Anytime we put blinders on, or decide not to look, we are are doing a disservice to ourselves.
This week Paul Shapiro, Vice President of farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States reported on this column by Linden Olson, a pork industry veteran. In it, Olson suggests pork producers change the words they use to change consumer perceptions of pork and its “producers.” Here are some of his examples:
1. Confinement barns: environmentally controlled housing
2. Gestation stalls/crates: individual maternity pens
3. Slaughter: harvest
4. Castration: neutering
5. Manure: fertilizer or plant nutrient resource
6. Hog farmer: pork production specialist
This story comes on the heels of the recent news about lobbyists working to pass “ag-gag” laws. These laws make it illegal for anyone to conduct undercover investigations of factory farms. Critics of the legislation argue that the laws are being enacted because abusive practices coming to light are causing the industries to lose money.
What’s ridiculous about the laws is that they are demonizing the people working to uncover the atrocities committed on factory farms, rather than the people committing the atrocities. For more on the laws go here.
I still remember the advice my sister-in-law gave me when I left for college: “If a guy tells you he’s a nice guy, he probably isn’t.”
Olson’s suggestion to call things nicer sounding names reminds me of that. Just because you call something nice, doesn’t mean it is. And further, if you have to call something nice, it probably isn’t.
So if the industry is doing everything ethically and humanely, as it claims to do, why do they feel the need to do not only get people arrested for seeing what they do but also rename their practices?
As Shakespeare said in Romeo and Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Calling something a different name doesn’t mean it ceases to be that thing.
We can call slaughter “harvest,” but it doesn’t cease to be slaughter.
As Shapiro points out, these industries know they have a lot to hide, so they are doing everything they can to keep the truth from coming to light. In his article, Shapiro shares this quote, written by an editor of the Journal of Animal Science:
“One of the best things modern animal agriculture has going for it is that most people … haven’t a clue how animals are raised and processed … For modern animal agriculture, the less the consumer knows about what’s happening before the meat hits the plate, the better.”
There is something in our nature that doesn’t want to look at the difficult stuff. And that’s okay. But the point is to look at the difficult stuff anyway, because that’s where the growth and transformation happens.
That’s how we begin to wake up.
The meat industries are determined to keep us from doing so, however. And we are active participants in that.
We don’t even call our meat what it is. Instead we have names that hide the fact that it used to be a living thing. See: beef, pork, burger, steak, poultry, etc.
But these conventions are a form of ignorance. Would perceptions change if we had to order “cow between bun” instead?
When we refuse to call things what they are, we are participating in blindness. As mindful individuals it is our responsibility to call a rose a rose, and to see past this kind of manipulation.
The agricultural industry is trying to make sure we don’t wise up to their ways. They are treating us like idiots.
But they are doing so because we let them. They know most of the public doesn’t know what really happens on the farms, and that most don’t want to know, because then they’d have to do something, or change.
The industry gets away with it because we are too busy and too consumed by things that don’t matter to think about how our food gets to us.
It’s up to us to change that.
Anytime we put blinders on, or decide not to look, we are are doing a disservice to ourselves. Whether it’s avoiding eye contact with the guy on the corner asking for money, or calling slaughter “harvest,” we are turning away from what is happening here, now.
And that’s the opposite of mindfulness.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise