Sustenance and Survival: Is It Worth the Abuse of Other Living Organisms?

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On a clear summer night, anyone can look up at the sky and see the stars. Stars are created by nebulas, large masses of dust and gas collected in space by gravity. Eventually, the mass of the nebula grows until it implodes and ignites itself, resulting in the birth of a star (Dunbar). Once our star was created, rocks and stellar material at different incremental distances from the massive sun combine together through the force of gravity forming the foundation of the planets, Earth being one of them. These processes take place over the course of billions of years. Figure 1 in the appendix shows the 4.54 billion year history of earth as a 24-hour clock. Everything from the origin of the earliest bacteria, to the formation of oceans, mountains and coal swamps, to the creation simple asexual species such as jellyfish and complex species such as reptiles and dinosaurs takes place within this the timeline of this figure. As it can be clearly seen, mammals and humans specifically take up the smallest, most recent portion of this geological timeline. Therefore, it can be deduced that animals have been on this earth just as long, if not longer than humans. One of the essentials to maintaining life has always been the processing of food and nourishment into energy. As humans have evolved and advanced towards industrialization and mass production capabilities, only a small portion of the population is used to mass-produce food to feed our growing population through factory animal farming. In an effort to maintain profitability and find alternative solutions to food insecurity, the simple processes of gathering food for sustenance has grown into an evil industry that abuses other fellow defenseless beings and carriers of life on this planet for the benefit of our society. This paper explores the factors leading to the virtual enslavement of animals practiced today as well as the implications of our actions in the coming decades.

Since the dawn of time, the only goal for living species on this planet has been to survive. This is evident in just about every class of species such as plants, fish, reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, and mammals. Regardless of the class, each species eats, drinks, and reproduces in order to survive. The basic foundation of this continuous cycle of life is deoxyribonucleic acid, better known as DNA. This is a hereditary material found in almost all living organisms. The DNA code made up of four bases; adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine, pair up with each other with sugar and phosphate to form nucleotides. These nucleotides form the double helix structure commonly associated with DNA and genetics. These strands of DNA can replicate as cells divide and replicate during the growth of the body (NLM). This process is the common ground relating humans with all other living organisms on this planet. To value the life and needs of some living beings, such as humans, over the lives of other living beings, such as animals, is an injustice. What makes humans superior to animals?

The greatest difference between humans and animals is the level of cognitive ability each possesses. Humans are far superior in their process of rationalization and conscious awareness of their surroundings. No other species has reached this level of cognitive strength throughout the course of history as clearly evident in our world today. Some argue that humans are the only ones capable of rationalization and thinking, but this claim is strongly unwarranted. If a person steps on a cats tail, the cat shrieks and runs away to protect itself. If a senses danger, it will run away. That is because the process of rationalization, which is essentially a cost-benefit analysis, results in the decision of the deer to run. Staying in the area will result in the loss of the deer’s life and pain endured as the predator takes it down, whereas running away will result in the further survival of the species. As it is clearly evident, other animals besides humans are capable of the process of rationalization. Therefore, simply because animals do not communicate through language and place value into frivolous items such as paper money is not sufficient in valuing the life of a human over the life of an animal. Just as it is claimed that all men are created equal and slavery has clearly been classified as a wrong, the worldwide abuse of animals to satisfy the gross consumption habits of humans is also wrong. Slavery was used as a form of free labor because labor was needed to promote further growth and sustenance of a population. However, our society was able to produce the same volume and quality without the use of such a nasty institution. Similarly, industrialized animal farming is used to provide our society with enough food and nourishment to sustain itself, but there are other methods of accomplishing this objective in a more ethical manner.

