I had one of those “oh, great” moments today as I was searching the news online. I have “oh, great” moments now and then. For instance, about a week after the semester started here at the University of Kentucky, as I was locking up my bike, I realized none of the other bikes had helmets with them. It then dawned on me: no one on campus wears their helmet. I’ve been the one geek on campus who wears a helmet! All the people that looked at me and smiled- were they really just laughing at the helmet?
Then I remembered that I’m married, so who cares if I look like a geek? What, are they not going to go out with me? I like being married for this and many other reasons.
But today I had another “oh, great” moment when I found the following headline: “Video shows chicks ground up alive at egg hatchery“. The quite disturbing (to me) video in question can be found here. Great! So not only are companies committing cruel acts towards animals, I’ve been contributing to this ever since I was born!
It’s not like I didn’t know that the animal harvesting business is cruel. If you don’t believe me, a quick Google search of “meat industry cruelty” will convince you very quickly. I remember once I boycotted Kentucky Fried Chicken for probably over a year due to the fact that some of their practices led to poor treatment of chickens, overcrowding, etc. I’m in Kentucky, remember! Avoiding KFC in Kentucky is like trying to avoid getting hit by raindrops in Portland. However, a couple months ago my co-worker brought in a bucket of the Colonel’s Original Recipe and I just couldn’t resist. It was just so good.
So I’m part of the problem, I suppose. As I watched this video of these cute little helpless chicks being ground up alive, my mind pondered a few things.
First of all, isn’t it strange that this strikes me as “wrong”? On Earth, Nature is incredibly cruel. Lions must hunt down sick, weak gazelles, chase them down and bite them in the neck till they suffocate and die. Polar bears have to eat baby seals. That’s just the way Nature works, so why does it strike me as cruel? It strengthened the idea, to me, that there’s something inside us that isn’t “of this world,” or else why would cruelty register at all?
Secondly, the practices at the egg hatcheries make sense, on paper. Male chicks have little value to the industry. They don’t grow big or fast enough to sell as food (I can think of a few starving countries in this world that would love a shipment of thousands of free male chickens, but that’s another matter), and they don’t lay eggs. The hatcheries just do what has to be done. Grinding them alive is a lot more humane than other ways to kill them.
Still, it bothers me. I can’t help but admit that it bothers me, and there’s something inside that just wonders if what we’re doing is right. Unfortunately, I can’t get around the fact that, by eating eggs, I’m condoning those practices as well. What is the solution? Should I stop eating eggs? Should I go vegetarian?
Then I remembered a little something I read once. It goes like this:
12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
Umm, what if we all actually lived the Word of Wisdom?
Now don’t get me wrong, people. I’m a burger-eating, kebab-loving American just like the next guy. I wouldn’t consider myself “liberal” and I didn’t vote for Obama. Before you label me as some kind of Communist, tree-hugging, pinko, PETA spy planted to infiltrate the Mormon blogging community, consider some facts.
Let’s assume that eggs are included in “the flesh of beasts and fowls of the air.” Americans love meat. Americans love eggs. We can’t even get through a meal without one or the other. Vegetarian sections of menus at restaurants are basically footnotes, and every big family meal needs a pot roast or a turkey or a ham, and as a result, we live in a culture that relies on meat. This means the model of having a family farm, where you grow up with the animals and slaughter the fatted calf only during times of great celebration, is no longer viable as an option.
Think about the family farm. Each meat eater must take care of the animals on the farm and slaughter them personally. Each animal is rationed, fed, sheltered, and generally taken care of until it is necessary to eat. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I imagine this model fosters a more compassionate relationship with the animals that are slaughtered. For instance, most Americans would be revolted at the prospect of eating a family pet (say, a dog for instance). Why? Well, dogs are family, and you don’t eat family. A familial relationship with an animal creates a reverence for that animal’s life.
In our current society most people don’t even associate the meat they eat with livestock, and they certainly don’t know how to slaughter an animal themselves. This creates a disconnection between people and the animals they eat. Due to the quantity of animals we eat, we now have to treat animals literally like items on an assembly line. The Lord said “it is pleasing unto me that they [animals] should not be used” except during certain times like famine. Christ even said that one sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without God noticing (Matt. 10:29).
If we again assume that unnecessary animal suffering is displeasing to God, well, He already gave us a solution, didn’t he? It’s in Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, quoted above.
And yet, when you ask a Latter-day Saint what the Word of Wisdom is, a disproportionately large amount of time is spent on whether decaffeinated coffee is okay, or whether hot chocolate and iced tea are “hot drinks,” or about tannic acid or prescription medication or medicinal marijuana, or whether we can drink Mountain Dew daily. What about the direct consequences of animal suffering? What if eating meat sparingly was explicitly part of the temple recommend questions? Imagine if the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet mentioned, “The Word of Wisdom is not just about tobacco and alcohol. Eating meat and eggs sparingly reduces overcrowding at egg hatcheries and cattle farms, which cause animals, which God gave us and commanded us to be good stewards over, to suffer from stress, pain, anxiety, and fatigue.” Not to mention that the cattle and pig industries cause pollution of our air and water, but that’s a different post altogether.
I don’t think I’ll become a vegetarian anytime soon, and I’m not necessarily even making the argument that eating meat is fundamentally wrong. Yet, the article and video were eye-opening, to me. From now on, I’m going to drastically cut my meat and eggs intake, partly because of the effect it has on the environment, and the quality of life of the livestock and chickens we use, but also out of obedience to my Heavenly Father.
What if I cut down my meat consumption to perhaps one meal a day? I usually have cereal for breakfast, but I eat meat for lunch and dinner. If I cut out meat from one of those meals, I’d be roughly cutting my meat consumption in half. It’s a place to start, anyway. Perhaps soon, down the road a bit, I could cut out a little more meat than that. I’m not expecting myself to make a huge, drastic lifestyle change right away, but think of the good that can be done if we all just cut down our meat consumption in half.
We are always looking for magical, new ways to change the World we live in for the better, yet we’re quite blind sometimes to living by what has already been revealed. The Word of Wisdom was given almost 200 years ago. It’s about time I start living it.