2015)

This documentary can’t be embedded but can be viewed free at the following link:

http://www.pbs.org/video/2365487526/

Film Review

The Problem with Chicken is a PBS Frontline documentary about a year-long Salmonella Heidelberg epidemic in 2012 that infected more than 600 people in 29 states.

Salmonella Heidelberg is a particularly virulent form of salmonella that is increasingly prevalent in factory farmed chicken, as well as increasingly antibiotic resistant. Salmonella Heidelberg infection frequently results in hospitalization and occasionally death.

The film examines a hopelessly corrupt regulatory system in which the USDA* inspectors test whole birds, but not chicken pieces (the most common source of salmonella infections) and in which the USDA couldn’t compel Foster Farms to recall their contaminated chickens until they located an an unopened pack of Foster Farms chicken with the specific strain of Salmonella Heidelberg that had infected a specific chicken.

This obscure legal technicality meant that despite clear DNA evidence identifying Foster Farms as the source of contamination, an outbreak that could have been stemmed in a few weeks went on a full year and officially sickened 634 people.

The Problem with Chicken also explodes the chicken lobby myth that chicken-related infections can be prevented by proper cooking and handling of chicken. Studies show that thorough cooking doesn’t kill either salmonella or campylobacter, another human pathogen commonly carried by chicken.

The main shortcoming of this documentary is its failure to examine why potentially deadly pathogens are increasing in factory farmed chicken: namely the process in which battery chicken are raised in a cesspool of feces in tightly packed cages and continually fed antibiotics (the main source of increasing antibiotic resistance). See Food Inc.

Surely these are the practices that need to be banned by regulation. It’s ridiculous to expect that a few hundred USDA inspectors are going to protect us from food-borne illnesses by spot checking hundreds of thousands of turkeys and chickens for pathogenic organisms.


*The US Department of Agriculture is the federal agency responsible for guaranteeing food safety.

 

Photo credit: איתמר ק., ITamar K. (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Improving Food Production by Subtracting Oil

The following video is the keynote address by Indian activist Vendana Shiva at the 2015 Soil Not Oil conference in Richmond California. Her primary theme is the destructive effect of industrial agriculture on soil, human health, water balance, climate, ecological diversity, economic inequality and world peace (as the driver of continual resource wars).

She maintains industrial agriculture is an extremely inefficient method of food production – requiring ten calories of oil for every calorie of food produced. Factory farming is only economically viable because of heavy government subsidies of oil production and the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer manufactured from natural gas. If Food Inc were required to pay the full cost of industrial farming (including the toxic effects of the chemicals they use), it would be many times more expensive than organic farming.

She maintains real purpose of industrial farming is to increase GDP by producing more commodities, when it should be to maintain soil and human health.

Prior to the industrial age, farming was as much about soil regeneration as food production. The talk particularly emphasizes the importance of “carbonizing” soil with organic matter. It cites studies showing that a two ton per hectare increase in organic matter removes ten gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere. This also makes the soil drought resistant by improving its capacity to store water.

How Gut Bacteria Control Our Health

The Microiome Revolution: Why Microbes Control Your Life

Jack A Gilbert

The Microbiome Revolution provides a brief and user friendly introduction to the essential role the microbiome (the bacteria that colonize our gut) plays in human health. Through their research, Gilbert and other microbiologists have induced obesity, allergies, autism, depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease and other illnesses by manipulating intestinal bacteria in mice. Gilbert contends that specific gut bacteria can even alter behavior.

He stresses that our current obsession with eradicating bacteria (ie prescription antibiotics, antibiotics used on factory farms, antibacterial soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc) has dire implications for human health. The human body is an ecosystem in which microbial cells outnumber “human” cells by ten to one. Doctors increasingly view the microbiome as a vital organ, like the liver or kidneys.

Thanks to Gilbert’s crowdfunding site*, his research team has collected the microbiome profiles of hundreds of thousands of people. This baseline has enabled them to identify specific bacterial profiles associated with good health. In general, rural third world residents have the most diverse and healthiest gut bacteria, while urban residents in the industrialized world have the least diverse and the most unhealthy.

Lecture starts at 3:15.

*Ubiome – for $89 you get a Ubiome gut kit to submit a sample of your feces for analysis