One of Oprah’s recent shows caught my attention as she was featuring a really important topic for any person out there who eats any kind of animal product or by-product. It was especially powerful too as we are in October, which is Vegetarian Awareness Month.
Oprah’s show was entitled “How we Treat the Animals We Eat.” Its focus was to look deeper at how egg laying chickens, cows, pigs and other animals really are treated behind the scenes, before they make it to our table and what terms like “free-range” and “cage-free” really mean.
Oprah featured famous journalist Lisa Ling, proponents for Animal’s Rights, political activists as well as farmers who both support or refute the idea of organic farming where the animals are treated humanely.
I think this is such a critical issue for us at this point in humanity because too many of us are waking up out of a deep sleep of unconsciousness that has plagued humanity for centuries.
We are no longer willing or able to look the other way in the face of any injustice, whether it is done to humans or animals. We have indeed come a long way and as more people become aware and educated of the way the animals they eat are treated, more changes can be brought about faster for these animals to live out humane lives.
Hence if you missed this great episode, read on for details, summaries and opinions.
Oprah Show Summary
Oprah introduced the critical nature of this show and explained how she was quite oblivious to how the animals we eat were treated until recently, just like most people out there still are.
The show began featuring Nicholas D. Kristof, a New York Times Columnist who wrote an article this past summer entitled “A Farm Boy Reflects“. In his article he reminisces how he grew up on a farm and how he developed a special respect for the animals on that farm.
He explained to Oprah that most people have a “romantic vision” of farming which stems from old age family farms, which in fact today almost in no way resemble current factory farming methods.
Nicholas is not for or against vegetarianism, as he himself still eats humanely treated meat. He simply wants people to begin to appreciate the food they eat and the way these animals are raised. If we do this, we can have a great impact on farms all over the country, he states.
Oprah then introduced Proposition 2, which is a bill that is on the table for voters of California this November. The bill seeks to increase the cage size of animals to at least allow the animals to stand up, lie down, turn around and fully extend their limbs without touching the cage.
Oprah then featured Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the U.S. who explained again that it is not about vegetarianism versus meat eating, but about giving these animals some basic human rights – rights as simple as being able to stand up.
Wayne went on to state that we live in an animal-loving society and most people would like to know that the animals they eat have been treated humanely.
Next, Lisa Ling went on site to a chicken egg farm that was certified by the USDA as “organic cage free“. She witnessed that these birds were let out at around 1pm in afternoon and allowed to stay out until dusk when they actually re-entered the barn by themselves. The birds were able to graze, bathe and roam freely, as their natural instincts dictate.
Lisa then went to a caged facility for comparison. The hens here had no room to roam whatsoever or even spread their wings. The birds lived in tiny cages, literally the size of a sheet of paper, in their own feces, out of which the eggs would roll out as they got laid. It is important to note, that such a farm was not operating in any illegal way. The facility is the typical standard. Over 95% of the eggs consumed in the United States come from such farms.
So what is the difference and why are more farms not employing humane treatment for their animals? It all of course comes down to money. The caged farm produces many more eggs – 80 times more eggs in fact per year than the organic farm!
Next, Oprah featured Ryan Armstrong, a California Egg Farmer of Caged Hens, who strongly opposes the Proposition 2 California bill. Ryan argued the typical points of money and that he feels that if the bill is passed, his farm will be pushed out of business. I personally found his arguments very weak as all he focused on is money and his personal survival instead of looking at the bigger picture. There are ALWAYS other options – one just has to be open to change.
Julie Buckener then spoke, who represents Californians for Safe Food, a group that also opposes the Proposition 2 bill. Julie also focused on the economy and space.
She stated that if this bill passes the California egg farmers will be wiped out and eggs will have to come from Mexico or China. Wayne added in that 50% of eggs that come to California already come from other states.
Her second argument was for space and that we can’t afford extra space for the cages of these animals to be bigger due to the infrastructure of our cities.
Julie stated that she doesn’t want animals to suffer, but she doesn’t want human beings to suffer either by having to pay a premium for eggs.
All I can say about this is, I guess many people still do not understand and misjudge how much human beings DO suffer right now due to the poor quality of animal products that they consume because of these confined conditions. In my opinion, this again simply comes down to her first point – money.
Wayne Pacelle, argued that naturally farmers and economists will argue against this any way they can, as they feel their livelihood is at stake. But let us turn our attention for a moment to the animals of whom most are immobilized their whole life. In fact 99% of animals spend their whole life indoors.
Ryan Armstrong, the caged hen farmer brought in a video from his farm stating that because of how these hens are kept (in cages), there is a decreased risk of Salmonella.
Wayne quickly opposed this fact that it is not scientifically true and in fact the opposite is true where Salmonella is concerned.
Ryan also threw in arguments that going cage-free will increase prices for the farmers, which will translate to the consumers and that going cage-free will put these birds at risk from things like coyotes being out in the open. To this Oprah quickly added that they are brought in for the night, which makes it a negligent argument.
