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When meat is bought in the supermarket or someone innocently asks for a burger, few people notice that there it's a piece of animal. And that this meal is causing more and more envinronmental impact. Gone are the times that most of the meat came from farms were animals were kept free range. What we eat today is in most part result of a industrial scale breeding in which animals are genetically selected, have restricted mobility, stressed in a superpopulated confinement and receiveing a diet full of adictives and hormones for fast growth. The production, treatment and slaughter are many times made cruel and painfully - info that are kept away from the menu and labels.
"Meat is a industry of more than U$140 billions made anually and that occupies about a third of the world territory, shapes the ocean's ecosystem and may determine the future climate of the eart", says Jonathan Safran Foer in the book "Eating Animals", in which he describes how does the industrial scale meat production works. As many that decided to explore the subject, he became a vegetarian.
Next we gather data that shows what's behind the piece of animals being served in restaurants and supermakets.
Don't want to or can't live without meat? Thats ok, but at least you should know what that means, not only for you but for the rest of the planet.
Considered inteligent and sensible animals, pigs have a level of autoconscience and capability of interaction bigger than some humans with cerebal lesions or in senile state (shall we start eating these persons?). Pigs have a language. Frequenly understand when they're called (by humans and other pigs), likes to play and have their favourite toys, and are even capable of playing simple videogames with joysticks adapted for their noses.
Pigs from farms are generally slaughtered when they reach about 100 kg. If they continued to live they could reach more tan 350 kg. On their own, piglets usually stop drinking milk from their mothers at 15 weeks, but in the meat industry, they stop at 15 days, at this time they barely can diggest food, thus they are given drugs for dyarrhea.
Antibiotics, hormonies and other drugs are always present in the food of farmed animals til the slaughter due the bad hygiene conditions they have in confinement. It's not uncommon for pigs to have cardiac arrests waiting for the slaughter, or loosing the capability of moving.
38 million animals are farmed this way, being Brazil the fifth biggest meat producer in the world , followed by China, USA, Germany and Spain. The extreme concentration of confined pigs are a recipe for the developement of new viruses, which can also affect humans. Infectologists target the meat industry of pigs and chickens as the most dangerous source of new viruses potentially lethal to humans.
The tuna fishing is responsible for the death of other 145 species captured by accident, including whales, mantas, sharks and turtles. To produce a fish of tuna sushi, it's necessary another dish of 1,5m diameter to contain the death of ther animals killed accidentally for tuna. Of each ten tuna, sharks and other big fishes that lived in the ocean a hundred years ago, there is only one left. Many predict the collapse of species targeted by fishing in about 50 years.
In the past, fishermen used to locate tuna schools and then captured then one by one with rods. That's in the past, nowadays, trawling is used. About 1,4 billion hooks are used anually (with fish, squid or dolphin meat as bait). Almost all fish today contain traces of mercury, which is toxic and accumulates in the animal organism (including humans), can affect the nervous system and cause demency. The risk would vary according to the quantity and species of consumed fish. The bigger the fish and older, bigger are the chances of containing the metal. Acording to the FDA, sharks, largehead hairtails and scombers are the main species that should be avoided.
Most of the salmon eaten today comes from farming - one of the problems of this activity is the big presence of parasites that prosper in still water, in numbers 30 times bigger than the usual.
Brazil is the biggest cow meat exporter with more than 205 million cows in livestock, more than one per habitant, which is less only than India, were cow slaughter is forbidden. Meat farming is the number one cause of climate change, ONU studies says it is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. More than every transportation means combined. Methane produced by cows is 20 times worse than carbon dioxide. Animal farming is responsible for 80% of the deforestation in the amazon forest,in the recent years, each 18 seconds one hectare of the amazon is cleared for farming. The biggest cow meat consumer is the USA, followed by the European Union and Brazil. Each individual in Brazil consumes a mean of 36 kg of cow meat per year.
To produce 1 kg of cow meat it's necessary 15.000 liters of water.
To produce 1kg of rice it's necessary 3.000 liters of water.
One of the main targets of groups against animal cruelty is the veal production - calf meat. The soft meat is a result of animals fed only milk and imprisioned in small cells that keeps them from moving, and developing muscles.
Producers of eggs commonly manipulates the food and daylight cycle to increase productivity, with the intent to accelerate the life of the birds and make them lay sooner. Farmed chickens usually lay 300 eggs yearly, two or three times more than the natural. Most of the male chicks are destroyed for not having commercial value. Some are sucked by pipes and killed by electricity, others are sent to meatgrinders.
In the industrial production, chickens aren't farmed free - they can't walk or display their natural behaviour. Many times 4 animals are put together in a cage of half a meter square. The stress caused by superpopulation often leads to cannibalism - to prevent this, as chicks they have their beaks cut. In the past chickens had a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years, nowadays chickens raised for meat is slaugered usually at 6 weeks. Only in Brazil, 4,7 billion chicken were slaughtered in 2009.
- Adaptaded from portuguese text by Lia Hama: http://revistatrip.uol.com.br/revista/202/reportagens/somos-todos-d...