It's definitely notable, and good, that so many mainstream voices have been stepping forward on this issue -- unfortunately, when you tell people that "meat is torture," they think you're just an alarmist vegan taking "meat is murder" into the shallow extremes of 21st Century rhetoric. When you tell people that "meat is toxic," they think that for you, pure must mean eating for yoga and meditation: carrots and brown rice.
People are missing the problem entirely: the meat is literally toxic to your body and will give you diseases, disorders, and possibly kill you. The animals are literally being tortured -- kept and fed in such unnecessarily inhumane ways that they barely survive to the slaughter. They are killed at a profit-motivated speed that means every now and then a cow is not stunned properly, and is pulled apart while still alive.
The problem gets even broader, though:
The astonishing increase in the number and size of confined animal operations has been spawned largely by the very structure of American farm supports, which always has been skewed in a way that concentrates farming in fewer and fewer hands. As both of these reports make clear, the so-called efficiency of industrial animal production is an illusion, made possible by cheap grain, cheap water and prisonlike confinement systems.
In short, animal husbandry has been turned into animal abuse. Manure — traditionally a source of fertilizer — has been turned into toxic waste that fouls the air and adjacent water bodies. Crowding creates health problems, resulting in the chronic overuse of antibiotics.
And, because the modest profits in confinement operations require the lowest possible labor costs, including automated feeding, watering and manure-handling systems, these operations have helped empty and impoverish rural America.
What these mainstream voices are confirming, for a wider and wider audience, is that you can have absolutely no problem with eating meat, but if you've got an ounce of sense, you shouldn't want to eat the meat from animals raised and slaughtered in the US. It's full of feces because the animals are slaughtered too quickly and their guts get on the meat. It's full of hormones and other pharmaceuticals because massive amounts of drugs are required to keep these tortured animals alive. And no matter how comfortable you are with the idea of killing animals for food, you are probably not okay with the way our food animals are treated during their short lives.
Meat is toxic, meat is torture. But it doesn't have to be that way. If more mainstream voices, like the Times editorial board, keep pressing this issue, we could see a few simple reforms realized which would put things on a far less horror-film footing:
The Pew report recommends new laws regulating pollution from industrial farms as rigorously as pollution from other industries, a phasing-out of confinement systems that restricts “natural movement and normal behavior,” a ban on antibiotics used only to promote animal growth and the application of antitrust laws to encourage more competition and less concentration.Hard? Not really. Less profitable? Yeah, a bit. Worth it? Every moment and every penny. You are what you eat.