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Pork's Dirty Secret (2006) (rollingstone.com)
141 points by kqr2 2759 days ago | hide | past | web | 103 comments | favorite



Google Maps: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=tar+heel+nc&ie=UTF8&hq...

You can see clearly pictured one of the pink lagoons mentioned in this article. If you zoom out a little, you see scores of them.

Edit: most of the fields you see surrounding them are producing crops that are dangerous to eat due to their nitrate levels (according to the article)


The detailed descriptions of the process in this article make for a sort of fascinating train wreck. On the one hand, the sheer scale of the operation is impressive. On the other hand, it seems to have this strange air of shoddiness. When I think of factory farming, I tend to think of a future age of hyperefficient farming, with cows milked by machines and everything precisely regulated. But this seems more like an age of very dense farming that is held together with duct tape and rusting bailing wire, not much of a sci-fi vision. I mean, huge lagoons of pig excrement with trucks falling into them?


Absolutely. I think forcing these factory farms into more wholesome practices might accomplish a few things:

1) More research into sustainable farming techniques 2) More research into automation that makes these sustainable techniques feasible at a market cost

Unfortunately, the companies that can afford to do that research are too busy using their money to genetically modify their crops and pump their livestock full of drugs.

If the government forced these guys to cut back through sanctions, the cheapest food might not be the most unhealthy anymore. Issues of environmental and public health concerns are one area where I actually agree with stronger governmental powers vs corporations - people won't vote with the dollars because it's a) necessary to live and b) they usually live so far away from the heinous conditions that they don't even know about it - or worse, don't care.


"Forced through sanctions" sounds pretty harsh when all the government would have to do to seriously change factory farming practices is reduce the subsidies on their inputs.


I'm not sure it's possible for factory farms to change, especially when raising animals. If you talk to someone who raises animals in a sustainable way (if you don't personally know a farmer, read Joel Salatin), they will tell you there is absolutely an upper limit to what can be produced sustainably. I purchase all of the meat my family eats from a local farmer (who only sells directly to consumers) and he said while he could easily double the number of customers, he wouldn't be able to maintain the same practices (this includes everything to what the animals eat--grass only in the case of ruminants--to where the animals actually lived--all are pastured in the style popularized by Salatin).

I could be old-fashioned and myopic, though. Maybe someone can figure out a way to have the best of both worlds.

Regarding cost, I no longer worry about the amount of money my family spends on groceries. Yes, we spend $5/pound for beef, and $2.50/pound for chicken, but this is stuff we are putting in our bodies--it's what keeps us alive. I feel that price shouldn't be the driving factor in what we eat.


You are forgetting the huge subsidies that further hide the real cost of meat from the consumer.

Raising animals is such an inefficiant way to farm food, people seldom question this. Unless you can't use the land for anything else. There simply isn't enough land to go around.


Agreed, and such subsidies tend to prop up factory farming operations, not small operations. In fact, the government makes life quite difficult for small farmers (again, read Salatin).


I know this is the situation in some fertile & densely populated countries, such as the Netherlands.

In other places, such as here in Austria for example, nobody is going to use the alpine pastures that cows graze on for growing anything else.

I am pretty sure it is the same in Switzerland and Bavaria, and probably other mountainous regions such as in Japan and Greece (although the grazing livestock in these places might not be cattle).


Said alpine pastures don't allow for a large quantity of cows, though.

And you Austrians really have to care for the cows in winter (prepare some sheltered and warm barns, with feed - I've been there, and was surprised at how easy we Uruguayans have it with our cows)


If he could easily double the number of customers, it means the current price is below equilibrium.

Why doesn't he charge more?


I think it goes beyond pure numbers when dealing with a small business. There are personal relationships at stake. Overestimating the price risks alienating regular customers and that could kill a small business.


That train wreck has already happened to North Carolina once. Hurricane Floyd. The great pig feces flood. Only cat 2 winds but 20 inches of rain.

    *  51 storm-related deaths in North Carolina, 90 on the East Coast, making this the deadliest storm sinceHurricane Agnes in 1972, where 122 died.

