by Dan Munns
Vegetarians are an amazing group of people. What makes them so great is that they discovered that everything – milk, beef, even missing body parts – could be replaced by soy. For example, after I lost my left thumb in a gardening accident last year I made a new one out of soy and just glued it onto my hand.
Unfortunately for the soy business, I think there might be some added temptation now for vegetarians and vegans alike to drop their salad forks and pick up a steak knife.
A couple of grocery stores in this country are starting to sell meat and dairy products that have special labels on them. The only products that get these labels are those that come from farms which have implemented new animal welfare regulations, established by different animal rights groups. For example, farms that allow their laying hens to spend time outside of their cages would later be able to stick a label on the egg carton that reads “cage free.” Other meat labels include such phrases as “animal compassionate,” “certified humane,” and “free DVD inside.” Meat companies are hoping the labels will convince the animal-conscience consumers that their products are indeed ethical to buy.
The recent campaign to get farmers to act more compassionately toward their livestock is the result of incessant lobbying by the most cutthroat of animal rights organizations. Groups like The Humane Society of the United States, which once blew up a ship carrying a large stockpile of fish sticks; and the Humane Farm Animal Care, which has boycotted Disney flicks like Dumbo, The Lion King, Bambi, and Piglet’s Big Movie — because they believed that the films distorted the history and culture of animals all over the world.
Many farmers that I talked to over the phone said they saw positive results after they began to treat their animals more humanely. John Swanson, a farm head told me that aside from letting his animals outside more during the day, he has also implemented his own ideas for making his animals happier. “Lately I’ve been taking ‘em on field trips to museums and bowling alleys,” he told me. “It helps to clear their heads so that later, when I’m about to kill them, they don’t turn all emo on me.”
However, since the labels have caused prices for meat and poultry products to increase in our nation, countries in Asia – looking to undermine the U.S. economy yet again – have come up with clever schemes to sell their meat and poultry at cheaper prices. Japan, for instance, has developed new farming techniques which produce tastier, more fuel-efficient beef that is sold at prices far lower then what their American competitors are offering. Also, it is reported that Chinese restaurants all across our country will be putting even more cat meat in their dishes in order to drive down their prices and attract more customers.
Back in the states, animal rights enthusiasts say they are thankful that farms have begun to implement these new practices. “This is surely a victory for animals everywhere,” said Garret, a representative from PETA. “The farm animals are finally getting the treatment they deserve.”
So what’s next on the agenda for these animal welfare groups?
“Universal healthcare,” says Garret. “It’s disgusting when you think about all the animals that don’t have healthcare benefits. The veterinarians in this country are just so greedy. How do they expect the poor struggling animals to survive in this world?”
Although only a small number of meat companies are using the labels, students are already fretting over the possibility of having to pay more money for their meat. As a result, certain students have taken it upon themselves to start butchering their own animals and selling them on Ithaca’s black market.
Long known for offering alcohol, marijuana, and semi-automatic machine guns to the school’s underclassmen, the black market now sells pork chops and chicken breasts at discount prices to any student willing to make the harrowing journey down the hill to Wegmans’ parking lot, where all the transactions happen to take place.
Benicio Del Toro*, a senior that I talked to outside of Wegmans, has been selling poultry from the back of his truck for several weeks now. I asked him how well he takes care of his animals. “I keep the chickens in my dorm room and feed them Nacho Doritos,” said Benicio. “They’re perfectly happy up until the time I drag them to the communal bathroom and slaughter them. And no, I don’t clean up the blood after I’m done. I leave that for the cleaning people to take care of.”
*Real name has been changed to protect the identity of the student.
Dan Munns is a sophomore economics major who recently found out that PeTA is not synonymous with falafel. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.