Sunday, April 4, 2010

Day 94- For you, Isaac

Dear Mr. President,

Today children around the country are looking for dyed eggs and discovering what the Easter Bunny brought them. According to the AEB, 75 billion eggs are produced in our country each year. Much of these come from huge factory farms, where chickens are given no room to move, no access to fresh air or sunlight, and are often mutilated to facilitate such living conditions. Mr. President, I know there are very few, if any, votes to be had in issues of animal rights. Supporters of animal rights have been railing against the practices of the agricultural industry for decades; and not without good reason. Birds, especially, are not protected by the same humane slaughter statutes that affect Cows and other livestock.

Certainly consumers are empowered to make better choices when it comes to buying animal products; we can often choose to pay more for products that involve less suffering in the production process. Often times, however, we are not given the choice unless we seek it out. 2008's Proposition 2 in California demonstrates that there is considerable political will to change the system entirely; that people want their food to come from animals that aren't mistreated and harmed. The problem with Prop 2 is that, as a state law, it may have more of an effect on where egg production takes place, rather than how. Were similar legislation to be enacted at the national level, moving production out of state wouldn't be an option; American companies would have to adopt humane practices.

I don't know how important it is to you, or to other Americans, for that matter, that the suffering of animals be avoided or minimized, even if the consequences of doing so are inconvenience and higher cost. This can only be done by effectively altering the entire system. We have the power to abuse and mistreat animals all we want; they have little legal protection and no political recourse to address their situation. We can relentlessly pursue lower prices and more efficient systems at the expense of these living creatures that supply our food. We can impose upon them darkness, disease, and disfigurement. However, I think people know better. I think people recognize that there is a link between the health of the animals and the health of those that consume the food they provide or become. I think people recognize that the dignity we accord these weak and unprotected creatures reflects upon our own humanity. I think that small farms will always be important enough to Americans to be worth protecting, as well.

Enacting federal protection for farm animals is an essential step toward ensuring that our agricultural practices are in line with our values and best interests. I hope that your administration will work to ensure that this happens.

Respectfully yours,



  1. Do consumers know? -- "Certainly consumers are empowered to make better choices when it comes to buying animal products; we can often choose to pay more for products that involve less suffering in the production process." Too many lobbyists have twisted the meaning our words; their labels do not speak the truth.
    Also, what image do people have of factory farming? Do they think Carlotte's Web? Maybe, Grant Wood's American Gothic? 90% of all the animals we eat come from factory farming. Those iconic american images do not match up -- the truth is not being seen (even federal regulators have limited access to slaughter production). We are not giving the American Consuming Public the real truth. Why? Are we afraid they would lose their appetite?

  2. Clearly. I usually think the federal government's role here is to provide the transparency for consumers to make educated choices about where their food comes from and how it is treated. As consumers, the best way for us to change industry practices is to change how we spend our money. However, when it comes to gross mistreatment and suffering, there needs to be legal rammifications. We can't wait for the industry to reform itself.

  3. “Transparency for consumers.” What an excellent statement. Trying to determine a company’s practices, procedures or even principles can be harder than solving the Middle East Crisis. Burger King offers a “BK Veggie” burger. Upon learning the company was cooking the patty on the same grills as all other patties (beef, chicken, etc.) vegan consumers became outraged and the company responded by microwave cooking the product to ensure no cross-contamination. This little bit of information made me feel optimistic about the company’s practices. However, after searching Burger King’s website for roughly an hour I find little more to be excited about. They boast, “We more than doubled our 2007 commitment to purchase two percent of the volume of our company restaurant eggs from chickens raised in a cage-free environment. In 2008, cage-free egg purchases represented 6 percent of the total eggs bought for U.S. company restaurants.” This bothers me. For one; what progress has the company made since 2008 (that was nearly 2 ½ years ago) and second; cage-free means absolutely nothing. There is no difference between cage-free (or free-range) and factory-farmed in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has no standards, and allows egg producers to freely label any egg as a cage-free or free-range egg. Burger King’s website claims to “have several principles that guide [their] animal treatment practices for [their] suppliers” but list none. I am very concerned with the economic crisis of this nation and have often thought I must patronize my favorite businesses to ensure they do not fold and their employees do not experience the trauma of being laid off as I once was. However, I realize that all businesses can of course choose to offer their customers better choices. If we do not want to see our favorite restaurants and grocers go out of business and they do not want to alienate us then a compromise must be met. A clear and transparent business practice would be a start. I want to also mention I found it impossible to locate the ingredients to Burger King’s products on their website. I had to go to, type in “Burger, King, Ingredients” in order to be directed to the correct location on Burger King’s website for the information. Using the website’s “search” option only yielded me advertisements for the company’s products. Further, when I looked at the ingredient listing for beef I found “100% USDA inspected Ground Beef,” but where does the beef come from? I have looked and looked and I cannot for the life of me find anywhere on the World Wide Web information about Burger King’s beef supplier. I will leave you with this Concerned Citizen; “McDonald's used to buy from over 100 regional ground-beef suppliers. But as McDonald's got bigger and bigger, they reduced that number to five. So this had the impact of creating bigger and bigger meatpacking companies to supply the fast-food chains. And in a very short period of time, we got a very concentrated meatpacking industry. If you were to go back to 1970, the top four firms controlled 20-plus percent of the market. And today, the top four firms control about 85 percent of the market. So we've gotten bigger slaughterhouses, bigger processing facilities, and really, really big meatpacking companies.”