    * 30,500 hogs, 2,000 cattle, 250 horses, 2.1 million chickens, and 737,000 turkeys lost in North Carolina.

    * Four hog waste lagoons burst and 47 overflowed; 24 water treatment plants flooded.

    * Over 7,000 homes were destroyed; 17,000 rendered uninhabitable, and at least 10,000 people were displaced in NC alone. Almost 70,000 people in the state applied for emergency assistance.

    * Overall damage in NC exceeded six billion dollars, making it NC's most costly natural disaster ever, exceeding Hurricane Fran in 1997. New Jersey also listed Floyd as its worst natural disaster.

    * Thirty-seven counties in eastern NC with a combined area of 18,000 square miles (an area twice the size of Vermont) flooded.

    * Ten states were declared disaster areas...." 
http://www.cfspress.com/overwhelmedbyfloyd.htm


Written mostly based on some old research gathered from this piece (also based on the parent article):

"A Few Good Reasons to Not Partake of the Swine": http://indiejade.livejournal.com/23835.html

Ergo: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1124822


For everyone interested in this topic I strongly recommend "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer:

http://www.amazon.com/Eating-Animals-Jonathan-Safran-Foer/dp...

I became a vegetarian before reading this book, but reading it only made me more convinced that to stop eating meat and fish was one of the best decisions in my life.


Factory farming is terrible. I would recommend that anyone interested in this find some local farmers and talk to them about how the raise their animals.

I can get local grass-fed beef for $4.50/lb that is from very happy cows. Expensive as hell but pretty much an ideal food.

Federal regulations play a role in this too. Anybody other than a factory farmer is at an immense disadvantage when it comes to meeting the often arbitrary and pointless regulations.

Check out "Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front" by Joe Salatin if you're interested.


Over here in Uruguay we have 18 million grass-fed cows (they live better than many persons!), probably as healthy as any you have ever eaten.

Yet, we have quotas on selling to the US, because they have to maintain the subsidies on farming (it doesn't make sense if growing cattle in the US is so much more expensive). And the EU is way worse than the US in its subsidies - I've seen cattle in Austria, it is VERY expensive to raise it there - of course you want to maintain some local livestock for strategic purposes if nothing else, but it is still extremely inefficient.

And I pay about U$ 1/lb for very good grass-fed beef :)


Tell me about it. I'm reading all these comments about 'expensive' beef at $5 pr lbs and simply shaking my head. Here in Sweden I have to pay double that, and that's for the lower end. If you want a really nice cut, double or triple it again.


In Australia, I regularly pay AUD30-35/kg for a decent cut of beef. I think that's about USD12/lb or more. I'd love to be able to get good stuff for $4.50/lb!


That cost probably includes some externalities of eating something detrimental to the environment and your health. It sounds smart to me.


Perhaps they're treated better than humans, but in South America, the business of raising cattle has destroyed the rainforests specifically to sell cheap cattle to the US and the EU.

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/rain...


That's probably true of Brazil, but not of Argentina and Uruguay which never had any rainforests to start with :) (and Argentina is HUGE).


can you summarize what the book says about fish? is there an article similar to this about fish farming?


You are lucky. There is an extract from the part dealing with fish farming on the Guardian's website:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/23/jonathan-s...


Thanks for that informative and thoroughly depressing link.


The whole book is informative and very depressing at the same time. However, I think we need to face reality and stop denying the wrongness of today's meat processing practices (at least those of factory farming).

As Paul McCartney puts it: "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian."


Hmmm... not sure about that remark... I've slaughtered a lamb myself, then ate a very good roasted lamb (it was very distressing, though).

I also put down my dog when we had to (which was way more distressing than that), so it might not be for everybody.


Way to miss the point.

There is a world of difference between slaughtering an individual animal and a modern factory farm slaughterhouse.


Maybe I missed the point, but I thought that McCartney's point had to do with witnessing the distress (and the killing) of the animals, not with the specific practices.

So I thought that if you're willing to kill the animal yourself, then maybe you're able to condone the slaughterhouses even if you see them through a glass wall

(maybe it will diminish your appetite, though :P - I wouldn't want to see it while eating!).


