Issues of Food Supply:
WE ARE WHAT WE EAT
Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
"Demonstrations of the Code"
© Craig La Rotonda - all rights reserved
Courtesy of Revelation Art
Comments on the art: the artist doesn't explain his title, but the idea of a mother demonstrating anything to a baby with slabs of dead meat is repugnant -- that it should be the Madonna and Child makes it even more so. Their corpse-like flesh and haunted eyes suggest that proximity to such large quantities of red meat is so debilitating that life itself, both physical and psychic, has drained from their bodies. There is nothing left for them except to await death.
The artist has created a stunning contrast between this and traditional paintings of a glowing, sensual Mother and Child surrounded by lush fruits, flowers, and a multitude of living creatures. LaRotonda's "Code" focuses on what our predilection for dead "life" is doing to the divine-mother-child encoded within humanity itself.
9 April 2004 / 19-20 February 2005
Like most of us, I come from farming peoples. When they came to the New World, my paternal ancestors, farmers and artisans from Ireland and Norway, settled in New York City and turned to non-farming trades. But my maternal ancestors from Norway, England, Scotland, and Germany, started farms in quiet, lovely regions of western Michigan -- in tiny villages with names like Holton and Brunswick. Later generations, including my grandparents and many of their siblings, left farming for various occupations in nearby cities, but we gathered annually for picnics out in the country and I grew up in an atmosphere part-urban, part-farm.
My forebears knew the animals they killed. Those animals roamed in open pasture and some were pets. I find it hard to think of killing pets, raised from younglings, but at least there was grief, which lent a humane dimension to these choices. I could not make such choices myself, but I respect those for whom this was a fact of life. Those forebears of mine understood life and death in a way we do not, cannot. They also understood the changing seasons, as we do not.
In contrast, today's agri-business keeps animals confined indoors 24 hours a day, 12 months a year. There are no seasons, only exhaustion. Suffering is lifelong. Surely, no one was born to live such a life.
I did not set out to write a series of pages on industrial agriculture, or factory "farms." These pages emerged, step by step, from earlier pages. In early May 2000 I created a webpage called Animal Guides -- a small collection of annotated links on animals guides in myth, lore, fairy tales, and physical therapy. My brief opening essay looks at what Jungian analyst Marie Louise von Franz discovered about animals when she went looking for an ethical core in folklore, a single golden thread by which to measure our human values. That page represents the positive side of human relationships with animals.
The negative side emerged a year later on the first day of spring in 2001, when cattle were being burned to death in the UK. That's when I did a somber page called Animal Deaths in Europe: Of Cows & Madness. That page looked at the tragedy from a more ancient perspective. In late April 2004 I added some of this data to new information and wove it into a lengthy essay, Through the Sacred Fires: The Animals of Beltane (portions were published online in BeliefNet for Beltane 2004).
Meanwhile, on Holy Thursday, 8 April 2004, nearly a year after I had moved back to my home state of Michigan, I was horrified to learn that a CAFO was seeking to build one of their industrial "farms" barely three miles from the little town where I had bought my first house. While I was still living in California three years earlier, from spring Equinox to well after Easter, the doomed herds in the UK were being burned to death. And now in Michigan, on Holy Thursday, that day celebrating Jesus' awareness of the sacredness of human food, the simplicity of bread and wine, and the wonder of a deeper communion with the divine made possible through these earthy foods, I learned (appropriately, in the fresh produce section of our local grocery store) that a CAFO wanted to insinuate its toxicity into our way of life.
If ever an issue had my name on it, that one did. I became part of a local group of concerned citizens and created a Factory Farm Webpage to inform local residents of the huge risks. Unfortunately, as we learned at a 7 June 2004 meeting, the CAFO would defeat the residents because Michigan's DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) has never turned down a CAFO's request and is, it seems, forbidden by a corrupt and/or ignorant legislature even to take into account the track record of these CAFOs elsewhere.
I began this page on Good Friday 2004, the day after I learned about the CAFO's plans, but I only wrote the first three paragraphs of this essay and then abandoned it to focus my attention on the above-mentioned Factory Farm Webpage. I forgot I had even started this page until I discovered it tonight, 19-20 February 2005.
