Op-ed: Jane Velez-Mitchell – Food safety doesn't end with S.510
November 30th, 2010
07:00 PM ET
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Jane Velez-Mitchell is the author of 'iWant: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life' and 'Secrets Can Be Murder: The Killer Next Door' as well as 'Addict Nation: An Intervention for America' which will be published in February, 2011. She hosts ISSUES with Jane Velez-Mitchell nightly on HLN at 7p ET.

"Half measures avail us nothing." It’s a profound saying that usually applies to recovery from addiction, but, it could just as well be applied to America’s food crisis. The U.S. Senate’s passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) is a step in the right direction, but, it fails to address the core issue at the very heart of our nation’s struggle to keep our food supply safe: the extreme and cruel confinement of animals raised and killed for food.

Every year about 10 billion farm animals go through America’s horrific factory farm system: cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, lamb. There, they are subjected to unimaginable and torturous confinement in vast factories where they never see the light of day. Agribusiness goes out of its way to make sure you don’t see the inside of those factory farms.

Pigs are kept in gestation crates just barely larger than the size of their bodies. They cannot turn around or even scratch themselves and are routinely driven into a form of psychosis. Chickens are crammed into cages where they live one on top of the other without being able to spread their wings. Hens routinely have their beaks cut off so they don’t peck each other to death.

What does animal welfare have to do with food safety? The animals are the food! They are living in their own excrement, developing horrific sores, stressed out and therefore more vulnerable to illness and disease. That’s why the vast majority of antibiotics consumed in this country are consumed by farm animals.

Don’t take my word for it. Go online. Just Google "pig gestation crates." Google "veal crates." The photos will pop up and they are what agribusiness doesn’t want you to see. This is why the dairy industry runs those cynical “Happy Cow” commercials. They want you to believe in the fairy tale of the compassionate, family run farm that has been almost entirely wiped out by factory farming.

Want more proof that there’s a link between animal welfare and food safety? Check out any one of the myriad undercover investigations conducted by the Humane Society of the United States, Mercy for Animals and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The vileness of the conditions are there for you to see on video. Judge for yourself. Here are some links.

Appalling Animal Abuse and Food Safety Threats at Top Egg Producer

New Investigations by The HSUS Reveal Appalling Animal Abuse at Four Egg Factory Farms

Ohio Dairy Farm Brutality

Mercy For Animals undercover investigation of Quality Egg of New England

Paul Shapiro, who oversees the Humane Society’s campaign to get better conditions for factory farm animals tells me, “The extreme confinement of hens in cages enables factory farms to cram hundreds of thousands of birds under a single roof, that can lead to a huge volume of contaminated airborne fecal dust and swarms of rodents and flies that can breed in massive manure pits underlying the cages and spread Salmonella around. It’s no wonder that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that this extreme confinement of hens in cages leads to increased Salmonella contamination. Caging hens is not only cruel; it’s a public health menace for consumers.” The HSUS cites numerous studies that are available for your perusal.

Ultimately, the government is just as responsible for this crisis as agribusiness. Agribusiness – with its wicked powerful lobby and its infiltration of top bureaucratic posts – essentially runs roughshod over the government agencies that are supposed to monitor it. It’s the rich fox guarding the filthy, overcrowded henhouse.

What’s the real solution? The government, i.e. the USDA and the FDA, must immediately develop a plan to phase out the torturous confinement and overcrowding of hens, pigs, cows and calves. This would automatically result in healthier, happier animals with less chance of disease. But, don’t hold your breath. The only way that’s going to happen is if you, the consumer, demand change.

You, as the shopper, are the ultimate decider on this issue. If you say no to cruel factory farm practices, only then will the government say yes to change.

Previously – Jane Velez-Mitchell: 5@5 – 5 reasons not to eat meat

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. shiv chopra

    I invite you to visit my website to know how involved the likes of Monsanto are to get Bill S-510 passed. It is all about corporate control of food and public health safety without being liable.

    December 2, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
  2. Robin Torme'

    This is science-101. I used to do environmental remediation and this is clearly fact-based as tortured animals excrete dioxins, toxic hormonal imbalances, toxins- basicly poisen- into their systems when confined and abused. This is then digested into our bodies which clearly creates cancerous agents into our systems. Hence alarming rates of cancer in our society.... not to mention the filthy conditions that are created by this overcrowded environment which these animals are confined in. The wastewater run-off often infiltrates into the surrounding agricultural farms – it's a giant plethora of unsanitary conditions that will eventually breed strains and viruses resistant to current antibiotics. I am predicting that unless society steps up and demands this stop, there will come a day where a plague may occur or meat will become unfit for consumption! Wake up society... and do something before it's too late.