It's also interesting what the company says in return: http://www.smithfieldfoods.com/RollingStone/


A couple of for-show plants in US to cover the madness in now exported to Mexico and other countries with lax or unenforced pollution laws.

Remember the original swine flu? Not the 2009 H1N1 human outbreak, the ones before that killing vast numbers of pigs in industrial farms.


If the article is incorrect then Smithfield can and should sue Rolling Stone for libel. But they're not going to because it's true.


It's what they don't deny that still worries me. I was hoping that the family being consumed by the lagoon was a non truth. I read it as tragic comedy (shame on me)


It's weirdly like that scene out of the Jungle where the guy falls in the lard pit and becomes part of the product.


They contest 29 different assertions made by the rolling stones author. What didn't they deny?


What kind of position is that?! Someone accused you of wrongdoing and the only valid defense is suing the other? What happened to correcting each other? Accepting that misinterpretations and mistakes are human?


The want the whole thing to go away, even if you're in the right, a lot of times it isn't worth suing. Look at Barbra Streisand - some dude took pictures of her beach house, she was upset and sued him over it. So instead of the handful of people seeing the photos, the law suit hit all the news stations and tens of thousands of people saw the pictures.


For further comparison, BBC article about the Polish farms operated by the same company here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4035081.stm.


Hmm. Why don't they let someone come film a random(typical) hog farm to document the conditions?


A few weeks ago, German newscasts aired some footage secretly recorded from a poultry farm that was a major supplier of one of the biggest (and well-known) meat processors in Germany.

The material really was disgusting: workers beating animals to death, throwing transportation boxes (thus, breaking the animals' bones) etc.

I'm not a hardliner-PETA-animal-rights-activist, but I think there is good reason to not naively believe those statements of companies like Smithfield.


You can find the video here, the show that ran it is called "Report Mainz" (Mainz is the name of a town).

http://translate.google.de/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl...


That's sad, I hope that these are the extreme or the one offs, just as I hope you tube comments aren't representative of real people's views.

Either way it doesn't make it alright.


There is an interesting documentary related to this: Food Inc.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqQVll-MP3I


Everyone should see this, and read some Michael Pollan. FWIW Commercial pork is absolutely tasteless and shouldn't be eaten anyway, look around your local markets for some berkshire or other heritage pork, and discover what pork really tastes like.


Everyone should vote with their wallets. I make a concerted effort to purchase pork that has been raised in a sustainable and compassionate manner. I eat at restaurants like Chipotle who care about the farmers that they do business with. Where and what you buy is the way to change things.


I've tried cooking some cheap pork recently and have to admit that about 50% of the time it's left me with a vague sickly feeling regardless of how I prepared it.

This article has pushed me over the line; I'll probably toss the batch I have. It was one of the bad ones anyway.



I like to eat pigs and live in Italy. Salsiccia and polenta is particularly good, and I'd be happy to grill some up for any visiting hackers, served of course with plenty of good red wine.

What's this got to do with Hacker News, in any case?


I think the article is fascinating.

It shows you how big operations can go wrong, if safeguards are not put in place. The numbers here are mind numbing, this is collossal murder.

There has been a series of programmes on industrial modern farming on the bbc recently in the UK. Which focussed on the best parts of technological innovation in farming. Whereas this article exposes all that's wrong with factory farming.

As an Englishman I find it hard to comprehend the scale of things in the states. It horrifies me. The London circular felt huge to me, until I witnessed a freeway. Now it appears small and the cars look like toys.

We had the BSE outbreak in the UK, which has led to a change in consumer opinion. BSE was reportedly a result of canibalism. Recyling your outputs to inputs is a nice idea, but it's risky practice.

There's no mention of the quality of life these pigs are living. My uncle used to run a small factory pig farm in the UK and that was horrendous enough. That put me off of pork. Later working at an egg farm ensured that, I no longer ate eggs or chicken. There is something incredibly powerful about seeing things first hand. Animals deserve a better life than that, they surely deserve to see daylight.

The computer industry, has it's own issues with energy usage and pollution. The silicon valleys are known for poisoning rivers. There are parallels here. Consumeres need to be aware, to put pressure on industry. We can be ethical consumers, we can vote with our wallets. We can speak out, against injustices and barbaric practices.

