Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat

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Plain Truth From the Cattlerancher Who Won’t Eat Meat
by HOWARD LYMAN with Glen Merzer

I am a fourth-generation dairy farmer and cattle rancher. I grew up on a dairy farm in Montana, & I ran a feedlot operation there for 20 years. I know firsthand how cattle are raised and how meat is produced in this country.

Today I am president of the International Vegetarian Union.

Sure, I used to enjoy my steaks as much as the next guy. But if you knew what I know about what goes into them and what they can do to you, you’d probably be a vegetarian like me. And believe it or not, as a pure vegetarian now who consumes no animal products at all, I can tell you that these days I enjoy eating more than ever.

If you’re a meat-eater in America, you have a right to know that you have something in common with most of the cows you’ve eaten. They’ve eaten meat, too.

When a cow is slaughtered, about half of it by weight is not eaten by humans: the intestines and their contents, the head, hooves, and horns, as well as bones and blood. These are dumped into giant grinders at rendering plants, as are the entire bodies of cows and other farm animals known to be diseased. Rendering is a $2.4 billion-a-year industry, processing forty billion pounds of dead animals a year. There is simply no such thing in America as an animal too ravaged by disease, too cancerous, or too putrid to be welcomed by the embracing arms of the renderer. Another staple of the renderer’s diet, in addition to farm animals, is euthanized pets—the six or seven million dogs and cats that are killed in animal shelters every year.

In August 1997, in response to growing concern about the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (or Mad Cow disease), the FDA issued a new regulation that bans the feeding of ruminant protein (protein from cud-chewing animals) to ruminants; therefore, to the extent that the regulation is actually enforced, cattle are no longer quite the cannibals that we had made them into. They are no longer eating solid parts of other cattle, or sheep, or goats. They still munch, however, on ground-up dead horses, dogs, cats, pigs, chickens, and turkeys, as well as blood and fecal matter of their own species and that of chickens.

About 75 percent of the ninety million beef cattle in America are routinely given feed that has been “enriched” with rendered animal parts. The use of animal excrement in feed is common as well, as livestock operators have found it to be an efficient way of disposing of a portion of the 1.6 million tons of livestock wastes generated annually by their industry. In Arkansas, for example, the average farm feeds over fifty tons of chicken litter to cattle every year. One Arkansas cattle farmer was quoted in U.S. News & World Report as having recently purchased 745 tons of litter collected from the floors of local chicken-raising operations. After mixing it with small amounts of soybean bran, he then feeds it to his eight hundred head of cattle, making them, in his words, “fat as butterballs.” He explained, “If I didn’t have chicken litter, I’d have to sell half my heard. Other feeds are too expensive.” If you are a meat-eater, understand that this is the food of your food.

We don’t know all there is to know about the extent to which the consumption of diseased or unhealthy animals causes diseases in humans, but we do know that some diseases—rabies, for example—are transmitted from the host animal to humans. We know that the common food poisonings brought on by such organisms as the prevalent E. Coli bacteria, which results from fecal contamination of food, causes the death of nine thousand Americans a year and that about 80 percent of food poisonings come from tainted meat. And now we can also be virtually certain, from the tragedy that has already afflicted Britain, that Mad Cow disease can “jump species” and give rise to a new variant of the always fatal, brain-wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

For all too many humans, the first decision they consciously make about their health is the stark one between by-pass surgery and angioplasty, or between chemotherapy and radiation. In reality, however, we knowingly make choices every day that can either lead us toward these grim options, or else toward happier ones. We do so, of course, every time we decide what fuel to put in our bodies.