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400 Years Of Freethought
Samuel Porter Putnam
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Jon Meacham
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version
Philip Pullman, Jacob Grimm
Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson
Jennifer Michael Hecht
The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America
Paul E. Johnson, Sean Wilentz

Eating Animals

Eating Animals - Jonathan Safran Foer “At an industrial pig breeding facility in North Carolina, videotape taken by undercover investigators showed some workers administering daily beatings, bludgeoning pregnant sows with the ranch, and ramming an iron pole a foot deep into mother pigs rectums and vaginas. These things have nothing to do with bettering the taste of the resultant meet or preparing the pigs for slaughter–they are merely perversion. In other videotaped instances at the farm, workers sawed off pigs’ legs and skin them while they were still conscious. At another facility operated by one of the largest pork producers in the United States, some employees were videotaped throwing, beating, and kicking pigs; slamming them against concrete floors and bludgeoning them with metal gate rods and hammers. At another farm, a year-long investigation found systematic abuse of tens of thousands of pigs. The investigation documented workers extinguishing cigarettes on the animals’ bodies, beating them with rakes and shovels, strangling them, and throwing them into manure pits to drown…The investigation concluded that managers condoned these abuses, but authorities have refused to prosecute. Lack of prosecution is the norm, not the exception. We are not in a period of “lax” enforcement–there simply never has been a time when companies could expect serious punitive action if they were caught abusing farmed animals."So, I guess that takes bacon (the last pork product we were actually eating) off the family table for good. Oh yeah, and Nicholas Kristof reports in the New York Times that studies by the University of Minnesota conclude that MRSA (the “flesh-eating” disease that kills more Americans than AIDS) is carried by 25-39% of American hogs. And then there’s this:“Temple Grandin has argued that ordinary people can become sadistic from the dehumanizing work of constant slaughter. This is a persistent problem, she reports, that management must guard against.… The combination of line speeds that have increased as much as 800% in the past hundred years [that would be since Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle] and poorly trained workers laboring under nightmarish conditions guarantees mistakes. (Slaughterhouse workers have the highest injury rate of any job–27% annually–and receive low pay to kill as many as 2,050 cattle per shift.)… Sometimes animals are not knocked out at all. At one plant, a secret video was taken by workers (not animal activists) and given to the Washington Post. The tape revealed conscious animals going down the processing line, and an incident where an electric prod was jammed into a steer’s mouth. According to the Post, “more than 20 workers signed affidavits alleging that the violent violations shown on the tape are commonplace and that supervisors are aware of them.” In one affidavit, worker explained, “I’ve seen thousands and thousands of cows go through the slaughter process alive… the cows can get 7 minutes down the line and still be alive. I’ve been in the side puller where they’re still alive. All the hide is stripped down to the neck there.” And when workers who complain are listened to at all, they often get fired."Okay, so beef is off the table too, until we can find a source that not only raises cattle correctly, but slaughters them responsibly. And that isn’t necessarily as easy as it sounds. Even where people are trying to do good and make a difference, there’s a learning curve and there are differences of opinion about what ought to be done. For example, heritage poultry farmer Frank Reese writes a long passage, in which he says: "Michael Pollan wrote about Polyface Farm in The Omnivore’s Dilemma like it was something great, but that farm is horrible. It’s a joke. Joel Salatin is doing industrial birds. Call him up and ask him. So he puts them on pasture. It makes no difference. Like putting a broken down Honda on the autobahn and saying it’s a Porsche. KFC chickens are almost always killed in 39 days. Their babies. That’s how rapidly their grown. Salatin’s organic free range chicken is killed in 42 days. ‘Cause it’s still the same chicken. It can’t be allowed to live any longer because it’s genetics are so screwed up. Stop and think about that: a bird that you simply can’t let live out of its adolescence. So maybe he just say he’s doing as much right as he can, but it’s too expensive to raise healthy birds. Well, I’m sorry if I can’t pat him on the back and tell him what a good guy he is. These are things, they’re animals, so we shouldn’t be talking about good enough. Either do it right or don’t do it."This seems to be a very interesting book, that opens up (but doesn't resolve) some very troubling subjects.