Hacker news is full of talk about start ups and web entrapaneurs. Money is not the be all and end all. There is a social and environmental dimension to every business.

If the article does not shock you, or fill you with bile, then alas I feel there is something inherently wrong with you.

I do not delight in discovering injustices, whether it's Ethiopian farmers getting ripped off for the price of coffee or animals suffering. And I have a compulsion to put these injustices right, if I can. Though sometimes our impulses can blind our moral judgement.

I read a book that was published over a decade ago, that reported that every one of North America's great lakes had been overly polluted. A lot of the world's seas have been overfished, there are many dead zones, look on Google Earth.

You'd hope that with the advancement of science and the freedom of knowledge we could become a better race of people. This really saddens me. I believe the hacker spirit, is one that aims for solutions (possibly perfection), and I hope that that same spirit is well concidered and respectful.


> I read a book that was published over a decade ago, that reported that every one of North America's great lakes had been overly polluted.

Things change in a decade.

> The silicon valleys are known for poisoning rivers.

While fabs are full of toxic things and some of the disposal early on was suboptimal (I'm still waiting for the Sunnyvale city govt to create its own Love Canal by grabbing some of this land for housing), "silicon valleys" have not poisoned rivers.

And no, that's not a metaphor. A metaphor is an analogy between thoughts, ideas, or things.

If you're not correct on the details that I can check/know personally ....


Some pollution or environmental damage takes years or centuries to recover from. Desertification and top soil erosion for example.

A decade is no time at all.

What are you arguing? My point was that electronic waste has a high environmental cost, probably more so than farming.


> Some pollution or environmental damage takes years or centuries to recover from. Desertification and top soil erosion for example.

Whether or not that's true, your claim was about the great lakes.

> What are you arguing?

I'm pointing out that your claims have been false. When someone points that out, you respond with different claims as if that somehow justifies things. It doesn't. (Neither does good intentions.)

> My point was that electronic waste has a high environmental cost, probably more so than farming.

One can make that point without engaging in falsehoods. You didn't bother and don't seem to understand why that's relevant. You don't even seem to care about getting things right.


Water pollution is defined as a change in the chemical, physical and biological health of a waterway due to human activity.

I do not think I have stated any falsehoods. If I have supply counter evidence, rather than just poo pooing me.

The reference to the great lakes was that it was a classic and very well known example of human pollution. And that was a main theme of the article.

The Silicon valley reference was to highlight the huge environmental impact of the high tech industry. That may be in North America, or India. If they have cleaned up the industry in recent times, then that is great, have they?


> Water pollution is defined as a change in the chemical, physical and biological health of a waterway due to human activity.

True, but that doesn't make your claim about the Great Lakes true.

> The Silicon valley reference was to highlight the huge environmental impact of the high tech industry.

Silicon Valley isn't the high tech industry. It is a specific place in California.

As I suggested you're arguing "the truth of my claims doesn't matter because I mean well." That's both wrong and counter-productive for both your credibility and your cause.

> That may be in North America, or India.

In other words, you have no idea if it actually happened.

And you don't care.


> The silicon valleys are known for poisoning rivers.

Which rivers did "the silicon valleys" poison?


It was a metaphor, just google 'high tech pollution' or 'silicon valley pollution' or similar phrase.



I agree with you. It is not the usual HN type article, and it is far removed from the usual articles that draw me to HN.


The interest for me is mainly in the view of this giant industrial process, and the surprising ways in which it isn't as efficient or streamlined as I would've expected. I can see how it's a bit outside the usual range, but for me it seems more technology focused than most of the TechCrunch articles that get linked, for example.


From the guidelines:

What to Submit

On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity.


Personally I find the reaction to this article a lot more interesting than the article itself. Are my hackercomrades weak for this kind of manipulation or not? So in a way this is interesting article to have here, but I would not wish more.


> Are my hackercomrades weak for this kind of manipulation...?

Did you intend that to be self-referential or is it just a happy accident? :-)


Non-tech stories are hardly unprecedented: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1155108

If you're an inhabitant of Earth then large-scale environmental damage driven by global spending habits concerns you too. Sorry about that!