    December 2, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
  3. Melissa Edwards

    Jane – thank you for highlighting such a barbaric, unnecessary and dangerous practice. There is only one agenda for agribusiness – the bottom line. We must take action where it counts: with our wallets. Demand and only buy food that is humane, ethical and cruelty free. As consumers, it is THE effective way for us to abolish this practice for good.

    December 1, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  4. Van Dorsen

    Thank you, Jane, for alerting us to the pitfalls of animal cruelty. Our utter disdain for other living creatures, whether animal or human, is shameful and dangerous. It all comes back to haunt us-either in the form of disease, murder, or war.
    Bravo to you! Yours is the voice of reason and humanity-one we desperately need in these dark times! And bravo too to HNL for having the wisdom to air my favorite TV show: Issues with JV-M!

    December 1, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
  5. NicM

    Take the time to find and support your local farmers. My eggs come from backyards and I have a couple local meat sources that don't use hormones or antibiotics and raise the animals in clean, humane conditions (they actually want you to visit their farms!). It is a bit more expensive so we don't eat meat every day but it's worth it.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
  6. Jana

    Your work inspired me to give up eggs and fish. I can not participate in this torture. I am totally vegan now and feel better than ever! If anyone needs clarity just watch the film “Earthlings” and you’ll be crystal clear about the choices you are making with your money and your body. Thank you Jane for your commitment to a better world for all living things.

    December 1, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
  7. Gene Baur

    What happens to animals on today's factory farms is unconscionable, and needs to end. Thank you Jane for helping raise awareness about the atrocities of intensive animal agriculture.

    December 1, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  8. MelissaK.

    Unreal!!! This disgusts me!! Looks like my kids better learn to like their veggies, we will be eating a lot more of them now!

    December 1, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
  9. JennaB

    Wow, I hate reading about this stuff but it's so true. How long can we deny the link between animal cruelty and food safety? Thanks, Jane, for having the guts to report this.

    December 1, 2010 at 11:07 am |
  10. Alexa

    Keep animal products out of your life! Help yourself respect not only your own life, but the lives of other creatures and the environment!

    Go to GoVeg.com for a free vegetarian starter kit with incredible recipes and great choices!

    December 1, 2010 at 9:52 am |
  11. Jannette

    Jane makes a very strong case for why we should leave meat and dairy off our plates; it's bad for you, the animals, and the environment. Check out GoVeg.com for a free vegetarian starter kit with delicious recipes!

    December 1, 2010 at 9:46 am |
  12. Laura Houston

    And I have a flock of 30 laying hens. The hens roam grass pastures and lay their eggs in clean wood chips. They eat natural grains, grass, spring flowers and what bugs they can scratch-up.

    The eggs are gathered 3 times a day, perfectly clean and taste like meadows and sunshine! We have given away free to families and food banks 100s of dozens of eggs! Healthy, clean and from peoples reports..the best eggs they have EVER had! Get rid of factory farming, it is cruel to animals and harmfull to humans aswell!!

    December 1, 2010 at 9:41 am |
  13. Laura Houston

    OF COURSE ITS THE CAGES AND TIGHT PACK. Eggs are porus, they take in the germs from all the poop!! The egg industry must use some strong chems to get the STINK out of the eggs, wash the chicken crap off the eggs!

    No wonder the grocery store eggs are tasteless, they must have to soak them in bleach to try to clean them! The factory farms are cruel and backwards in their thinking!!

    December 1, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  14. Mario

    Thank GOD I switched years ago to Becoming a vegetarian !!! Thank you for this..I hope it opens more eyes !!

    December 1, 2010 at 3:10 am |
  15. Shannon

    Thank you Jane for sharing this critical information about how animals are treated on factory farms! You are beautiful, insightful and compassionate. The world needs to hear what you are saying. Keep it up! We LOVE you!

    December 1, 2010 at 3:00 am |
  16. Jdizzle McHammerpants from "The Facility"

    I'd hit it.

    November 30, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Weeeeeee miiiiisssss yoooouuuuu!

      November 30, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
    • mizjdizzle

      There's my sexy little meatball!!

      December 1, 2010 at 6:41 am |
    • Jerv

      How goes there?

      December 1, 2010 at 7:30 am |
    • RichardHead

      Morning my brother. You missed the cupcake girl,but we included you in the comments. Stay strong and miss you Man!

      December 1, 2010 at 7:40 am |
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