America’s Meat Addiction

Most of the facts that I could tell you about America’s addiction to animal products are common knowledge (or as near to common knowledge a major corporation like Monsanto will allow) but, the issue is why nothing is still being done.  Most Americans would agree that there is a difference between a dog or a cat and a cow: dogs and cats are pets; cows, chickens, and pigs are food.

At what point, however, do we say enough is enough, or, is our behavior concerning our food an indication that we can’t say enough is enough?

For nearly two decades, rbST has been used on dairy cows to produce more milk. Somatotropin is a naturally occurring protein hormone in animals that is produced in the pituitary gland. Bovine Somatotropin activates nutrients  to increase growth in calves and milk production in dairy cows. Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin, rbST, is a genetically engineered version of BST (using recombinant DNA) that causes cows to produce 10-15% more milk. The only study performed on the use of rbST was in 1993. It was administered by the Monsanto company, who developed and manufactured  the artificial hormone, for a mere 90 days on 30 rats.  The study was never published, but the FDA  went on record stating that there were no significant problems.

In 1998, after performing their own study, Health Canada (the FDA equivalent)  determined that rbST “did not comply with safety requirements” due to the fact that rbST can be absorbed by humans, a fact that was was mysteriously left out of Monsanto’s report. As of today, Canada, the EU, Australia, and Japan have all banned the use of rbST.  1

The lack of information on rbST means we don’t know anything about it. We have no idea of the long term effects it has on the body, human brain chemistry, or how it will affect cows for that matter.  The same is true for the slew of growth hormones used to produce more meat.

Now, admittedly,  this seems to be one of many in this growing fad of alternative addictions: video game addiction,  media addiction, sex addiction, oil addiction, and now, meat addiction? Yes. When the word addiction comes to mind, most people tend to think of heroin, meth, speed, or alcohol.  Dependence of these products is considered substance addiction, while  dependence on video games, food, and the like are considered process addictions.

Process addictions, as the name indicates,  are addictions to an activity and/or process.  Process addictions are still somewhat controversial. Many people think that these supposed “addicts” should just be able to stop, but what these naysayers  fail to realize is that the process/ activity is enslaving. Think of a person suffering from OCD: they cannot stop their behavior simply because it is time consuming or illogical. Furthermore,  there is evidence to suggest that process addictions can cause neuroadaptation (“Tolerance”) leading to withdrawal; a trademark characteristic of substance addiction.2 3 Researchers found that people suffering from process addictions experience The Four C’s: 4 5

1. loss of Control, over use
2. Continued use despite knowledge of harmful consequences
3. Compulsion to use
4. Craving

How does the American appetite towards our consumption of animal products look in this light:

Loss of control, over use-

1. Americans consume 195 lbs per year per person, 57 lbs more than that of the 1950’s.6

2. An undercover investigator for Compassion Over Killing revealed footage of the  harrowing condition of the cattle at the Central Valley Meat Co. in California. At one point, the fifty second video showed a worker standing on the nose and mouth of a fallen cow. In a reply to the public, Al Almanza, administrator of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said “We have reviewed the video and determined that while some of the footage provided shows unacceptable treatment of cattle, it does not show anything that would compromise food safety,” 7

3.”Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. …A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.” -UNEP 8

Continued use despite knowledge of harmful consequences-

1. CDC estimates that 60,000 Americans die each year from antibiotic resistant disease. 80% of all antibiotics used in the US are used for non-therapeutic purposes in cattle (such as resistant bacterial strains that occur from cloning cattle). 9

2. The unprecedented high rates of obesity, heart disease, and cancer, and diabetes have been linked (in part) to diets high in red and processed meats.

3. Grain based diets in cattle (which were introduced in order to fatten up cattle) promotes illness and has been linked to higher risks of E Coli. 10  11

Compulsion to Use and Craving-

1. A mere 3.2% of the population is vegetarian, 0.5% of which are vegan  (7.3 million and 1 million respectively). 12

2. In 2007 Meat production clocked in at 275 million tons. By 2050 the number is expected to reach at least 465 million tons. 13

3. In 2008 the FDA approved the commercial sale of meat and milk from cloned animals [see 1]

Although the point of this article is not to force the vegan lifestyle on anyone’s sensibilities, it bears exploration, and is the only viable solution to curbing our meat dependence. The facts are there; the evidence is in our faces and our dinner plates. As little as one vegan or vegetarian meal a day has a monumental impact on the environment and your health. 14   Why is is okay for make piglets to be castrated without anesthesia,  for cows to have their throats slit while still alive, chickens pumped so full of antibiotics that they can’t move, and so many more horrors?  The image of the slaughterhouse is not only an indictment of our behavior, but of our deadly addiction.

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