"What concerns me" does not make it hacker news, IMO. There are plenty of other sites where people can discuss what concerns them ad nauseam.

Edit: let me expand that a bit more. There are many things that I think are far more important than startups and hacking. Politics (in the US, Italy, the EU and worldwide), the economy (as above), the environment, child rearing, and so on and so forth. However, these tend to be "flame-bait" topics which are best left to other sites lest they overrun this one.


To clarify: by 'concerns' I meant 'is relevant to', not 'causes to worry'. IMHO, Hacker News is a site for discussing issues relevant to its readership; my point was that this article is indeed relevant, even though it's not explicitly technology-related.


Around 10 billion animals are killed each year in the United States. It's a truly astounding figure. Let's not kid ourselves that something unfathomably evil is going on.

It's great that some people get their animal products from the sustainable farm down the road. That is better. But let's also not pretend it even makes a dent.

During World War II, about 70 million people were killed over the course of the conflict (1939-1945). In just the United States alone, we will kill that number of animals in less than three days. If you were to compare the entire loss of American life in that war, it would take you about 20 minutes to achieve in our factory farm system.

If you still don't see it as evil, animal agriculture is far and away the number one source of global warming pollution (http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?newsID=20772&CR1=w...).


There are also 300 million people living in the US, another truly astounding figure. People eat meat, and have forever. Just because there are now more people around to eat meat now does not make the process of making meat (also called killing animals...) suddenly become evil. You can make an argument that factory farming methods are inhumane, and we can have a rational discussion. But your appeal to the magic of large numbers is meaningless to me, just because 10 billion animals get killed for food each year does not make it "unfathomably evil".

(And also, you are going to compare loss of life in war to animals killed for meat.... Seriously?)


For the record I'm not calling you evil. So this isn't an ad hominem attack... unless you're a factory farmer, in which case, you probably are. ;-)

People eat more meat at more meals than they ever have in history. The truth is that it's unsustainable and it causes huge long term problems for our environment. The fact that we have always done it doesn't really matter. We know we can live without it and be healthy. The question is should we continue to do it and if so, at what cost? And as hackers, we might ask if there's a way around it.

Comparing loss of human life in the deadliest war that humans have ever fought (where most of us have no problem labeling certain actors evil) perfectly illustrates the magnitude of the "magic" large numbers. The very best killing apparatus that war has ever seen is beat by factory farming in one country in 3 days. I find that to be truly incredible.

Maybe you don't want to stop eating meat. But maybe you do care about some of the problems the world faces because of it (water shortages, global warming, human famine, rainforest depletion, run-off into other food and streams, mad cow or swine flu, etc).

For many people this is a truly emotional issue. A judgement about factory farms feels like a judgement about themselves. I was once at a very expensive conference (like $2k a ticket) and after a speaker suggested that people cut their meat intake to solve some the world's problems about a 1/3 of the people got up and left. But most people who don't eat meat today did at one point in their lives. I'm part of a family that until I left college ate meat at every meal.

It's not enough to say we're going to keep doing what we're doing because we've been doing it forever. As hackers and entrepreneurs we know that human behavior can change and we often try to be the ones who cause it. We don't happily accept the status quo. So why do so many of us readily do so when it comes to eating meat?


The only thing about your comparison that makes sense is the word "magic". I am not taking a position for or against factory farming or eating meat, just against the ridiculousness of comparing war to farming.

First: the most efficient war killing methods are still very inefficient. This lies mostly in the fact that the other side consists of free-range actors, who are actively trying to kill and not themselves be killed.

Second: Killing a person, for the purpose of making a point, is different than killing a person for food. Further killing a non-person for food is even more different. My species is more important to me than theirs.

Third: The animals are domesticated, therefore are part of a symbiotic relationship in which they get to live fairly well, without so much worrying about getting to eat, breed etc, in exchange for being docile, and eaten at the end of the road. Death by bad slaughterhouse is less painful, less terrifying, and quicker than death by wolf. People are not on the eating/killing end of such an agreement.

