J500 Media and the Environment

Uncovering the ‘Meat’ of the Issue by micolea

I grew up in a family of meat-lovers. It was guaranteed that the centerpiece of each dinner dish was a slab of protein. You name it- beef, pork, chicken, lamb- and my family and I ate it. As you can imagine, being brought up at a young age on an eating plan that made meat mandatory but fresh fruits and colorful vegetables voluntary, my eating habits were not very healthy.

When I was in high school, the Atkins diet became popular. It appealed to me (and my insatiable appetite for beef), so I decided to try it. I was in meat lover’s paradise. On this eating regimen I was able to consume all the bacon, steak and pork chops my stomach (and arteries) could handle. Now, as not to make too bad of an impression, I also grazed on vegetables. My side dishes consisted of leafy greens, including asparagus, broccoli and spinach. In hindsight, chowing down on a diet of meat everyday was not great for my body or mind, but at the time, I thought otherwise. I ignored the fact that meat contained a lot of saturated fat. My reasoning for eating meat and poultry was because it provided my body with sustenance and likewise, it filled me up. Protein kept me feeling full for hours, whereas, carbohydrates did not sustain my hunger for very long.

I continued the Atkins diet for a year. I was completely unaware that the processed meats I was ingesting were composed of pesticides and preservatives such as sodium nitrate. Never did I expect that eating a slice of honey-cured ham would expose me to many toxic chemicals and additives. These meats come from animals raised on factory farms controlled by manufacturing corporations. The conditions under which factory raised animals are kept are inhumane, to say the very least. In these factory farms, the animals are packed together in small spaces, have their DNA altered, and are injected with hormones and antibiotics and at times wallow in their own feces. 

Photo by Farm Sanctuary/Courtesy Flickr

There are some that argue that factory farms will never completely disappear, and because of that, they are conceiving a method to lessen the pain these animals are forced to endure. Adam Shriver, a doctoral student at Washington University in St. Louis, is one of those people. His article in the New York Times suggests genetically engineering animals in slaughterhouses, therefore minimizing their pain. Though the idea is novel, it doesn’t conclusively alter the animals living circumstances. 

These days, I maintain an eating plan that balances vegetables, fruits, whole grains and meat. There is an alternative to factory farm meat- choosing to eat organic, grass-fed beef and free-range chicken. Now that I am conscious of the reality of the happenings in factory farms I will try as often as possible to support organic farming practices.

Micole Aronowitz

America’s Dilemma by alyv

Trojan PinataIllegal immigration is about so much more than taking jobs away from Americans.

At any time, there are between 12 million and 20 million illegal immigrants in the United States, according to the Census Bureau’s best guess. Most hold jobs Americans consider too lowly to do – jobs like those in agriculture.

Illegal immigrants usually work as seasonal workers, picking oranges in California or harvesting cranberries in Maryland. It’s no secret that illegal aliens work for cheap.

But as much as people complain about lower wages making job competition fruitless, it’s the cheap labor of immigrants that helps put food on the tables of most Americans, and most of the world.

Industrialized agriculture provides a large majority of the food for the world, so they employ a ton of people, some being illegal immigrants. Let’s think about what would happen if the America were to completely stop the influx of illegal immigrants.

• Big Ag would lose its stake-holdings in American agriculture, leading to an increase in the need and development of local farms.Immigrant-crossing sign
• The surge in local farming would decrease the methane, carbon dioxide and the rest of the pollutant cocktail that comes transporting food thousands of miles away or herding millions of pigs into tiny spaces.

But …

• Food production would plummet.
• The cost of food would skyrocket.
• Millions of people wouldn’t have access or be able to afford food.
• Starvation and undernourishment would affect thousands more than the 900 million people already suffering from lack of adequate food.
• The U.S. economy would go into the tank.

So, stop illegal immigrants, give Americans more jobs, reduce emissions and increase local farming? Or grant them amnesty and a chance to improve their lives, continue to feed Big Ag and risk the earth’s sustainability?

Is there a right choice?


Thanks to Guinness Wench and More Marin for the pictures.

Thanks to You Tube for the video.

Pigs of an African Past by alyv

Nabombe Silangwa doesn’t understand why Americans use the term “pigsty” to describe a dirty room. She doesn’t get the phrase “to eat like a pig” either.

“Where I come from, pigs are the cleanest animals we have on a farm,” she says.

cute-pig1For Nabombe, pigs were the pride and joy of her family’s small farm in Zambia.

She describes pigs as “neat freaks,” as obsessive compulsive. She says they won’t eat food if it’s touched anything but their snouts, and that their living quarters are divided – one corner for food, another for waste.

How far the “civilized world” has digressed.

According to an article by Jeff Tietz for Rolling Stone, pigs on American factory-farms have slightly different living conditions:
• Pigs can’t move.
• Pigs can’t breathe.
• Pigs can’t wash.
• They stand in their own feces – that is until it drops through a 1-foot hole along with anything else that might fit (placenta, piglets, syringes).
• They die of infections from the small quarters and their diminishing immune systems.
• Their stench assaults the nostrils of residents several miles away.
• Their feces creates pink pools of toxins, which bring death to any who dare come near.

Rather than a cherished member of the family, as they were on Nabombe’s African farm, pigs held in factory farms are a threat to the lives of any organism in the vicinity, including humans.

Neighbors of one factory hog farm – a Smithfield Foods farm in North Carolina – say they can’t leave their homes some days because the odor is too overpowering. Many residents continue to collapse from the stench, and few homes can mask the smell.

Pigs in America are an emblem for the dirty, the foul, the uncivilized, the wretched. And why should they be any different? We made them that way; we gave them the reputation we so ardently abhor.

My friend Nabombe doesn’t understand America’s portrayal of the pig.

I wish I didn’t either.

Something about this seems too dramatic; I’ll let you be the judge. Personally, I would recommend putting this one on mute. The pictures do tell a compelling story.


Thanks to the University of Western Ontario for the picture.

Thanks to You Tube for the video.