That’s right, farm animals. But it’s not what you’re thinking… Please allow me to properly explain… Better yet, I’ll share a little story of mine which will help lead to the explanation of my overt fondness for farm animals.
One evening while standing around at a party, a guy that I didn’t know approached me to strike up a casual conversation. He walked up to me with a drink in one hand and a plate in the other; full of what he referred to as the tastiest hors d’ oeuvres ever. He was making his enjoyment quite obvious—in that way some people manage to do in not so direct ways—and he proceeded to ask me why I wasn’t taking part of the delightful spread.
I pointed out to him that each appetizer on the table had meat, and being a vegetarian, it wasn’t at all delightful to me. But rather than believing that I don’t eat meat, since I’m not emaciated or pale, he decided to assume that it was because I don’t eat at all—or that I had already surpassed my caloric intake for the day. His remark, although delivered fairly subtly, was just sarcastic enough for me to decide that that moment would be a great time to step up onto my soapbox and give a complete stranger some information he had apparently never heard, since my being vegetarian was of such foreign concept to him.
I started to feel myself getting excited at the thought of facing this new opponent, whom I’d already guessed had grown up on meat and potatoes, so I knew it was going to be a challenge. I was sure my face was flushed as I felt my blood starting to get going, and I was beginning to feel that anxious sensation you feel when you are ready to take on a staunch adversary.
My confidence was high, because I knew I could knock him flat with my facts—I would plow him over with factory farming statistics so fast and hard he wouldn’t know what him. OK, I’m getting carried away, but the subject matter riles me up like nothing else. That’s right, tonight! Tonight, I would have my chance to get away from the common small talk I so detest and take down a meatatarian! Or so I would try. I would even let him have a head start.
It began just like all these conversations do… with him asking me what I do eat since I don’t eat meat. That question always strikes me as odd. If anyone thought it through for even just a second before asking, they could quickly run through their previous week’s worth of meals and realize that by simply removing the meat from each of those dishes they would be fine. They would, in fact, find it enjoyable. That chicken alfredo can easily be served without the chicken as a delicious vegetable alfredo, pizza with pepperoni is much better for you when it is minus the pepperoni, and within every ethnic restaurant, be it Mexican, Thai, Chinese or what have you, there’s a section specifically for vegetarians. You can eat rice and beans, sandwiches, tofu, pasta dishes, soufflés, sushi (veggie of course), and so on… not to mention most people consume too much protein in their diet on a daily basis anyway. It’s hard on the kidneys!
He just sort of stood there for a moment, when he finally spoke up and said he still couldn’t imagine life without his pork roast. I said, “Speaking of pigs, what do you know about pigs?” Did he know that pigs are more intelligent and trainable than dogs? That much research shows pigs process at the same level as a three year old child? But even so, these fascinating animals are reduced to living a miserable life where they’re confined to an amount of space not much larger than the actual size of their bodies. They can’t comfortably lie down or even turn around. They are incapable of experiencing fresh air, seeing daylight, or socializing with other pigs, despite being very social creatures by nature.
The stranger said he didn’t know much about pigs. He figured they were pretty dirty and stupid since they like to roll around in mud. I explained that pigs roll around in mud because they don’t have sweat glands and that’s how they cool off their bodies. Where did we ever come up with the phrase sweaty pig, anyway? I went on to explain that pigs are, in fact, extremely clean animals, very particular about their surroundings… that is, when they get to choose their surroundings.
We talked about the treatment of cows, chickens, ducks—and I managed to really startle him for a minute when I told him how foie gras is created.
The whole point is, animals raised on today’s industrialized farms are treated like machines; inanimate objects devoid of any feeling or needs. Some of their most basic needs are completely ignored. They are crowded into factory farm warehouses where they are de-beaked, de-toed, tail-docked, crowded, neglected, and denied the very basics of life that we all take for granted, such as sunshine, fresh air, and freedom to run. There are exactly zero laws to protect farm animals in this country. When animals are used for the sake of profit and production, greedy companies can treat them however they choose. Employees of these factories can beat them, throw them, harm them in any way chosen. And organizations like Humane Farming Association, Farm Sanctuary, PETA, and ASCAP all fight mightily every day to see that laws are implemented to protect these animals. It is an overwhelming battle, even though nine out of ten Americans believe that animals should indeed be treated humanely.
I couldn’t sense whether or not my opponent was coming around to experiencing animal sensitivity or not, so I thought, “Certainly he cares about the environment.” I explained how Factory Farming destroys our world by severely depleting our soil, polluting our rivers, lakes, and streams, devastating our forests, and using our grains that could otherwise be used to feed the millions of starving people in our world. From there I continued to point out that twenty vegetarians can be fed on the same amount of land required to feed one person consuming a meat-based diet; that more than half of all the water in the United States is used in livestock production; that runoff from animal waste often accounts for more water pollution than all human activities combined.
At this point he was becoming fairly despondent, but still defiant, so I decided he must be more into himself than anything else. I figured he certainly had to care about his individual health, and that’s when I launched into how the meat of animals raised in factory farms is meat that he should avoid. To explain, I mentioned how over half of all the drugs manufactured in the United States end up in animal feed in factory farms; that meat is commonly contaminated with animal feces or other bodily fluids; that animals become severely stressed and sick in these intensive confinement systems, and yet we wonder why there’s Mad Cow and Bird Flu.
The man had stopped eating long before I got to this point in our discussion, and I felt a tinge of guilt. As much as I enjoy taking the stand for farm animals, I don’t enjoy ruining someone’s evening—nor their meal, for that matter. I just want people to know, period. I want them to care. And although you can’t force someone to care, you can often make an impact just by sharing, creating awareness.
He looked up at me and told me that I don’t appear to be some earthy, granola girl. I laughed. He said he wanted to know how I became so crazy over farm animals. I appreciated his willingness to bring our heavy-duty conversation around, so I laughed again and said rather loudly, “I don’t know—I’m just really into farm animals!”
Of course, as soon as the words were leaving my mouth, the room had gone instantaneously quiet. The DJ in the corner had screwed up the transition to his next track, and because he stopped abruptly, the entire room full of people stopped talking abruptly as well. That is, everyone but me. And what I said way too loudly was that I was into farm animals.
The looks on the faces of this hip and trendy crowd were ones I haven’t forgotten. I decided not to retract or defend my comment heard by all, instead I just smiled as confidently as I could muster, stood up, and walked out of the party, not saying good-bye to anyone. I had decided to go with the concept that it’s better to leave them wanting more
Only I still happen to wonder if my friend at the party decided that he could give up his pork roast to create a little less strain on my other, farm animal friends. If not all together, then perhaps once in a while he skips meat for a meal and goes vegetarian. Because every vegetarian meal consumed is a small, but significant victory for farm animals.
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DeAnna Cool is one half of Madison Park, the celebrated dance-pop duo she shares with husband James. A sensual deep house act with true pop sensibilities, Madison Park’s sexy and seductive style has been rewarded with steady hits on the dance charts, including the cover of Roxy Music’s “More Than This” from the Roxy Remodeled album, also helmed by the pair through their BasicLUX label. Madison Park’s second full-length, In the Stars, will be released this summer. [multiple songs on MySpace]
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