Sent this to the National on CBC, and it was read on Monday night, May 26:
"Our methods of raising livestock for meat production have become so intensive, that we are feeding animals the remains of other animals. This does not come without consequences hence Mad Cow Disease. However, the threat of this dread degenerative brain disease should prompt us to suggest genuine solutions to this recurring crisis -- making the welfare of livestock paramount and returning to less intensive, more "humane" methods of ranching and animal husbandry that treat animals as animals as opposed to unfeeling machines."
Part of a larger commentary I wrote on Friday May 23:
"There are fields, endless fields, where human beings are no longer born. We are grown. For the longest time I wouldn't believe it, and then I saw the fields with my own eyes. Watch them liquefy the dead so they could be fed intravenously to the living. And standing there, facing the pure horrifying precision, I came to realize the obviousness of the truth."
-- Morpheus, The Matrix
Replace human beings with cattle, pigs, chickens, and even fish, and the Matrix comes to life, so to speak. Our factory farming methods differ little from the commodification of life represented by the Matrix's field of human beings feeding and powering the machine civilization.
And our methods of raising livestock for meat production have become so intensive, that we are feeding animals the remains of other animals. This mass cannibalization -- the "pure horrifying precision" of recycling "nutrients" -- does not come without consequences, hence Mad Cow Disease.
However, it was only the threat of this dread degenerative brain disease passing to humans that prompted mass hysteria and panic in the UK, leading to the mass slaughter and burning of entire herds. In the end, the cattle were deemed dispensable, and extermination deemed necessary to guarantee the safety of the British beef industry. Who knows how many cows will be killed ahead of their predestined slaughter date in Alberta to save the cattle Canadian beef industry? Sadly, I have heard nothing in print or the news media to suggest genuine solutions to this recurring crisis -- making the welfare of livestock paramount and returning to less intensive, more "humane" methods of ranching and animal husbandry that treat animals as animals as opposed to unfeeling machines.
SARS too, like other emergent infectious diseases such as HIV, Ebola, and West Nile Virus, has its origin in the process of zoonosis. A recent report on CBC's the National traced SARS to the overcrowded cages of exotic species in Guangdong province. Civet cats in particular, considered a delicacy in southern China, were found to carry the SARS coronavirus. Caged in overwhelmingly cramped and filthy conditions, these poor animals were rendered inadvertently into incubators for new infectious agents.
However it seems that health authorities such as those in Singapore, rather than targeting the contraband market for endangered species and the horrible conditions in which these animals are kept, are targeting the animals for extermination. This retrograde step proves that cruelty to animals and the sad lack of any consideration for their right to life knows no bounds and seems sadly common to a majority of humanity.
Symptomatic of a greater human malady, these diseases and consequent health care crises can only be seen as side-effect of our depravity as a species. As Rabindranath Tagore wrote, " We manage to swallow flesh, only because we do not think of the cruel and sinful thing we do. There are many crimes which are the creation of man himself, the wrongfulness of which is put down to their divergence from habit, custom, or tradition. But cruelty is not of these. It is a fundamental sin, and admits of no arguments or nice distinctions. If only we do not allow our heart to grow callous, it protests against cruelty, is always clearly heard; and yet we go on perpetrating cruelties easily, merrily, all of us--in fact, any one who does not join in is dubbed a crank."
Eventually though, our actions have unintended consequences, and nature has a way of surprising our most smug self-satisfaction as the controllers of life on Earth.