During our daily routine, we don’t often think about where our food actually comes from. As much as we’d like to assume the hamburgers we’re eating were once happy cows frolicking in endless green pastures, this is almost never the case. Throughout time, demand across the nation for meat has led the agriculture industry to develop into another production plant set on pumping out as much product as it possibly can for profit.
As unfortunate as this issue is, it isn’t the worst that’s happened. According to Matthew Dominguez, public policy manager and farm animal protection for The Humane Society of the United States, lawmakers in at least nine states have recently introduced legislation intended to silence whistleblowers who attempt to report livestock mistreatment behind the scenes, according to ABC News. Also known as “ag-gag” or anti-whistleblower laws, they were created in response to undercover investigations by animal welfare organizations that have, in the past, exposed unsafe and cruel conditions in such facilities.
While it’s understandable that companies shouldn’t have to worry about the ulterior motives of their employees, these large “agribusinesses” aren’t taking the initiative to prove they don’t require stricter regulation. Undercover agents have already given us video proof of the inhumane treatment animals bred for food face each day. In 2008, the investigation of a slaughterhouse in Chino by The Humane Society of the U.S. led to the largest beef recall in U.S. history. Knowing laws are in place to keep such investigations at bay will give farm factories a green light to continue their immoral practices.
Currently the Food Safety and Inspection Service, an extension of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is responsible for the supervision and regulation of the agriculture industry. However, current regulations offer little to no protection for farm animals. While some may be in place, they are not thoroughly enforced.
According to Dominguez up to 95 percent of the meat, dairy and eggs produced in the U.S. comes from industrialized factory farms. What the USDA doesn’t tell us is that federal protection laws pertain only to slaughterhouses—the farms in which the livestock are bred and raised do not fall under such inspection or legislation. Because of this loophole, most animals will spend their entire lives in subpar and brutal conditions.
“The only tool we have to expose these cruelties is the whistleblowers,” Dominguez said in a recent phone interview.
He emphasized that instead of addressing the problem of inhumane living conditions for livestock, agribusinesses are merely trying to cover it up.
“All of their money and resources are going into suppressing whistleblowers,” Dominguez said. “The industry has not supported one single state bill to protect farm animals from the abuses uncovered by whistleblowers.”
This problem is important not only in regards to the welfare of farm animals, but for food safety in general. If these corporations are allowed to operate behind closed doors, there’s no telling what kinds of health dangers and environmental hazards could result from their lack of supervision. Efforts by the FSIS and USDA are not enough. Because the farming industry operates on such a large scale, it’s impossible for the few inspectors who enforce regulations to catch each and every unlawful act made by workers.
Dominguez said the Humane Society is doing everything in its power to work with legislators regarding this issue, as well as keep the public informed. The agriculture industry continues to work in such a dangerous and unethical way because we allow it. The truth is, most of us are simply unaware of what really goes on in the process of putting food on our tables. Sadly, it’s this afterthought mentality that keeps the green pasture fairy tale alive.
It’s true we cannot change our habits overnight. But awareness is the first step to reform and it’s easier than we may think. Dominguez said by removing animal products from our diets only one day a week, more than 1.4 billion animals can be saved in the U.S. annually. Another solution is to actually look into where our food comes from. Exploring local farms and purchasing higher welfare products will reduce the need for mass production.
“People should not only be offended, but appalled and scared of these anti-whistleblower bills,” Dominguez said.
We need to recognize that we are inadvertently the reason for the way the agriculture industry operates today. There is no supply without demand. This is not just about animal rights; it boils down to the very basics of food safety. It’s a difficult problem to stomach, but choosing to turn a blind eye will ultimately lead to more issues down the road. If we are at all concerned for our own well-being, we must do what it takes to change our habits and reverse this production plant food trend.
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