Woww it’s already December, the last month of the year is already here! I’ve got the chills the moment I’m writing this (time flies superfast!) and not only because of the change of weather these last weeks. It’s getting colder now so that means I have my jeans back on. That’s for me always the sign and beginning of a new period on the island: when I have my jeans back on. Of course, I try to postpone this moment as long as possible 🙂
I start this new blogpost by saying this won’t be a happy read. It’s something I care about and I would like to share this with you. You might think it’s quite annoying to write about this topic, especially as the month of Christmas and holiday season has begun, but confrontations regarding to the things we always have considered to be “normal” are often disliked and found to be rather tiresome. Maybe it has something to do with human nature? Who knows..
I want to tell you something about the animals also called “livestock” by asking you this:
Did you know Spain and France have concentration camps?
Pigs, cows and chickens hidden from the world in the countryside. Animal concentration camps. Yes, they are truly happening. Let me explain.
Earlier on this blog I wrote about Dorus, my man, planning to make a biketrip from Ibiza to the Netherlands and back. So he did for 2,5 months and it was an awesome adventure. Crossing countries by bicycle with only a tent and the most basic stuff carrying along with him. He showed me beautiful pictures of the landscape, some of them were like scenes from a painting, green hills, a sunrise with dewdrops covering the gras and trees. Between these pictures I also saw photographs of fields with mega sheds surrounded by big fences, huge sheds totally secluded from the living world. Not a single human soul around. Enormous sheds, big silos to feed the animals and an unbearable smell betraying the presence of hundreds of animals in these mega sheds, too many of them packed and held for human consumption. Not even one animal outside. Miles before a shed emerged in the landscape the nasty smell already indicated that many animals were being kept here, according to Dorus. He hasn’t seen it, but it was all clear by the horrible odour, a smell of milky acid and animal shit. These photos are taken within a distance of only 10 km between Pamplona and Teruel in Spain. So imagine, how many more of these animal mega sheds exist in France and Spain and of course all over Europe when we keep it close to home.
The way animals are kept by humans
Apart from the animal smelly part, I see similarities with human concentration camps which used to have existed and God knows maybe they still do somewhere. First of all, these enormous sheds are totally hidden from the living world. They are located on places where no people live, secluded and only seen if you happen to be there, like Dorus on his bike. Secondly, the huge fences around the sheds. Fences often indicate something isn’t right, is it? The secluded locations and the fences. Nobody is able to see what’s going on there. It is even possible that on a daily basis no humans are involved by keeping the animals. The food is given to the animals automatically through huge silos. Thirdly, exploitation. To be (mis)used for a cause that has nothing to do with them which is human consumption and that brings us straight to destruction: the massive killing of animals. Worldwide 70 billlion animals each year.* Every year 70 billion animals on the world are being slaughtered! Eventually, animals don’t have a voice and a free will like humans, in that way they are powerless beings. Similar to humans in a concentration camp they are being degraded and seen without emotions and feelings. Being treated like they are just an object with whom people can do whatever the hell they want. Despite the fact we know animals are capable of feeling pain and suffering, animals are sentient, we keep them in this miserable way, solely to serve us. People held in concentration camps are being dehumanised: no human quality is still to be allocated. You could say pigs, which are intelligent beings, are being “decreatured”: no quality of a creature, a being with feelings of suffering and emotion is still given to the animal. It just doesn’t exist. Period.
The multiple award winning documentary “Earthlings” (2005) shows you how animals are kept by humans and what happens to the animals before the meat lies on the supermarket shelves. This documentary is a hard one to watch. I’ve heard much about it amongst the people who are interested in this subject. If you feel the urge to know more about this, you should watch it.