It will now serve as a bridge between my earlier work and what lies ahead. The Factory Farm Webpage will continue to reflect primarily Michigan dairy-CAFO issues as well as general background on CAFOs for those who are new to such matters. This page, on the other hand, will concern itself with looking at larger issues caused by the growing blight produced by industrial farms across the United States but also in the rest of the world. A major American hog producer, for example, brags about turning Poland into "the Iowa of Europe." The boundaries between the two pages will blur from time to time but for the most part the other one will be the local edition and this one, the United States / International edition.9/27/05: Update -- the Factory Farm Webpage now covers the original series of links I annotated in 2004 on general factory farm information. Today I extracted the Michigan-only issues and gave them their own URL on a Michigan-Only page. I did this so that the general factory farm data would reach a much larger audience instead of being buried on a "local-interest" page.
I also split off the USA/International page from this "We Are What We Eat" page, keeping my essay with *this* page, not the USA/Int'l one.
THE HIGH COST
© Craig La Rotonda - all rights reserved
Courtesy of Revelation Art
[Note the two teardrops of blood coming from Cosmic Meat's suffering "Christ-Eye"]
Excellent review of Fatal Harvest. [Annotation tba -- see below too]http://www.fatalharvest.org/
This is a webpage for a collection of essays in the book, Fatal Harvest: the Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture:http://www.fatalharvest.org/industrial_vs_agricultural.htmFatal Harvest is a book that will forever change the way we think about food. This book will inform and influence the growing public movement of activists, farmers, policymakers, and consumers who are fighting to make our food safer for ourselves and for the planet....
This brief page from the Fatal Harvest website uses a series of contrasting photos to explore the distinction between agrarian and industrial agriculture:http://www.fatalharvest.org/organic_beyond.htm...By comparing and contrasting various crops and farming techniques, this section allows the reader to "read" farm landscapes and perceive which worldview - agrarian or industrial - is reflected. This new perception ultimately helps to heal the disconnect between consumer and food production....A quote from one of the book's essays touches on the soulless monoculture-aspect of industrial agriculture:The ultimate goal of the current economic global system is that every place on earth should be more or less like every place else - a monoculture. Such a model serves the marketing and efficiency needs of global corporations -- but it is nothing less than a war on diversity.
-- Vandana Shiva, "Monocultures of the Mind," Fatal Harvest
The Fatal Harvest website offers a number of brief but intriguing pages on various aspects of industrial farming. This one, for example, looks at the future of agriculture via organic farming. Here is a quote from one of the book's essays:http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/1913/The choices we make when we buy food are serious choices. More and more people understand this. We all know that when people choose organic foods and avoid mass-produced and fast foods, they are voting for a sustainable future and against a network of supply and demand that destroys human health, local communities, traditional ways of life, and the environment.
-- Alice Waters, "The Ethics of Eating," Fatal Harvest
From the February 3, 2005 issue of In These Times comes "Slow Food for a Dying Planet" by Mark Winne, a fine review of two books: Christopher Cook's Diet for a Dead Planet and Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food: A Case for Taste. Before looking at the rich potential held in "slow food," the reviewer looks at where our "fast food" comes from, focusing on Clovis, New Mexico:
...The cows, held in open pens and milked three times a day, never graze on open pasture. In return for free room and board, each cow produces 75 pounds of milk a day and four tons of manure a year. For now, the milk is shipped to processing plants all over the Southwest, but when the cheese plant is operational in late 2005, the milk will travel only a few miles. There it will be turned into Velveeta-style cheese at the rate of one truckload per hour. When the 200,000 black and white Holstein cows are past their prime—about two to three years—they are sent off to a large slaughterhouse in Texas where they are ground up into beef patties for guess who: McDonald’s, America’s largest buyer of spent dairy cows....Then he turns to Cook's book, which argues that factory farms have created --...a food system that, like cows in a feedlot, is down on its knees in the muck, unsustainable, unhealthy and dangerously close to extinction. . . .Cook goes after the oligarchical forces of multinational agribusiness with guns blazing. His take-no-prisoners style targets the evil-doers, junk-food purveyors, and despots of deception and greed whose system of mass food production and distribution will leave the earth in ruins and us humans simultaneously obese and starving. . . . [H]e unrelentingly disembowels Wal-Mart, the Bush administration’s Department of Agriculture, Archer Daniels Midland, and, of course, McDonald’s. He reminds us that Americans have purchased their cheap food supply (we spend less on food as a percentage of our household income than any nation in the world) by depleting our topsoil and polluting our water, using growth hormones in livestock and pesticides on crops, maiming workers (many of them from Mexico and Central America) in our meatpacking plants, and using more energy resources than any other country on the planet.Among