Picture that tender hunk of turkey on your festively decorated tablecloth on Thanksgiving, just asking to be eaten. It is the centerpiece of the table — and it looks tasty, right?

Isabelle D'Arcy

Isabelle D’Arcy

Every year, millions of animals are mistreated and abused before they become our dinner. Chickens are stuffed tightly into cages, or are piled into a room where they are literally on top of each other. To keep the chickens alive in such dangerous conditions, they are fed large amounts of antibiotics — almost four times that given to humans (1). Perhaps the single most disgusting image is that of a man holding a fragile, baby chick in his hand, and then shoving its beak, a very sensitive part of the bird, into this massive machine where the tip of the beak is sliced off.

Cattle aren’t treated much better. They are over-milked, overfed, and over-injected. Often they are castrated and branded with hot irons, with no medicinal relief (2). Just a day after being born, calves are taken from their mothers, denied milk, chained, and locked into crates where they can’t even turn around (3). It is this lack of movement that creates the consistency and color of veal that consumers expect.

These industries, the meat and dairy industries, are negatively affecting our earth. Feeding all these cattle requires large amounts of grain, and this grain requires large amounts of water to grow. It takes 24 gallons of water to produce a pound of potatoes. It takes 49 gallons of water to produce a pound of apples. How many gallons do you think it takes to produce a pound of beef? 100? 200? It actually takes anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 gallons of water to make just one pound of beef (4).

So why act? You assert that animals taste good and are made to be eaten, which is a valid point of view. So while you might agree that these industries aren’t compassionate, and are damaging our environment, you may not choose to become vegan. Giving up meat and dairy, however, is not necessary for the stopping of such atrocities. You can instead become a conscious meat and dairy eater, buying these products only from companies that humanely raise their animals, and buying slightly less.

These products are very accessible. For example, at Lassen’s market, a company called Organic Valley carries a full line of dairy products that are made well. Meat can be bought from companies like Organic Prairie, which is sold locally at Lazy Acres and Wild Oats. Although not all “organic” and “free-range” foods are raised compassionately, buying from these companies ensures that you are not only supporting good meat producers, but also denying cruel companies your business and money.

I ask you to speak up through what you buy. I ask you to listen to your values and let compassion dictate your choices. I ask you to sacrifice a little comfort in order to be aware and involved. This is not something that is easy to change, but it is something that must be changed, for our environment and for our global conscience. So, please, buy humanely raised meat and dairy, and if you’re going to buy a turkey for this Thanksgiving, make it one that has had a good, healthy life before it became the protein of tomorrow’s feast!

Works Cited
1. Rich Hayes, “Antibiotics Overused in Chickens,” The Baltimore Sun, July 23, 2001
2. Animal Place, “Cattle: Not So Free on the Range,” Animal Place Online, 2005
3. “Bill to Prevent Cruelty to Calves Stopped by Agribusiness Lobby.” Say No to Veal
4. John Robbins M.D., The Food Revolution, Conari Press: Boston, 2001, p. 178
5. Story obtained from www.rogerknapp.com/inspire/starfish.htm

Dos Pueblos High senior Isabelle D’Arcy is co-founder of Kids Speaking Up, a local group working to educate youth on social, national and political issues and inspire them to write.