Saturday, February 17, 2007

You have just dined; and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in a graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.

This quotation from the American essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, came to mind this week, when I read the "In Memoriam" for a Mr. Virgil Butler ( Satya published excerpts from Mr. Butler's blog - he was a employee at a poultry processing plant - I was touched and reminded of the big picture in the issue of factory farming.

The animals are not the only ones suffering, the people who have chosen to work under these conditions are suffering as well. I agree with Emerson's words - there is complicity. We buy the meat, we are therefore part of this wheel of suffering. Full stop. The only ones who might be innocent in all of this are our young children, who are unaware of the picture and it's gruesome details.

A couple of years back, I read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. In Chpater 8: The Most Dangerous Job, Schlosser describes the conditions in a slaughterhouse. I have never walked in these people's shoes and cannot imagine what it must be like to have to work in this industry. The workers perform incredibly dangerous work, often incurring serious injuries, under incredible pressure to work faster and faster and all without any real job security or adequate health/injury insurance. I think this might have been the picture for Virgil Butler; he talked about his own self-realization of no feelings and that the deadening of this sense had been necessary for him to keep doing his job. Of course it was necessary - he like any of us, needed a job and this was the one he was faced with. But something changed in his life... "After a number of years, all the things I had seen and been a part of started to haunt me." He began a journey of speaking his truth moving from (his own words) "a dangerous criminal" to a place where he felt "dammed peaceful" after years of being a part of the suffering involved in killing the birds night after night.

Virgil Butler was a young man when he died (41) - I had never even heard of him until this past week. He has made an impact on me.

You can visit his blog at or read the interview from February 2006 in Satya's website.

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Blue Heron Zen Buddhist Centre said...

I'm reminded when I read this of my grandson, when he was 8 years old. I took him to a farm where there was a calf tethered in a box. He climbed in the box with the calf and was hugging it and talking to it. When he asked why it was tethered, I told him it was a veal calf. "What is that?" I told him the truth. He was shocked. Later, on the way home, he said he was sad about the calf. His sister, aged 12, asked him, "Well, where do you think hamburg comes from?" He didn't know. She told him, and he was shocked again. A little while later he very quietly asked, "Do you mean that chicken wings come from chickens?" It was then that I realized just how distanced we have become from where and how our food gets to us.

Anonymous said...

Can you write something about vitamins and protein. My mom won't let me be a vegan cuz she doesn't think it is healthy. I want to prove to her that it can be healthy. Some of my friends think I'm crazy. Is there a group for teenagers who want to be vegetarian or vegan? I live in Burlington.

Compassionate Consumption said...

I liked the content of your email so much I wrote up a whole entry - see the one titled "Is a vegetarian diet healthy for a teenager". I hope this helps with your question somewhat. Thanks for writing to me.