various solutions to these problems, we are urged to take on --... the defenders of power and privilege in Congress when they draft the next Farm Bill—the current one subsidizes unhealthy food and industrial agriculture....Mark Winne then turns to Petrini's Slow Food, a paean to the joys of celebratory eating, regardless of one's pocketbook. But they have a serious agenda as well:...The Slow Foodistas have bolstered the case against industrial food by addressing the loss of biodiversity across the planet. Petrini alarmingly notes that since the beginning of the twentieth century we have lost 75 percent of our agricultural products’ genetic diversity and half of our livestock breeds. Not only does this loss make us species-poor, it is, he writes, a major contributor to the “standardization of all [food] products and the flattening out of all flavors.” That is why the land, the farmer and the location of food production are at the center of the Slow Food mission. As their U.S. home page states, they are an organization “dedicated to promoting stewardship of the land and ecologically sound food production ... regional, seasonal culinary traditions ... and living a slower and more harmonious rhythm of life.”[Note: if this link ever goes dead, a more permanent one is in the archives at Truth Out.org: http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/H021705A.shtml]
From 8 November 1999, on the eve of a new millennium, comes a stunning 2-page article from Time Magazine, "Visions of the 21st Century: Will We Still Eat Meat?" The author Ed Ayres answers his own question:Maybe not, if we wake up to what the mass production of animal flesh is doing to our health -- and the planet's.Ayres considers the huge feasts of meat indulged in by the Romans celebrating military victories -- an indulgence repeated countless times since then by many other cultures. Then he makes a long overdue and brilliant observation:...Meat, it seems, is not just food but reward as well. But in the coming century, that will change. Much as we have awakened to the full economic and social costs of cigarettes, we will find we can no longer subsidize or ignore the costs of mass-producing cattle, poultry, pigs, sheep and fish to feed our growing population. These costs include hugely inefficient use of freshwater and land, heavy pollution from livestock feces, rising rates of heart disease and other degenerative illnesses, and spreading destruction of the forests on which much of our planet's life depends....He offers several simple but eye-opening statistics:...1 lb. of feedlot beef requires 7 lbs. of feed grain, which takes 7,000 lbs. of water to grow. Pass up one hamburger, and you'll save as much water as you save by taking 40 showers with a low-flow nozzle. Yet in the U.S., 70% of all the wheat, corn and other grain produced goes to feeding herds of livestock. Around the world, as more water is diverted to raising pigs and chickens instead of producing crops for direct consumption, millions of wells are going dry. India, China, North Africa and the U.S. are all running freshwater deficits, pumping more from their aquifers than rain can replenish....In the U.S., livestock now produce 130 times as much waste as people do. Just one hog farm in Utah, for example, produces more sewage than the city of Los Angeles....He argues that inevitably governments will wake up to the looming disaster and shift their water resources to growing food -- i.e., grains, beans, and other non-meat staples that have fed humanity for millennia -- not feed for an industrial agriculture bloated with livestock.
Turning to health issues, he writes:...What has proved an unsustainable burden to the life of the planet is also proving unsustainable for the planet's dominant species. In China a recent shift to meat-heavy diets has been linked to increases in obesity, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and colorectal cancer. U.S. and World Health Organization researchers have announced similar findings for other parts of the world. And then there are the growing concerns about what happens to people who eat the flesh of animals that have been pumped full of genetically modified organisms, hormones and antibiotics.To the obvious argument that humans have eaten meat "for a hundred millenniums," he responds:... It's natural for us to eat meat, one might say. But today's factory-raised, transgenic, chemical-laden livestock are a far cry from the wild animals our ancestors hunted.... In the long run, we can lose our memory of eating animals, and we will discover the intrinsic satisfactions of a diverse plant-based diet, as millions of people already have.He makes it clear that we will still eat meat but, except for the very wealthy, most of us will only eat it for special celebrations like Thanksgiving and other festive times "which link us ritually to our evolutionary and cultural past."
Ayres writes exceedingly well and it comes as no surprise to learn that he is editorial director of the Worldwatch Institute and the author of God's Last Offer: Negotiating for a Sustainable Future. Don't miss this one.
This is Dawn Watch, an excellent animal advocacy "media watch group" that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. They also offer alerts for which you can sign up.http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/02/0218_050218_human_diet.html
Humans not originally carnivores. [Annotation tba]
Note: the complete Site Map and e-mail address are on the home page.
This page created with Netscape Gold 4.7: colors may
appear distorted on Macs.
Text and Design:
© 2005 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
INDEX for Factory Farms / Industrial Agriculture Pages
Opening essay begun 9 April 2004 but never finished
until 19-20 February 2005.
27 September 2005: split off from USA/Int'l page.