Spammin’

One of the reasons I love Slate is their opinion blogs, where one author writes an article, and a few days later, another writes an article as a direct response, often calling the other out. It’s a lot like eavesdropping on a conversation – usually a well-researched one.

Last week I read one written by Anne Weaver, imploring me to “Give Spam a Chance”. I was largely unconvinced, but I chalked it up to a thought experiment. (Go, me!) Days later, Ted Genoways responded with “Spam’s Shame”. Being the info junkie that I am, I clicked several of the links he used as reference in his article, and was led to an in-depth story about the Spam factory in Austin, Minnesota (also written by Genoways).

(A warning: the article is not gratuitous, but there are some graphic descriptions of the slaughter process, an explanation of which is necessary to understanding the sickness contracted by the workers Genoways interviewed. If you’re especially queasy at the mention of blood and violence, maybe use caution when reading the article. Fortunately there are no graphic pictures.)

I am speechless. If anyone thinks that the meat industry is only bad because of violations to animal welfare… please, please think again. Slaughterhouse workers don’t even have to EAT the meat they process to get seriously sick from it. The meat industry is a HUGE human health hazard beyond what it does to us when it goes through our digestive tracts. The industry also gets its “hands” dirty by employing undocumented workers and keeping its employees entrenched in poverty. Personally, I think that the human interest violations of the meat industry are exponentially more serious than animal welfare issues (though those are gravely serious and deserve attention in their own right.)

My interests in the food and meat industries are precisely this: our diets have great implications on the lives of others. MY diet affects others’ – their health, their socioeconomic status, their environment. The argument “why do you care what I eat?” just doesn’t hold water with me, because it tells me that you don’t really know what’s behind that porkchop on your plate or that Spam in your belly.

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