Re: Ch. 4 - The feedlot : making meat
I have been waiting for the discussion to get to this chapter. This is when I really got hooked on the book. Because of allergies, etc., I have to get my protein from beef. For various reasons, nothing else works for me. I'm like a flash from the past, living on vegetables and meat with a little grain, like a hunter-gatherer
Anyway, in terms of the ethics of eating meat that is treated in the way we handle beef in feedlots, in a second I would become a vegetarian after reading that chapter. I found it appalling! I agree with you Mad that it is an ethical matter. No question.
I did a lot of research after this chapter on the practices of raising beef in Canada, hoping against hope that I could close my eyes again and go back to my previous oblivion. No such luck. What I read about Canadian practices is a little less dire than what Pollan presents in the book, but I could not pursuade myself that it was not just written from a different perspective. So, I'm left with eating meat from cows who are fed corn, at least in the "finishing" process, and lived miserable lives at the end. In Canada, we do okay by the cows up until the last 30 to 60 days, which are spent in a feedlot eating corn. Until then they are raised on pasture in the summer and forage in the winter. I investigated other methods of raising cows, like organic farming or pasture raised beef, but there really is very little of that around. Too expensive for the farmers and, since not many people would choose to have their eyes opened, no one would be willing to spend the money on a more ethical product cuz they don't know about feedlots. Like me a few weeks ago.
I always thought our feeding of antibiotics to cows was to keep them (and us) healthy. Something like - A cow is a big investment, so let's keep it healthy. I had no idea that the feedlot process is just an industrial method of staving off inevitable disease and death long enough to get the cow to market. And as for the forced weaning of the young cows **shudder** But even though the process as described in the book is stomach turning, I'd still rather be aware than continue to have my eyes closed. I eat less beef now. I also thank the cow that is feeding me when I do eat beef.
In terms of the ethics, we are programmed to be omnivores, as evidenced by our anatomy and physiology. So my eating a cow is no different than a hawk in my back yard tearing into a sparrow or mourning dove. I can accept that. I don't want to be a vegetarian on that basis. I believe myself to be an animal same as any other, programmed for a role on earth. And my role happens to include being an omnivore. It is the treatment of the animals that bothers me. If that cow had a nice life on earth, albeit shorter than it might have had, I would feel better about slaughtering it for dinner. Pollan gets more into that later in the book, which I found really interesting.