Have I ever told you about #44?  Well, once upon a time in my wee little world I thought a cow was cute.  He lived across the street from my in-laws’ house on a rather large stretch of land, along with numerous other cows and horses that quietly grazed along the fence line at certain times of the day.  This particular bull was black and white with a green tag on his ear that was marked “44.”  And I thought he was cute because he would look up and twitch that floppy little ear as I drove by.  I could swear he made eye  contact with me on more than one occasion.

OK, I know what you’re thinking:  Too bad this chick is against maintenance meds, ‘cause she could sure use some right about now! Oh, but wait…there’s more!

See, the way #44 grazed and moseyed around the land was, in my mind, typical of all cattle.  What better way to spend an afternoon than grazing on some grass, sniffing a fence
line, and following some horses back to the barn?  Isn’t that what farm life is all about, at least from the animal’s perspective?

Sadly, most cows don’t get the free-grazing opportunities that #44 had.  And we all pay the price for it.  In what are termed “factory farms” the animals are piled in on each other, cramped together to conserve space and make room for more animals.  I imagine it being sort of a concentration camp for livestock.  And when you start mistreating life (ANY life, I believe) then you can expect a domino effect of problems.  For instance:

When animals are kept that close together, they get moody.  (Well, helloooo?? Wouldn’t you?) Moody animals bite each other (or peck, or claw – whatever they can do.)  Recall our rabbits who co-habitated for all of a month and a half.  Or worse, imagine having your extended family in your face for even two weeks – under one roof, sharing a  bathroom and a kitchen and the television.  It’s just a matter of time before someone bites.

I have learned that in most factory farms they sear off the beaks of baby chickens so that they don’t peck each other to death.  They also have to cut off little piglets’ tails so that the other pigs who are rammed up their hind-ends don’t bite on the tails.  This alone is disheartening.  But then…

Rather than create conditions in which the animals can cohabitate safely and naturally, our factory-farmers decide that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so they PRE-TREAT our factory-farm animal with antibiotics.  So now, instead of just waiting for an animal to get sick and watching the disease spread like wildfire through the whole farm (one source noted that disease can spread within hours in cramped conditions) we just pour all the medication into the animals ahead of time in hopes that we don’t have to change our money-making ways.  ‘Cause, you know…changing our way of doing business in the interest of health would be waaaaay too drastic, right? (Ugh!)

So with our factory-farm animals being the source of most of our grocery store meat, and nearly 70 percent of our antibiotic supply going into those animals alone (more than 29 million pounds of meds, people!), what does that do to those of us who eat that meat?  We in turn get the antibiotics too, and we build resistance to the antibiotics so that they are no longer effective on us (that means a higher co-pay for the new-fangled name-brands, in case any of you are watching the wallet.)  But worse than that, we are factory-farming tougher strains of bacteria that are resistant to our available antibiotics, which in turn means we won’t be able to fight the illnesses we get.  Moms for Antibiotic Awareness shares the following on their website:

The American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, World Health Organization and other medical groups warn that the routine use of antibiotics in healthy food animals presents a serious and growing threat to human health because it contributes to the spread of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

And all because most farm animals don’t get to live like #44 did.  It’s the price we are paying for fast, cheap, mass-produced meats.  It’s a price we cannot afford to keep paying.  How can you help?  How can you be a source of change for the sake of not only the farm animals, but also for yourself and your children?  Buy organic meat, which is ridiculously expensive when compared to the meat we see at WalMart, not to mention hard to come by in my neck of the woods.  But I plan to scope out the Farmers Market in my area this weekend to see what meats are offered by the farmers on hand.  I suggest you do the same in your area.  Be proactive.  Get the information on your meats.  And speak up to your grocery stores, even if you think they don’t care.  Just know that I’m speaking up too, so maybe our voices will be heard together.