Unnecessary suffering. Part of a miserable process that need not exist
Over a four-day span last week, I spoke to several hundred sixth graders at a middle school in New London, CT. (See links below for details). Prior to the presentations, I had been warned by a senior educator and colleague to stay away from delicate topics like animal suffering or the implication that we must never eat meat or dairy. God forbid that we should tell our kids what’s really going on behind the scenes.
So, I was a good boy and chose “sustainability” as my primary focus. Of course, I emphasized the potential for disease-reversing, whole foods, plant-based eating to lower our health care costs in the United States—but I also stressed that I wasn’t necessarily talking about a vegetarian or vegan way of eating.
Rather, I emphasized the maximization of “whole plants” in the diet—as a percent of calories. I told them early in my talk that if they were unsure about the correct answer to a question—that it was probably whole plants.
The title of my presentation was Food Math 101. The overriding message was that we’d all need to add a lot of whole plants to our daily routine so that the numbers behind what we’re eating would enable Mother Earth to sustain our species. Since she has a finite amount of arable land, water and fossil fuel, we must learn to live within those natural and permanent restrictions to our lifestyle. And right now, we are failing miserably in three ways: The size of our population, the way we live and the way we eat.
Of course, the primary focus was on the latter—the way we eat. As I told those twelve-year-olds, changing the way we eat will be far easier to change quickly—and would have a greater impact in the near term—the next fifty years. To clarify, I showed those kids the “big picture” about the consequences of our food choices and didn’t even have to tell them about the miserable suffering of animals in order to make my point. And I do believe that most of them actually grasped that big picture.
So what has all of this got to do with slaughterhouses?
One word answer. Unnecessary. There will be no suffering in slaughterhouses if there are no slaughterhouses. Those sixth graders understand that there’s not enough land and water for everyone in the world to eat our totally unsustainable Standard American Diet (S.A.D.). They understand that if all seven billion humans on the planet tried to eat the way we Americans do—that four billion of us would starve to death.
They also saw a pretty powerful visual (see below) of the fecal waste material that is generated by our animal food industry in the United States—at the rate of 87,000 pounds per second or 1.37 billion tons a year. Those kids know that it just isn’t going to work for us to continue eating the way we do—the numbers behind Food Math 101 just don’t work.
What about health? Even if the American diet of meat & dairy three meals a day was healthy for humans, the numbers simply don’t work from a sustainability standpoint. Conveniently, it’s not healthy for humans—in fact it’s killing us and is responsible for driving $2 trillion of our annual $2.8 trillion cost of healthcare in this country.
Meanwhile, the good folks at the New York Times and the animal rights organizations are missing the point. They’re putting a great amount of time and energy into making living conditions more humane for the ten billion animals that we raise per year for our dinner tables in the USA.
Quite frankly, it’s distracting our attention from the underlying problem—we’re eating the wrong food for our species. If we start eating the right food, many HUGE problems associated with the food production process will simply disappear.
No doubt you’ve heard about the Ag-Gag laws springing up around the nation—making it illegal to report ANYTHING negative about our nation’s disgusting process of producing meat and dairy products. The article began:
IN 1999, as a writer for The American Prospect, I went into a slaughterhouse undercover, with the help of some rebellious employees. The floor was slick with the residue of blood and suet, and the air smelled like iron. A part of my brain spent the whole time trying to remember which of Dante’s circles this scene most resembled.
Today, under legislation being pushed by business interests, that bit of journalistic adventure could earn me a criminal conviction and land me on a registry of “animal and ecological terrorists.” So-called ag-gag laws, proposed or enacted in about a dozen states, make, or would make, criminals of animal-rights activists who take covert pictures and videos of conditions on industrial farms and slaughterhouses. Some would even classify the activists as terrorists.
The agriculture industry says the images are unfair. They seem to show cruelty and brutality, but the eye can be deceiving. The most humane way of slaughtering an animal, or dealing with a sick one, may look pretty horrible. But so does open-heart surgery. The problem with making moral arguments by appealing to revulsion is that some beneficial and indispensable acts can also be revolting. With gruesome shots of cadavers, a skilled amateur could make a strong emotional case against using them to teach anatomy in medical school.
You get the point, right? All of this debate about a process that need not exist—indeed one that WILL NOT exist one hundred years from now. I say, let’s not waste our time and energy trying to make slaughterhouses humane (as if that were possible)—let’s get rid of them.
As for the health benefits of the S.A.D., almost every one of those sixth graders raised their hands when asked if they knew anyone with diabetes or heart disease. And they now know the two-word answer for how to get rid of both—WHOLE PLANTS.
We need to focus on the “blinding flash of the obvious” necessity of moving aggressively in the direction of whole foods, plant-based eating. Many years ago, Paul McCartney said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarians.” Well, they don’t have glass walls—in fact, they’re moving in the opposite direction, as reported by the Times article.
The Bottom Line. Let’s focus on the glaring necessity of plant-based eating—and how it relates to Sustainability and Human Health. Let’s put the slaughterhouses out of business.
So far, only a brief introduction to Food Math 101 has been shared with one grade in one small school in one small state of our entire country. What would happen if we began teaching some form of Food Math 101 in all levels of public education from K through 12 and college—in all fifty states?
Maybe Connecticut will be the state with the courage to get this started. One state senator, Mr. Andrew Maynard, attended my first presentation last week, and he is now taking steps to bring this crucial information to other schools in his district. Stay tuned.
- Food Math 101 presentation blog. Speaking to 220 sixth-graders in New London, CT
- Food Math article in the local newspaper. Click here for The New London Day piece.
- Source article. Open the Slaughterhouses – NYTimes.com.
Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s new book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes.
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—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation