Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Feed lots - and lots and lots

Cattle feedlots are abominations and to argue that they produce meat in a 'stress-free' environment is a whopping great lie.

The largest feedlot in New Zealand is the 5 Star feedlot at Wakanui in Ashburton which holds up to 15,000 head of cattle at a time. It is part-owned by a Japanese company and exists to produce the 'marbled' beef some Japanese prefer. I say 'some' because the eating of fatty meat is an affectation completely at variance with traditional Japanese diet. They acquired it from the Americans - and we have heaps of evidence wobbling around the world of what adherence to US dietary principles and practices results in.

If you want to see Wakanui - you can find it on Google maps.

Animals are brought into the lot at between 14 and 18 months old and stay for for about 8 to 9 months being fed a grain diet to force weight gain.  They will double their weight in their time there which is a bit akin to stuffing geese with grain to create pate de foie gras.

A cow's life span is a bit hard to judge because we seldom let them live out their natural lives but we know that its life expectancy, like race horses, is far shorter than its life span. The oldest known cow was 48 at death and ages of 40 are not uncommon. Average life span is reckoned to be around 25 - 35 years. A dairy cow is considered old at about 9.

A cattle beast naturally matures at 4 to 7 years. Old style beef farming let the animal grow to maturity and hung the meat for up to 4 weeks before consumption. Old style beef is a dark brownish meat, completely unlike the bright red, blood and water rich meat from the recently slaughtered immature animals we see in the supermarket. 

In some respects the Angus beef cattle that end up in the feedlot are better off than many. They live out on grass until they are old enough and big enough to survive the feedlot.  

And these Kiwi cattle are not in such dire straits as those that end up in US feedlots but, confining cattle in barren lots and force feeding them an unnatural (albeit tasty) diet, is hardly designed to ensure healthy, unstressed animals.

In the US feedlots, animals are fed antibiotics prophylactically to counter the inevitable infections - necessary because of the suppression of the immune system by persistently high cortisol levels. I don't know if that is the case in NZ.

The grain diet changes the pH of the rumen and causes liver damage - it is a uncomfortable fact that these animals could not survive in the feedlot for much longer than they are there. The greater acidity of the rumen means that the animals suffer damage to the digestive tract but, also that they carry pathogens which would normally be killed by our high acid stomachs. The way restaurants typically cook feedlot beef is very rare, so the chances of being exposed to acid resistant pathogens from faecal contamination is high. We are not at the stage of the US feedlots which irradiate the meat to kill pathogens and I imagine that the killing room at Wakanui is very clean so maybe faceal contamination is not so much of an issue. And frankly, if people who want to eat feedlot meat get salmonella poisoning as a result, I don't much care.

I make no apology for the fact that I find these arrangements to be abominable. I abhor industrialised farming of any sort and it is a lie that it is the only way we can feed people.

Its greatest efficiency is in making money and its social costs are vast. Typically, the social costs are never borne by those who make the money in the short and medium term. These are long term costs and we bear them - that's all of us.  And that's just the monetary costs - there are other less easily quantified 'costs' the discussion of which is drowned in the loud demands for short term economic gain.

Unsustainable intensive farming is a form of extractive industry - and unfortunately we have a government which lacks the vision to see beyond short term profits for the few to the long terms costs to the majority.

The poor lack intelligent focus on lifestyle ... yeah right

Is there something in the air that is affecting those with larger than average amygdalas? 

Not too long ago we had the New Zealand First MP with the enticingly rhymable name displaying his ignorance and somehow managing to combine extreme pettiness and petty extremism. He got a bit of a drubbing as a result from both sides of the political spectrum. Things have gone very quiet on the Prosser front which is fortunate as there is only so much right wing smugness I can stomach.

And then there's Canterbury's very own Lorne Keuhn, correspondent extraordinaire and self-appointed PR man for the good old USofA, who regularly trots out his theory that poverty is the fault of the poor. 

But of course it is. Just as we all know that the world is completely flat, we all know that if the overwhelming majority of the world’s population subsist in states of poverty, it is because they ‘lack intelligent focus’ on their lifestyle. 

Kuehn entertained us with his theories after conducting a study in India as a result of which this alpaca farmer became  an expert on absolute poverty as opposed to the relative poverty we see in  NZ. He offers no explanation of, or solution to the former but proclaims grandly that child poverty in NZ is due to the parents lacking intelligent focus. Ie they are feckless and spend their perfectly adequate incomes on things like fags, booze and gambling. 

In this he is supported by a majority of NZers. In the infamous Yahoo!NZ (such an apt name) on-line news poll, a question about whether welfare reforms were too harsh met with a 75% NO vote. You could almost smell the self-righteousness. 

A disturbingly high proportion of Kiwis like bashing beneficiaries, aka 'bludgers'. It could become the national sport.   

It is a peculiarly repulsive form of bullying. It's the same mindset that concludes an armed vigilante who decides to pursue an unarmed teenager against the express advice of the police, confronts him and then shoots him dead, is the victim. It's the same mindset that then slanders the dead teenager - making him the author of his own demise. And it's the same mindset that results in legislation which forces a judge to send a woman to prison for TWENTY years for NOT SHOOTING someone.

How can anyone not see the madness in that? 

We live in a world teetering on the brink of global war and global ecological disaster. The asylum is under the complete control of the lunatics - for the most part, mad old men - aided and abetted by a bigger bunch of mad younger men - and increasingly - women. 

  • 1 billion children are deprived of one or more services essential to survival and development
  • 148 million under 5s in developing regions are underweight for their age
  • 101 million children are not attending primary school, with more girls than boys missing out
  • 22 million infants are not protected from diseases by routine immunization
  • 7.6 million children worldwide died before their 5th birthday in 2010
  • 4 million newborns worldwide are dying in the first month of life
  • 2 million children under 15 are living with HIV
  • 500,000 women die each year from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth
And the USA spends a third of its VAST budget on its military. The world's economy is totally dependent on the new arms race; the US has exhausted its replacement 'enemy without' - Islamic terrorism (which if course it created and armed) - with its new 'enemy', China. The ruling elites in the US and its close allies created the arms race and continue to fuel it.

If there are any 'useless eaters' in this world it is the mad old men and their retinues who control and waste so much of the world's resources.  It's beyond time to wake up to it and realise the role that the obscenely rich play in the creation and perpetuation of poverty instead of taking the easy, bullying, line of stereotyping and scapegoating the poor.