Finally: regardless of the ethics/morality of eating meat, appealing to emotion is still a logical fallacy.

Your comparison is roughly the same as: "I cannot believe that there are 100K new porn vids (not including cam girls!) released every year. Its unconsciable. By comparison, the catholic church, the most efficient child raping organization ever[1], only managed a few hundred boys per year. Thats just 3 days of filming in just our country."

[1] not a belief of mine personally, just a random "fact" like wwii being the most efficient at killing.


There's quite a lot to say in response, but I'll limit the scope of it to two of your points, and I'll try to be brief with each.

(1) "My species is more important to me than theirs."

Our species is only more important in a very big way: we are the scourge of the Earth. We have destroyed our planet and its inhabitants beyond comprehension, and people like you -- likely among the more intelligent of our precious and wonderful species -- cannot find it in their self-pronounced greatness to be good. We are extremely important in that we annually torture and kill 50 billion fellow animals, sensitive creatures all, for the sake of our own convenience and culturally imputed preferences.

So yes, we are extremely important. Catastrophically so.

And by the way, your species-ism is shamelessly fallacious. You are not better or correct or more valuable simply because you belong to homo sapiens, and your fellow species members are not better or correct or more valuable simply because they belong to the same species as you do.

Moreover, comparing human value to pig value in support of factory farming is a complete canard. It's a moot point whether or not humans are "more" valuable, because we do not need to factory farm other creatures in order to live healthy, happy lives ourselves. Indeed, factory farming will be a primary reason why humans in the future will have horrible lives indeed, on a hellscape formerly known as the green planet.

(2) "The animals are domesticated, therefore are part of a symbiotic relationship in which they get to live fairly well, without so much worrying about getting to eat, breed etc, in exchange for being docile, and eaten at the end of the road."

You are so amazingly incorrect about this. The animals do not "live well." Here is a sampling of what is routinely done to animals on factory farms, in no particular order: confinement in spaces so tight they can't move; traumatic mutilation, including tail-docking, hole-punching, de-beaking, and castration; living in piss and feces, their own and others; rampant disease; unnatural food, including corn and other animal product waste, that causes them to be sick and so overweight that their bones break; and many more abuses besides. The animals literally go insane after a short while, and you would too, believe me. And yes, then, after they have lived in these conditions for they are slaughtered.

"A symbiotic relationship?" "Living well?" Couldn't be further from reality.


Why the downmodding? Because you don't like sound arguments and facts? Further confirming the greatness of your species, I guess.


You're going to deny that the degree of something isn't relevant to its severity? Seriously?


I'm going to deny that the number you are talking about means anything at all in context of being evil. If one person eats one chicken per week that is 52 chicken killings a year, I see nothing evil about that. If 300 million people eat 1 chicken per week that is 15.6 billion living creatures killed per year, but it still isn't evil. I don't think you are really talking degree, just scale. In this case doesn't matter, if killing things for food is OK (which I think it is) then lots of people eating killed things for food is also OK. So there are two reasonable points of discussion 1) Is is OK to kill living creatures to eat as food (I think we should, they are tasty) 2) If the answer to 1 is yes then do we also have a moral or ethical obligation surrounding our treatment of these things before we kill and eat them?


First, again again again, we are not just talking about "killing animals for food." We are talking about torturing them for their entire lives and then killing them.

Second, you say you think "killing [animals] for food is OK." Can you please at some point contend with the fact that this killing is completely unnecessary? Can you contend with the fact that the "killing" we are talking about also has catastrophic effects for the environment, both in localized ecosystems and in the atmosphere of our planet?

You can make simple declarations all day ("Killing things for food is OK"), but that doesn't amount to justification at all.


Humans evolved eating meat. There is significant evidence that a diet high in meat and saturated fat rather than the neolithic agents sugar and grains is among the healthiest available.

Why is killing animals to produce food for people an "unfathomably evil" thing?


Perhaps you can easily wrap your head around the idea of killing 10 billion living creatures a year. I have a really hard time even imagining we're capable of being that efficient at killing. It's almost all from factory farming which you agreed in an earlier comment is "terrible". Maybe you wouldn't go so far as to say it's evil. I will.

