Mar 4, 2005

The defibrillators are in the bag, sir.

Natural Hazards class was not very pleasant yesterday. For the final lecture of our biological hazards section, we were shown a video entitled "Modern Meat." It was about food safety in the meat industry and the production of beef, and it was graphic, very graphic. Select images tend to be very impacting and stand out vividly in one's memory. The video provided us some very detailed shots of cattle getting beheaded, gutted, and systematically torn apart as they moved down the disassembly line. As horrifying as it was, I couldn't seem to avert my gaze out of morbid fascination. A meat-packing plant--just one little compartment of the vast human killing machine at work. It's hard to imagine anything more barbaric short of the Holocaust, or other events of massive human genocide.

The film also provided a lovely view of the meat -grinding- process. Imagine watching two thousand pounds of meat scraps from hundred or thousands of animals being mixed into a giant machine and ground into a thick, pasty substance that shows up in your local grocery store as "hamburger." Indeed, don't for a second delude yourself into believing that hamburger you order up at Jack in the Box comes from a happy, healthy cow on the ranch. The grim reality is that by eating a single burger at your favourite fast food joint, you are actually eating the entrails of hundreds, possibly even thousands, of different animals. And who knows, really, where some of those animals have been. Eating and sleeping in their own shit, most likely, as cows in feedlots essentially live in their own fecal matter. Of course, a technique has been discovered that -might- rid a cow of some of the diseases they carry--a pesticide bath, where they push the animals into a pool full of pesticidal agents. And still, it has been estimated that one-quarter of all cows in feedlots have E.coli in their guts, even though half of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used in the meat production industry. How appetising.

Hamburgers are repulsive. The two-minute sequence of close-up shots showing people stuffing those disgusting things into their mouths was one of the most unpleasant parts of the film. It was even worse than watching them cook on the griddle (the hamburgers, not their obese consumers), drowning in a thick puddle of boiling grease. Forgive me for not understanding why people voluntarily put such rubbish in their body several times a week, or even a month. Nothing is more responsible for the success of fast food than public ignorance.

My instructor is a vegan environmentalist, and for that alone I respect him. Maybe by showing such videos to the class, he's hoping to perhaps convert a couple of his students to a vegetable-based diet. I can't say I'd mind that at all. The earlier one starts on a healthy diet, the better off they'll be when they're older. When people have access to a wide ranged of nutritious foods, many of which could quite possibly taste just as "good" as a greasy old hamburger once an individual gets accustomed to them, why on Earth don't more people try it, if only out of interest for their own well-being?

It's too easy for people to think it's perfectly fine to chug ten litres of soda a week or consume a big hearty breakfast of bacon, sausage, ham, and eggs and cheese every morning when so many other people are doing it--when it is a widely accepted norm of our culture. "Everybody" eats hamburgers, after all, so screw the poor nutritional value! People think they taste good and culture only reinforces that notion, making them irresistible to so many. Why keep shoveling this crap into our bodies on a regular basis when anyone who is even slightly educated should know deep down inside of them that their bodies deserve much better? Why do people deliberately disrespect their bodies to such a gross extent? Why does culture so heavily encourage such a thing, from reality TV shows exposing the miraculous results of plastic surgery, to the trendiness of piercings, to the promotion (and unfortunate lingering legality) of cigarettes, to what is considered an "all-American meal"? Why are we as a society so enamored of 'instant gratification,' knowing full well tomorrow will come eventually, and the worse we eat today, the more dismal the following days will be? How can anyone be gullible enough to believe that limiting one's carbohydrate intake drastically in the interest of losing weight could possibly be good for them? What of getting proper amounts of exercise and eating well instead of forcing oneself onto some hocus-pocus diet plan advocated by some quack and perpetuated by every conceivable food manufacturer that tempts every consumer vying for the "perfect body" with the magical number "0"? Zero carbs, zero calories, zero sense.

While I am on the subject, smoking should be illegalised entirely. It's preposterous that cigarettes are still legally sold. According to my economics textbook, in the year 1998, smoking-related deaths accounted for 430,000 deaths in the United States. That's more deaths resulting from cigarette smoking than deaths from alcohol abuse, motor vehicle accidents, other accidents, suicide, homicide, illegal drug use, and AIDS combined. How many casualties resulted from the use of illegal drugs? 13,900. Honestly, if the government cared most about the public's health, cigarettes would have been banned before I was born. Yet, cigarettes are still sold legally, because capitalism isn't interested in our health, it's interested in a profit, which may be applied towards indulging ourselves with more unnecessary and unhealthful pastimes and luxury items.

What are we, stupid?

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