Lisa Lingthen went into a pig farm in Illinois, called Kellog Farm. The farm was divided into 3 different pig barns – a birthing barn, a pregnant sow barn and a piglet barn.
Matt Kellog, the Illinois pig farmer stated that he feels that the sows are protected from various aspects being caged up like this. The cages by the way are 7 feet long and the sow is 6 feet long so all she can do is move back and forth a little and that is it.
Matt also feels that his farm is not a factory farm. He thought that it would actually damage the care of the animals if they are given more space. He stated that indeed the adjustments for the Kellog farm under Proposition 2 would include a major expense to increase the size of the cages and would be impossible for them to afford.
Wayne Pacelle at this time pointed out that each sow has 7 – 10 successive pregnancies and is then sent to slaughter. Therefore the sow spends its entire life in confinement with not only no room to move, but never has a chance to experience the outdoors in any natural way. He also stated that people will always find ways to rationalize it and throw in all sorts of nonsense but bottom line the animals are treated inhumanely.
Next to contrast, Oprah featured Jude Becker and his organic farm in Iowa. Jude’s farm features free range sows and says that there are so many benefits to going this way including economics, health and the environment.
Oprah considered several questions:
Can we keep up the consumer demand by farming this way? Jude Becker says yes, as we have proof from other countries, like the United Kingdom.
What happens to the country if we go cage free? Some of the guests believe we have to be willing to pay for it. But other guests said no, as when there is a higher demand, prices will drop and there is no doubt about that.
Some of the cage famers still disputed that, as they say that due to climate factors, etc. prices will actually go up as demand rises. Jude Becker however, said that this is completely not true. He stated that he used to believe that, until he changed over his farm to organic and allowed the animals to roam free, even in the winter. He used beautiful words when he described that these animals need to be kept in as much positive energy as possible as that directly translates to us, as food is energy.
Oprah then showed 2002 footage that depicted veal calves tethered in their crates from a certain farm. They were fed an all liquid diet that keeps them anemic. Most were so weak that they can’t even stand up. When it came time to slaughter, some needed to be dragged out because they have never walked a day in their life.
Opponents of Proposition 2 say that by 2017 animals will be grouped of 6 per pen, instead of single cages anyway so why enforce the bill upon them now?
Finally Oprah featured Amy and Bart Mitchell, a husband and wife duo of farmers who raise veal without the use of crates. They do not believe in confining animals and leave them out naturally in large fields. The calves are always kept with their mothers and fed their mother’s milk.
The way they are raising these cows, Amy says, is actually costing them less in terms of no building to maintain to house them, no antibiotics or other drugs to buy or things like formula to feed them. Bart says that anytime you leave the animal to nature, it is the easiest way to raise them. They both believe that it is simply better from so many angles like the environment, human health and of course the animal’s welfare.
Oprah concluded the show, featuring statistics that show that more and more companies are joining the “cage-free” bandwagon and finished off with the quote she started the show with, where she stated:
I believe that how we treat the least of beings among us determines our own humanity.
Personally I was very moved by this show. It is one of the reasons that I can never watch any PETA videos. I just cannot bear the thought that there are humans out there who treat animals so inhumanely. It is one of the reasons that I chose not only to go vegetarian, but also vegan.
Unlike Nicholas D. Kristof, I am going to say that, yes, I do think that more people should definitely go vegetarian because it would not only save the lives of millions of animals, but cut down on today’s obscene rates of obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and cancers. I understand that people seem to think that meat is the end all and be all in their diet, but it is time to face the facts that it is not making us any healthier whatsoever!
I also thought it was beyond fantastic for Oprah to highlight this issue so eloquently in one of her shows. I believe it can and will make a huge difference for many people and animals; after all we all know Oprah’s show ratings.
I am not some irrational activist or animal softie. I just simply do not believe in ANY KIND of DISCRIMINATION. We put our dogs in satin lined coffins when they die and buy our cats Halloween outfits and yet we do not have the decency to give humane treatment to the animals that are feeding us? I don’t know about you, but something just does not make sense to me there.
I understand that some of these farmers are “clinging” onto their so called “livelihood” but I do not feel sorry for them one bit, just as I did not for the tobacco farmers losing their businesses because we ALL have choices in this life either to support the greater good or oppose it. It just comes down to accepting change, instead of resisting it. We simply need to stand back and look a little more deeply at what is going to serve humanity more than just our personal wallets.
I mean isn’t it time to finally put the money aside and focus on the greater things that truly serve humanity and the greater good?
Bottom line, all of us whether meat eaters or not have to realize that indeed as Jude Becker stated – these animals do have life energy just like us and food is our energy. So how can anyone want to put such stressed and I don’t doubt depressed animal food (energy) in their system. And then we wonder why we have certain diseases, low or negative energies in epidemic proportions amongst us today.
Everything and I do mean everything in this Universe is interconnected and it is simply time for all of us to wake up and acknowledge that fact.
But ultimately this is not about bashing “meat eaters” in any way, forcing farmers out of business or some plight for karma, it is simply about representing the highest version of oneself – a version that is pure love at its essence and knows above and beyond any facts, figures or stats what it means to be human.