Everyday, science learns that humans aren't all that special in our capacity to feel pain, plan for the future, find enjoyment out of life, care for our offspring, etc. This is one of those issues where eventually we will all be horrified at what we allowed to happen.

But any time that we make a judgement call that some being's suffering and untimely death is okay because it's lesser than us, that says more about us than it does about those beings. As a species, we've certainly been wrong about these things before.


Yes, humans evolved to eat some meat in their diets at points in time where other foods were scarce. This does not mean that meat is something we should eat often or as a primary source of food. And it does not mean that we can't survive without it.

In addition to the incomparable suffering that animals who spend their entire lives in factory farms experience, a few good reasons are:

1. It is the number one cause of global warming

2. It's one of the main causes of deadly health problems in humans (heart disease, cancer, obesity related diseases).

3. It's a big reason why people go hungry. You can grow way more food to feed people through plant based agriculture. When you allocate land to meat production, you deprive people of food.

4. The reason why 60% of the rivers in America are classified as "impaired" due to runoff.

There are lots more reasons if you look and I suggest you do.

Just because we've done something for a long time doesn't mean we should keep doing it. Wouldn't you say that the conditions of the world have changed considerably since we were hunter-gatherers a few thousand years ago? Well, we need to evolve. The very best thing you can do for the planet, other humans, and yourself is to eat less meat.


There's actually no evidence for that position that was not produced by someone funded by a meat producer.


I tire of these "prove me wrong" arguments. How about you prove yourself right? Show me that the evidence for that position was all produced by someone funded by a meat producer.

This tactic of yours is frequently used by politicians and other extremist groups and I want to see it stopped.

You get to be the first one. Start researching your position and prove to me that you are right.


How about this: you prove that eating meat is justifiable? That would be something.


The question being debated is whether meat was a part of the diet of our ancestors. Whether it's justifiable is a seperate discussion and should not be brought into discussion. Facts don't depend on our moral opinion about them.


No, several questions are being debated. The comment you refer to also asked why eating should be considered evil. And the question of whether or not humans have evolved to eat meat, especially to eat meat anywhere near the levels that Westerners (and increasingly, Easterners) do today. Of course, it has been downmodded because it doesn't comport with the status quo.

The reason I asked for people to justify their eating of meat is that this is the first logical step in any of these debates. It is not up to me to tell you why your behavior is unjustified before you have even attempted to justify it yourself. Of course, whether or not humans evolved to eat is a separate question from whether or not it is moral to cause unnecessary suffering.

You can deride moral beliefs as mere "opinions," but moral propositions -- like all propositions -- contain ontological commitments. Those moral propositions that are founded upon false ontological propositions are bad moral propositions. Opinion doesn't come into that equation. Those who value their own suffering but do not value the suffering of others have breached logic and upheld falsehoods.


Voting me down for saying this:

"How about this: you prove that eating meat is justifiable? That would be something."

Whoever did it, you're realllly smart.


And again! I suppose some people don't believe they should have to justify themselves.


I just saw a bunch of comments basically screaming "YOU prove what YOU said! NO YUO!" back and forth, and downvoted all of you.


Wow. Thanks for reading, I guess.


I realize I have a proof by exhaustion on my hands, so I guess you're right. I wouldn't worry about it too much, my original post will get downvoted into oblivion as soon as the weston price guys wake up.


You are a fool. If you make a claim that demands proof by exhaustion, do not complain about that very fact when someone asks you to back it up.


I like your nick. Sophacles was one of my favorite philosaphers.


Humans did not "evolve eating meat." Yes, they began to eat meat relatively recently, but only during winter periods after migrating into colder climates. Even then, humans ate almost no meat when plant food was abundant, during warmer seasons.