Spanish kitchen loves animal products
Since I live on Ibiza, which is part of Spain, I have noticed even more that Spain is a country where most of the people eat animal products. The Spanish food culture consists of animals and animal products. Meat, fish, cheese and eggs. Almost every meal is served with at least one of them. Especially the traditional Spanish kitchen is not suitable for vegetarians, let alone vegans. Ibiza is quite an exception though. It’s possible here to have a vegetarian meal without always ending with a salad on your plate. Vegetarian and even vegan restaurants have opened their doors and restaurants have vegetarian options on their menu. It’s way better than years ago where no other alternatives existed than eating meat and fish in restaurants. High likely also the healthy food trend has contributed to this remarkable change. Not particularly from an ethical point of view (the suffering of animals in the meat industry), but for reasons of health (meat is not that healthy for us like we have been taught it to be, also with fish we are no longer certain if it’s really good for us) it’s no longer only animal products that are being served in Spanish restaurants. Yet, the Spanish kitchen is unthinkable without meat and fish. There’s still a long, long way to go. The pintxos and tapas being served in cafés and bars in Spain are often made up with ham, cheese or fish. Here on Ibiza people love barbeque parties (and not only on Ibiza!) where putting steaks and spareribs on the barbeque is an essential part of the whole event. It’s obvious that Spain has a meat culture and so has France.
70 billlion animals and their health risks
We consume an incredible amount of meat, like mentioned before: 70 billlion animals are killed for consumption each year. This massive amount has to come from somewhere. For this reason I’m not totally surprised about the animal concentration camps as shown on the pictures. There’s no doubt that in a country like Spain where eating meat is the standard thing to do, the chorizo, salchichas and jamón that are gladly accompanied by a nice glass of wine, must be continuously produced to serve the mass. To comply with the enormous demand the animal concentration camps, the huge sheds, will be necessary. Animals as machines, animals as objects. Don’t they deserve more than this?
We buy our steak and hamburgers at the butcher or in the supermarket where it is nicely packed without having any idea of an animal life. The end product is easy to buy without hardly having an idea of all steps in the production process before it ends in the supermarket and on your plate. The way animals are being held, unnatural and with far too many packed in mega sheds to be killed eventually, is not only miserable, but also a dangerous risk for the animal’s health and causes animal diseases, like Q-fever in the Netherlands, which can effect our health significantly.
Also animals have to grow as quick as possible, therefore they are given numerous amounts of antibiotics, even before the animals get sick. As a result the animals’ resistence to diseases is weakened and bacteria are becoming insensitive to all antibacteria, which happens in both animal and fish farming. Animals get sick by the way they are kept by humans and people get sick because of the way they’re keeping animals, Duth politician Marianne Thieme says in her excellent and very informative book “De kanarie in de kolenmijn (2016)”. She wrote this book together with Ewald Engelen and it has certainly opened my eyes. It’s also available in English “The canary in the coalmine”. Read this book!
I still remember when I started to get more conscious about eating meat. I always loved my mother’s spicy meatballs – the best in the world- , her homemade chicken soup and the veal pastries and pork tenderloin with Christmas. When I was nineteen I went to university and lived on my own with other students. I cooked my own meals and often with meat as one of the main ingredients. I remember I read an article about an animal disease that started in the UK, called BSE (a bovine disease), which could be deadly if you happened to have consumed meat of an infected cow. I think it was the first time I started to discover meat isn’t actually that healthy like I was taught it to be. I no longer bought meat and changed it for plant based veggie burgers. It didn’t mean that I stopped completely with eating meat, but I reduced my meat consumption and no longer made it for myself. That went on for quite some time. Later I started to cook with organic meat and my perspective shifted more towards animal welfare – or better said the lack of it. The last couple of years when I still lived in Amsterdam I remember I almost felt sick by watching the enormous amounts of meat lying in the supermarkets just before Christmas. All those animals just died for human consumption. I couldn’t justify eating meat anymore. The moments I did eat meat I started to ask myself questions. Why I’m eating it? Do I really need it? What about the animals? Is this right to do? I could never harm or kill an animal so why I’m still eating it? In other words, I became more conscious.
These last four years I have changed again my view on eating meat. Every time I find another reason to ban it from my diet. I watched some great documentaries, like Cowspiracy (2014) and Sea The Truth (2010), I got inspired by a good friend who decided to become vegan and saw some interesting talks from animal activists and read the eye-opening book from politican and animal rights- and environmental activist Marianne Thieme. I have learnt something new: the meat industry pollutes the planet big time. Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions effected by the feeding, transportation, digestion and production involved in raising livestock.** Watch Cowspiracy, you’ll be amazed.
