Photo: Mark Fergusson

It is ironic that the meat industry—long touted as key to good nutrition—puts the health of people in our island ohana and throughout the world at risk time and again. The current outbreak of H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) virus speaks for itself, although plenty of other examples abound. These include the Avian Flu influenza of 1997, Mad Cow Disease of 1986, and the massive outbreak of toxic Pfiesteria in 1997. Yet, despite the tragic toll in pain and suffering that too often includes premature death as well as the threat of significant economic loss, society overlooks the negative consequences of today’s modern “factory” farms and does nothing about it. There is little interest to seriously examine the horrendous conditions in the factory farms and how those conditions contribute to the spread of diseases such as Swine Flu. What's worse, it seems there is an effort to hide the reality of the situation and to encourage consumers to keep eating meat. It enables factory farms to keep monstrously mistreating and exploiting innocent animals in their zeal to make profits. Consider Jimmy Kimmel’s take on Swine Flu, as quoted in the May 1st edition of the New York Times:

“The government does not want us to call it the swine flu. They're calling it the 2009 H1N1 virus. The reason for the change is they want people to know you can still eat all the pork you want without any risk to your health, except diabetes, obesity, and heart disease."

The reality is that the cause of the flu problem is not pork, beef, poultry, or even fish for that matter. It’s the factory farms, where modern agriculture strives to produce the most meat, milk, and eggs as quickly and cheaply as possible—and in the smallest amount of space possible without considering the health and welfare of the animals. Cows, calves, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and other animals are kept in small cages, in jam-packed sheds, or on filthy feedlots, often with so little space that they can't even turn around or lie down. Crowding and filth create an atmosphere that fosters and incubates diseases, which spread to humans. Each year in the United States, approximately ten billion land animals (approximately 33 animals per person) are raised and slaughtered for human consumption. These innocent animals endure horrendous suffering while alive, and are then cruelly slaughtered, all to satisfy our craving for flesh and blood. Please consider the idea that all our nutritional and dietary needs can easily be satisfied without eating these animals, so vegetarianism is a humane choice. Eating innocent animals is unnecessary because nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance. We can economically and easily obtain this sustenance without the threats of pandemic disease caused by the meat industry. The slaughter of animals for food is an extravagant luxury rather than a necessity. It is morally wrong and contributes to our hard-hearted and self-centered “me” society where we care more about ourselves than others. The widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet would significantly reduce factory farming. In so doing, it would also help reduce pandemic flu viruses attributed to the heartless and cruel meat industry, while benefiting society in many other important ways. A vegetarian lifestyle awakens our spirit of compassion and guides us towards a kinder, gentler society in which we exercise a moral choice to protect animals—not exploit them. Down to Earth’s slogan is Love Life! One of the many meanings of this slogan is “Love animals, don’t eat them.” We urge you to reflect on the meaning of our Love Life! slogan and adopt it as your own, considering it to be a universal truth. As always, thanks for shopping with us. Mark Fergusson