Anatomically the case for human herbivorism, or at least heavy-plant omnivorism, is strong. Check it (I hope this formats okay):

      Meat-eaters: have claws
      Herbivores: no claws
      Humans: no claws

      Meat-eaters: have no skin pores and perspire through the tongue
      Herbivores: perspire through skin pores
      Humans: perspire through skin pores

      Meat-eaters: have sharp front teeth for tearing, with no flat molar teeth for grinding
      Herbivores: no sharp front teeth, but flat rear molars for grinding
      Humans: no sharp front teeth, but flat rear molars for grinding [we're talking about actually sharp teeth, not so-called human “canine” teeth]

      Meat-eaters: have intestinal tract that is only 3 times their body length so that rapidly decaying meat can pass through quickly
      Herbivores: have intestinal tract 10-12 times their body length.
      Humans: have intestinal tract 10-12 times their body length.

      Meat-eaters: have strong hydrochloric acid in stomach to digest meat
      Herbivores: have stomach acid that is 20 times weaker than that of a meat-eater
      Humans: have stomach acid that is 20 times weaker than that of a meat-eater

      Meat-eaters: salivary glands in mouth not needed to pre-digest grains and fruits.
      Herbivores: well-developed salivary glands which are necessary to pre-digest grains and fruits
      Humans: well-developed salivary glands, which are necessary to pre-digest, grains and fruits

      Meat-eaters: have acid saliva with no enzyme ptyalin to pre-digest grains
      Herbivores: have alkaline saliva with ptyalin to pre-digest grains
      Humans: have alkaline saliva with ptyalin to pre-digest grains
Source: A.D. Andrews, Fit Food for Men, (Chicago: American Hygiene Society, 1970)


So humans don't have a single trait in common with predators? Humans don't have eyes in the front of their head for good depth perception? Or did you just pick a selection of facts to support one viewpoint and ignore anything that contradicts you?


I'm obviously not saying humans don't have a single trait in common with some predators. Humans have blood, for example. Get over your indignation at being challenged and think about what you say. That'd be nice.

To answer your question, these are simply the most clear-cut traits that are present in herbivores versus omnivores and carnivores. The "front-facing eyes" is an out-of-date meme from high school textbooks.


You forgot to add omnivores and opportunistic predators to your analysis. You ignore our very close relatives, chimps, who hunt. You ignore insects as a food source, which were probably important to our ancestors. You are picking and choosing features for convenience.


Why aren't some of these problems solved by property rights? The article shows case after case of nearby property owners having what seem to be clear cases of health problems and other property violations caused by the pigs. If there isn't a causal link that can be shown in court, then we don't know this is the problem.


As a vegetarian, when someone with science training asks me why I'm so, my answer is, "The 2nd law of thermodynamics." This is the 2nd law writ large.


I recently saw the movie Temple Grandin, a bio of an autistic woman who works with cattle. Her website concerns humane and efficient treatment of livestock. Some fascinating articles. http://grandin.com/


This reads like Dante's inferno.


I can't seem to find a free version online, but This American Life's TV show, the episode called "Pandora's Box" is very eye opening. They go to a modern pig farm and it's as disturbing and disgusting as this article makes it sound.

I thought it was very interesting that they had to scrub down before they could enter for fear that they might introduce germs to the pigs.


Mad max references aside, I wonder if anyone has seriously considered just processing the waste into something useful. If they prevented some of of the careless inorganic stuff from getting in there (batteries, wtf?) couldn't this be an excellent source of fuel & fertilizer?


"The excrement of Smithfield hogs is hardly even pig shit: On a continuum of pollutants, it is probably closer to radioactive waste than to organic manure."

This made me go woooot!? Clearly an article written to raise emotions than discuss anything serious.

PETA crawling to HN, scary shit.


Have a look at the other articles linked in the comments - perhaps they will present the same information in a more balanced way for you. The subject under discussion is very serious, even if this particular write-up of it does not suit your tastes.

As an aside, did it occur to you that your post is written in the same style, of one trying to raise emotions rather than discuss something seriously?


Yea, I got the same impression. While there is definitely truth to this article - anyone that's lived near any size of pig farm can tell you there is - this is hardly an objective look at modern farming, more of a modern version of Upton Sinclair's 1906 classic,'The Jungle.'


Time to make cell-cultured meat happen, I think. Given that the technology is pretty close to possible, I think that treating sensate creatures as meat factories has lost it defensibility.


Oh, "pork" the noun, not the transitive verb. Darn.




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