All this brought me to no longer eat meat.
Health benefits of plant based diets
We need to consume meat to stay healthy, right? That’s at least what the meat industry wants us to believe and that is exactly the same with the dairy industry where animals are being exploited as well. Remember the famous advertisement slogan “Milk the white motor” of the Dutch dairy organisation to promote milk is healthy and also with regard to the exploitation of the animals it is just as bad (baby cows are immediately taken away from their mothers for reasons of mass milk production for human consumption and male baby cows go straight to the slaughterhouse as they are useless for producing dairy). There are studies showing an intake of animal protein isn’t the answer to a good balanced health. Besides, animal protein isn’t stored in the human body, just like plant based protein, but has to break up in amino acids first, which are the building blocks of all protein, in order to develop human protein. It crucially takes the human body much more energy to break up animal protein compared to plant protein. That often explains the bloated and heavy feeling after eating meat.
In fact, people are unhealthy and having diseases, like hartdisease, diabetes, high blood pressure and various cancers because of eating too much meat. Plant based diets have proven to be healthful, nutritionally beneficial and adequate, reduces the risk of diseases and is beneficial in the treatment of certain diseases. I won’t elaborate this here for this blogpost will be way too long. The documentary “Forks Over Knives” (2011) seems to be an insightful documentary about this topic. It’s on my list to watch. (forksoverknives.com).
I recently listened to a podcast hosted by Rachel Brathen (aka Yoga Girl) where James Aspey, a public speaker, passionate animal activist and vegan sports guy from Australia, was telling about the animal and dairy industry and why we should consider a vegan diet. One of the things I remember he said was something like this: “You can’t watch animals suffering and see them being slaughtered but you do put the bloody result of it in your body? And for what, for the taste? Or health?” Aspey, who used to be a fervent meat eater, suffered from leukemia and had only a few months to live. Thanks to a vegan diet he began to feel better and in the end he even fully recovered from the deadly disease. He is convinced the plant based whole-food diet is one of the main reasons he’s still alive.
And..do you care?
In short: does this mean we all need to become vegetarian (no meat, no fish) or vegan (no meat, no fish, no dairy)? I eat eggs, preferable from chicken living in the countryside of Ibiza, and sometimes I do eat cheese and fish when I go to a restaurant, so strictly I’m neither one or the other. Does it matter? I believe it’s most important when you’re feeling healthy and conscious about eating or not eating animal products. By writing about the animal mega sheds Dorus saw in France and Spain during his biketrip and sharing his pictures I hope someone who reads this will start to think further and become more conscious about the killing of 70 billion animals for human consumption every year and the mass meat industry. We can’t afford it anymore by saying we didn’t know animals are exploited and kept in a horrified way in sheds like these. We allow animal concentration camps to exist. We all have a choice with our forks and knives, we have power in what we choose to consume. We can educate ourselves. We can choose to reduce our meat consumption drastically or by no longer consuming meat. If these mega sheds, these animal concentration camps, are that dreadful for you as they are for me, I hope you’ll choose more consciously in what you want to have on your plate. It won’t be my intention to condemn those who keep on eating meat, it’s everybody’s choice. I certainly don’t want to judge, but it’s hard sometimes to see people just don’t care at all. I would be hopeful when I would see awareness rising about the animal agricultural industry, even if it just concerns only one person. Maybe it’s you? And you know what? It can be contagious to rise the level of consciousness and to live in a world where human kindness and respect for animals exist. This article is just a small attempt to achieve this.
* Compassion In World Farming: https://www.ciwf.org.uk/about-us/strategic-plan M.Thieme, E. Engelen, De kanarie in de kolenmijn (2016), p. 58.
** Goodland, Robert & Anhang, Jeff. “Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change are…cows, pigs and chickens?”. WorldWatch. November/December 2009 http://www.worldwatch.org/files/pdf/Livestock%20and%20Climate%20Change.pdf