The United States is a meat eating nation. According to Melanie Joy, the author of Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows, the average American eats 223 pounds of meat each year including 87 pounds of chicken, 17 pounds of turkey, 66 pounds of beef and 51 pounds of pork (37). If you multiply that by the 300 million citizens of the United States it equals a lot of meat and a lot of animals. The business behind the slaughter of these billions of animals is kept well hidden, but it needs to be brought into the light. Melanie Joy states that in order to grasp the enormity of this clandestine business one must know that the number of animals agribusinesses slaughter reaches 10 billion every year, and that is excluding fish and other sea animals. Also, the farm population in the United States is double the world's population (37).
Although society has closed its eyes to the horrors of the meat industry, they are not immune from the effects this industry has. The inhumane treatment of animals, dangerous working condition for workers, pollution of the environment and health scares of consumers all happen behind the scenes at factory farms.
Public attention to the meat industry started in 1906, when Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle was published. The Jungle was a tell-all novel revealing the horrors of the meat industry. People were outraged at the truth behind their food which led the government to realize that something must be done. As Melanie Joy, professor at the University of Massachusetts, states in her book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows; "public indignation led to the passing of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act, which mandated regular inspections of slaughter houses and meat packaging plants"(75). These acts introduced the regulation of the meat industry by the government. As Jennifer Weeks states in her article Factory Farms; the Pure Food and Drug Act barred interstate sales of mislabeled or contaminated food items and the Meat Inspection Act created sanitation standards for slaughter houses and meat packaging plants (36). Before these laws were established, the government only had feeble inspection acts which were created in 1890 due to some European countries limiting imports of American meat. These laws were not properly enforced and unfortunately this trend continues even after the publication of The Jungle. Jennifer Weeks provides a timeline in her article Factory Farms; In 1951 the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) approved the use of antibiotics as feed substitutes for farm animals. At the time, no risks were foreseen as a result of this act, but now research has been conducted that proves otherwise. Despite the knowledge we now have on the use of antibiotics as a food additive, many farms still use them. In 1954 the FDA approved the use of hormone treatments on farm animals. Like antibiotics, hormones are still used today despite their risks. In 1958 the Federal Humane Slaughter Act was passed. This Act requires mammals to be completely unconscious before being dismembered. The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 and created a national system for pollution disposal into U.S. water. In 1988 Great Britain bans the feeding of meat and bone meal of cows, sheep and goats to farm animals in response to an outbreak of mad cow disease. The United States has not passed a law similar to this yet and some farms continue to risk public health by feeding parts of ruminant animals to others. In 1993 bovine growth hormones for dairy cows was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. 2000 brought about the first felony conviction for farm abuses. A PETA hidden-camera caught workers at a North Carolina hog farm skin and saw the legs off of conscious animals(35). Maria Clemitt states in her article Animal Rights that in 2008, California ballot initiative bans confinement of veal calves, hens, and brood sows in cages that don't allow them to turn freely, lie down, stand up and extend...
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