There are many different sources of food and nourishment. The national government sponsored food pyramid classifies the various food groups as the following: the bread and carbohydrates group, the vegetable group, the fruit group, the milk and dairy products group and the fats and sweets group (USDA). There are many different natural food sources one can acquire proper nutrition from. Some of the best sources of food are nuts, rice and pasta, and various fruits and vegetables picked from plants. As can be seen, the mass production and slaughtering of animals only satisfy one of the food groups. But make no mistake, the consumption of meat and protein is essential in the development and sustenance of the human body. Without a significant source of protein, the body cannot develop muscle and power necessary for healthy maintenance of the body. If the body is weak, health problems can develop rapidly and the person is quite vulnerable to all sorts of danger. Realizing the importance of food and sustenance, our species shifted from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural societies. 

Agricultural societies emerged during a period known as the Agricultural Revolution between 10,000 and 5,000 BC. As opposed to utilizing what was naturally available, humans for the first time could control the amount of food available to their societies. With this newfound method of sustenance, societies discontinued constant traveling and instead began to settle next to their farm. In addition to growing fields of crops, settlers also began collecting animals and facilitating their reproduction. Thus, the concept of farming was born. With a form of control over the production of their essential foods, other settlers could begin focusing their efforts on the production of other products such as tools and services. This is the beginning of modern society functioning with specific divisions in labor amongst its members to promote the overall growth and sustenance of the group as a whole. This would be standard for societies for centuries to come until the industrial revolution.

As people began specializing in the production of other goods and services than food, technology and tools began to emerge that further eased the task of survival. Some examples of such technology are guns, steel, boats, and chemicals. In his book Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, author Jared M. Diamond describes some of the implications of these technologies. While tribes and villages all throughout Africa focused primarily on their sustenance, European societies were focused on their growth and accumulation of resources. The creation of the boat made it possible for intercontinental travel and shipment of goods, services, and people. As Europeans along with their rather sophisticated language and lifestyle for the time traveled down to Africa, they saw darker counterparts of themselves seemingly in between themselves and primates. Because they did not have the same linguistic skills and a civilized lifestyle similar to theirs, the Europeans assumed them to be the same as animals and began to enslave masses of them at a time. They justified this enslavement with religious beliefs of their god, claiming that their god said all animals on this earth are existing solely for the use of humans. With this type of false justification, slaves were captured and sent to the Americas to provide free labor for their respective owners. The owners received sustenance and profits from the beginning stages of globalization and international trade. This continued for centuries until it was conclusively determined that the enslavement of other human beings wrong, and even then, those who were profiting off of such an evil institution refused to desist and fought a bloody civil war to maintain their control and oppression. Finally, slaves were released and society adjusted to meet its needs through other practices as their society approached the heated stages of the industrial revolution.

As the industrial revolution became vibrant all throughout the west, mass production capabilities grew rapidly. Harnessing the power of combustion, steam, and electricity, tasks and jobs that took significant amounts of time could be produced in mass all by source. Not only that, the availability of having one source produced mass reduced the effort needed to produce each unit. Therefore, just as with the agricultural revolution, people could spend less effort in providing for their sustenance and more effort on developing technology and facilitating growth. As more people left the farming and food production industry, the few people left would become the giants that dominate the industry today.

A great example of these giants is known as Tyson Foods. Being one of the largest food production companies in the industry, Tyson has developed an advanced process for their operations that reduces costs to their minimum and maximizes their profits to their maximum, like any businesses set to accomplish. However, their efforts to reduce costs has resulted in the following controversies: lawsuits for air and water pollution and dumping, the employment of undocumented immigrants, the use of unethical slaughtering methods, undisclosed use of antibiotics and purposeful intent to avoid product testing for diseases such as E-coli. It is evident through the actions of this corporate giant that they have no consideration or value for the safety and welfare of their consumers and employees alike. Also, documentation of slaughtering procedures shows the grossest negligence from the company’s officials as they are instructed to “rip the heads off of birds that missed the throat-cutting machines”. Tyson’s response to this public reaction has been to simply pay all of the fines and penalties associated with each violation because it is cheaper overall than to modify their practices. This type of selfish behavior endangers the producer’s employees, the consumers and billions of animals all for the sake of greater profits for the owners of this food giant. 

