As the NSA surveillance scandal surges onward, it’s safe to say a degree of Orwellian political skepticism is necessary to accurately examine American society — especially in the operation of its food industry.
In 1946, Orwell proclaimed, “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.” Indeed, our language and vocabulary shape the way we think whether we realize it or not. This makes us susceptible to what Orwell labels “doublethink,” hypocritical lines of thought permitted in spite of semantic incompatibility. Doublethink occurs when one sees two opposing things and can accept them both regardless of how blatantly they might contradict one another. In the case of the modern-day food industry, doublethink allows American consumers to ignore the abhorrent threats to animal welfare that occur in factory farms, slaughterhouses and meat-processing plants.
When I was 9 years old, I physically stumbled upon the reality of today’s meat industry. I was visiting a small cattle farm; what I encountered, however, was far from the falsified images drawn up by illustrators in my “Big Red Barn” children’s book. Instead, I saw hundreds of animals packed into a tiny space, standing in two feet of their own excrement. This awful reality I could see, smell, hear and tangibly touch. The cows were crying out so loudly I had to leave.
Outside, I saw a man drag a dead calf across the driveway from one warehouse to another. The calf’s skin was slick with sweat, and its small body was covered in bloody scars. The man dragged the animal along the ground with a rope, leaving a trail of blood. I was horrified. I had been deceived by lies, which I later discovered were a result of meat industry lobbyists promoting false information to the public and concealing the truth for profit.
It’s convenient for the meat industry that most are happy to pay someone else to commit murder for them. It has been proven that pigs are smarter than dogs, yet we still see the former as an object to exploit and the latter as a friend. According to the Jewish Vegetarian Society, research conducted by Donald Broom, a professor of animal welfare at University of Cambridge Veterinary School, found that the cognitive ability of pigs well surpasses that of a 3-year-old human being.
This kind of doublethinking, in which people call themselves “animal lovers” or as “against murder” while simultaneously enabling animal murder, is an unfortunate product of years of indoctrination. Making such false distinctions through our language is a logical fallacy. Instead, we prefer to give murder more palatable names when it suits our tastes.
The fact is we fund slaughterhouses by giving our money to these companies, thus telling them murder is OK. In even the smallest of “farms,” animals are beaten, kicked and whipped. Pigs’ tails are ripped off, and babies are body-slammed to death. When chicks are born, they are sorted by gender on conveyor belts, and unwanted males are thrown alive into massive industrial grinders. Dairy cows are overworked and abused to the point that their udders ooze pus.
Animal torture of all kinds has been extensively documented, and undercover videos from conventional meat factories such as Tyson can be viewed online. Such footage has gained widespread media attention, spawning articles and discussions in outlets such as NBC News, the Daily Mail and the Los Angeles Times.
When one considers how unhealthily these animals are raised, it is no wonder meat consumption is linked to numerous cancers, high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke and heart disease. According to physician and nutritionist Michael Greger, the American Institute for Cancer Research and peer-reviewed medical journals such as the Permanente Journal found that eliminating meat from one’s diet actually functions as a natural medicine to reverse these negative effects.
In the words of vegetarian primate researcher Jane Goodall, “I stopped eating meat as soon as I began to really think about it. People actually don’t think about it.” It is important that we are educated about where our food actually comes from and what kind of a world we are funding if we choose to purchase the flesh of animals.
I see UC Berkeley and its surrounding community as a place with so many passionate, intellectual people capable of making so much positive change in the world. We need to reflect upon our words and beliefs and make sure they align with our behaviors. If we think violence is wrong, we need to eliminate and advocate against all forms of violence regardless of the identity of the victims. If we think that suffering is wrong and say we never want to hurt others, we need to ensure that our actions correspond to our verbal statements. We have been taught Orwellian doublethink, and our actions — which don’t match up with our “animal-loving” words — fulfill the definition to a T.
“Off the Beat” guest columns will be written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion writers are selected.