In response to NPR’s Fresh Air show interviewing Mother Jones journalist Tom Philpott about consumer concerns over meat industry practices, Karen Davis submitted the following letter to the NPR editors:
“Thank you for your eye-opening coverage of the conditions to which chickens and other farmed animals are being subjected, including the terrible diets they are fed contributing to the health, environmental, and animal welfare problems we face in the U.S. and worldwide. Unfortunately, this is how the majority of these animals will continue to live and be fed as long as billions of people are eating them. Feeding infected animal tissue to farmed animals is integral to the agribusiness economy. This economy relies on recycling the waste generated by our animal-based diets back to the animals being raised, as “feed.” The dead bodies and infected tissue have to go somewhere, and this is the cheapest place to put it.
Antibiotics or their equivalent will continue being fed to farmed animals. They are the only way to keep a profitable number of animals alive long enough to get them to slaughter; otherwise even more millions of animals than already die “prematurely” each year will succumb to the squalor and ill-treatment that our disastrous diet inflicts on them. If we really want to change the situation, we have to do more than endlessly call upon USDA, FDA, agribusiness and related entities to “do” something. We as consumers need to take responsibility. We need to change our eating habits and our attitudes.
This change involves thinking more critically and compassionately about the misery that our animal-based diets are causing the animals themselves – non-vegetarians ingest this misery along with the antibiotics, Salmonella bacteria and other bad stuff commonly targeted. We lock billions of birds, pigs and other sentient individuals in filthy dark compounds without sunshine, fresh air, or normal living space. We strip them of comfort, joy and natural activities. We destroy their family life and fill them with fear and drugs. We force them to live in a toxic waste environment, which in nature they would never do. We act like their lives don’t matter.
As long as we treat animals this way, the problems described by Tom Philpott on FRESH AIR will continue. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it is up to us. Thank you again for the broadcast.”
Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. Karen Davis is the author of PRISONED CHICKENS, POISONED EGGS: AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE MODERN POULTRY INDUSTRY (Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Company, 1996; 2009).