Countries all around the world have been sustaining their populations for centuries without the use of violent mass production methods of meat and animals. The United States is estimated to be the largest consumer of meat around the world per capita at 122.3 KG (MOW). Other countries, realizing the unethical practices of U.S. meat production, have begun taking a stand against such practices. “Many European countries currently prohibit the livestock agricultural practices that are allowed in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, thus creating the possibility of international economic conflict” (Lutz). There is a significant problem when even other considerably developed countries are opposing such practices, as opposed to lesser developed countries with much less influence on major actors in the US. Each passing day, more pressure is exerted on the major corporations like Tyson to cease and desist their cruel practices. Eventually, pressure from these forces along with the global population will force evil, selfish corporate giants like Tyson and their primary affiliates from practicing such cruelty to animals.

Some concern is raised as to how we can possibly sustain our rapidly growing population without mass-producing food using current practices. One of the solutions to the problem is establishing food forests. Due to the difficulty in restructuring practices prioritizing ethics and sustainability, critics of changes are content keeping things the way they are. However, scholarly articles from various fields show that the current practice of factory farming is posing an increasingly urgent danger to human health and nonhuman animal welfare. In an article titled Meat and Morality: Alternatives to Factory Farming by Evelyn Pluhar, the author poses several alternatives to current practices. Some of these adjustments include an increase in vegetation consumption, reasonable and humane food animal farming, and the concept of in-vitro meat production. In-vitro meat refers to meat product that never came from an animal. While some may consider the term gross or unhealthy, making in-vitro meat can be as easy as adding flavors to tofu and making imitation crabmeat. This example takes a rare and expensive meat and makes it a healthy, affordable alternative for the consumer. Each of these practices maintains our objectives of sustenance, growth, and survival while maintaining a sense of ethical responsibility and duties to ourselves and other living beings in this wonderful adventure we refer to as “life”. 

In conclusion, the answer to the question “Is factory farming cruel to animals” is a big, bold YES. In no other time of our human history has the systematic mass gathering and slaughtering of living organisms taken place. More importantly, it appears that the incentive for such practices as Tyson Foods demonstrated is increased profits. Profits in the form of money are simply valued units of paper created by governments to provide a unified account of production and facilitate transactions. While money may be needed to maintain organization and structure in an economy, in no means is the all-encompassing value to life. It can be reasonably assumed that the owners and stakeholders of Tyson Foods have more than enough money to provide for the sustenance of themselves and their family, yet they continue to knowingly practice cruel and inhumane practice that damage the welfare of human beings and nonhuman animals alike. This type of evil has been prevalent for only a small portion of our existence and it can be reasonably expected that these practices will come to an end one way or another as long as our global community remains persistent about the issue. All in all, animals have been on this planet for just as long as we have and we are no more deserving of life and sustenance than they are.

(Appendix and Figure 1 omitted for preview. Available via download)

References

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Diamond, Jared M. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W. Norton &, 1998. Print.

Dunbar, Brian. "Witness the Birth of a Star." Image of the Day Gallery. NASA, 23 Mar. 2008. Web. 03 June 2013. <http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_371.html>.

"Former Tyson Foods Employee Speaks out against Abuses." YouTube, 10 Jan. 2007. Web. 03 June 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5_jLlP-Yao>.

Lutz, B. J., & Lutz, J. M. (2009). Factory Farming and Potential Problems in International Trade. Global Economy Journal, 9(3),

NLM. "What Is DNA?" Genetics Home Reference. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 May 2013. Web. 03 June 2013. <http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/basics/dna>.

Pluhar, E. B. (2010). Meat and morality: Alternatives to factory farming. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 23(5), 455-468.

USDA. "The Food Guide Pyramid." Publications. U.S. Department of Agriculture, n.d. Web. 3 June 2013. <http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/MyPyramid/OriginalFoodGuidePyramids/FGP/FGPPamphlet.pdf>.