This week our featured book is Animal Oppression and Human Violence, by David A. Nibert, Professor of Sociology at Wittenberg University. We’ll be featuring content from the book and original posts from the author all week! Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of Animal Oppression and Human Violence!
Today we have the second half of a guest post by David A. Nibert (read the first half here). In this post, Nibert argues that the pervasive presence of domesecration in modern society has profoundly negative effects on humans as well as animals.
In the United States, the relentless quest for profits through the exploitation of domesecrated animals was primarily responsible for the continual expropriation of Native American lands for expanding ranching enterprises. Once indigenous peoples, buffalo and other “obstacles” were cleared from the Great Plains – territory U.S. leaders once promised to Native Americans in perpetuity – wealthy investors flooded the region with cows and sheep. Railways and giant slaughterhouses, constructed and staffed by oppressed immigrants, allowed the rise of the powerful U.S. “meat” industry. Not long after Blackmar’s drivel about the “service” animals were “rendering” to humans, Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle provided a true picture of the nightmarish condition of domesecrated animals in Chicago slaughterhouses and the predatory treatment of the workers there.
The industry’s appalling treatment of other animals and workers not only continued but was exacerbated in the mid-20th century, when the U.S. government and agribusiness leaders decided to solve the problem of domestic grain surpluses by feeding it to growing numbers of domesecrated animals and promoting greater “meat,” “dairy,” and “egg” consumption. New specialists in public relations were enlisted to push products derived from other animals; the promotion and sale of “hamburgers” emerged as a way to garner profits from the masses of working people and their families.
When my high school friends and I in the 1960s – duly influenced by those advertisements – began to frequent the new McDonald’s restaurant in town, I had no idea at the time that some of the “hamburgers” we were eating came from lands expropriated from subsistence farmers and indigenous peoples in Latin America, creating poverty and hunger there. Now I know that the increasing, socially cultivated demand for “ground beef” in this country, prodded by ubiquitous advertising and substantial government support, led to the investment of billions of dollars in loans throughout Latin America by the World Bank and related institutions to expand ranching operations there. Domesecrated animals there were referred to as “red gold;” deadly wars in Central America were due, in no small part, to resistance against land expropriation for ranching enterprises that benefitted local elites and U.S. corporations.
The problem of limited grazing lands for the greater number of animals needed to feed the increased demand was solved with the creation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Billions of domesecrated animals came to be hellishly confined in dark, windowless, poorly ventilated buildings and fed publicly subsidized corn, soy and water until their terrible experience of existence was brutally ended at the slaughterhouse.
Increasingly, such practices contribute to the pollution of the nation’s rivers and streams, while depleting precious remaining aquifers, destroying irreplaceable topsoil and requiring enormous amounts of oil-based chemicals to keep feed grain yields high. Scientific reports indicate that raising other animals for food worldwide is responsible for between 18 and 51 percent of greenhouse gases. Furthermore, the socially engineered U.S. diet, based primarily on products from domesecrated animals, causes premature deaths from heart disease, stroke, and various forms of cancer.
These profound harms are being exacerbated as those who profit from such destruction and carnage work to further increase global consumption of products derived from domesecrated animals by 50 percent by mid-century. The resultant growth and expansion of CAFOs, and the crowding together of thousands of domesecrated animals in a single building, increases the probability of a deadly influenza pandemic that could rival any yet experienced. Moreover, in a world where the shortage of crucial finite resources (such as fresh water, fossil fuel and topsoil) is nearing the crisis level, a world already struggling with hunger and food shortages is expected to see the human population grow to over 9 billion by 2050. This already bleak situation is being severely compounded by climate change and increased heat, drought, violent weather and flooding that undermine food production.
These realizations mark a radical departure from the days when I accepted – at school or at McDonalds – the “benefits” of the “domestication” of animals. When I now recommend that socially concerned people become vegans, some respond that my position is extreme. However, even leaving aside the horrific treatment of tens of billions of other animals, it is the associated depletion of vital finite resources, environmental decline, creation of greenhouse gases and expansion of disease and hunger caused by a “meat”-based western diet that truly are extreme. Indeed, these crises have not gone unnoticed by the world’s superpowers – which are planning military responses. A 2008 report by the National Intelligence Council noted the links among global warming, water shortages, declining oil reserves, and the engineering of increased global “meat,” “dairy” and ‘egg” consumption.
Food and water also are intertwined with climate change, energy, and demography. . . . [T]he demand for food will rise by 50 percent by 2030, as a result of a growing world population, rising affluence, and shifts to Western dietary preferences by a larger middle class. . . .
Between now and 2025, the world will have to juggle competing and conflicting energy security and food security concerns, yielding a tangle of difficult-to-manage consequences.
For several years now, national security agencies in the United States and other powerful nations have urged that this impending crisis needs to be integrated into national security and national defense plans. Unless a significant movement arises to end domesecration and promote a global transition to healthy and sustainable, plant-based diets, powerful states in the not-so-distant future will clash violently in the pursuit of the earth’s remaining resources – and the continued ability of the privileged to consume “meat.” The process, while perhaps high-tech on the surface, would look very familiar to Chinggis Khan.